So, my friends, what were we thinking? Did we really think that extending health care coverage to all Americans would be easy? Did we really believe that those who reap g'zillions of bucks from our "health" (read "sick") care system were going to give it all up without a fight?
Of course those who benefit from the status quo are attacking the public option. Of course they are falsely claiming that Medicare reimbursement for end-of-life discussions are "death panels." Of course they are disrupting town hall forums -- some even carrying firearms. It's not an element of reform they oppose; it's reform itself.
The special interests and protectors of the status quo acted worse when America was on the brink of passing civil rights and voting rights legislation. They spread lies and fear when America was contemplating women's suffrage, too.
Maybe it's we, and not opponents of reform, who have failed to grasp the magnitude of this moment. We are on the verge of bringing about health care reform 60 years in waiting. Yes, we're going to have to fight for it. I worry that a little rough stuff has discouraged some progressives.
As Frederick Douglass famously said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will." It's easy to figure out who the "power" is. The 10 largest health insurers took in $13 billion in 2007 with CEOs earning an average $12 million a year, according to Health Care for America Now.
I have been a little concerned about some Democratic leaders who appear to be dancing away from the public option. But momentary wavering in leadership has provoked expressions of clarity from the people.
Sixty progressives in Congress have roared back in favor of the public option, declaring their unwavering support in a letter to the White House. Thousands of people are raising their voices for the public option around America.
Everyone has someone in their family who has been hurt by not having health care. Now is the time to speak up for every denial because of a pre-existing condition, every forgone procedure, and everyone facing bankruptcy due to medical debt.
We are relearning a valuable lesson. The ones who want to conserve the status quo will accept no compromises. Nothing. Jettisoning the public option won't bring forth a bipartisan bill.
I appreciate U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby's candor. He said that defeating health care reform would benefit Republicans politically. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., told reporters that he stands opposed even to health care co-ops.
So, good. No more wasting time. Now, we need a new message: Reconciliation. With a reconciliation vote, you don't need 60 votes to pass a health care bill through the U.S. Senate, but rather a majority vote of 51. Given the intransigence of the opponents, reformers must begin a drumbeat for a reconciliation vote for health care.
We have the power to start that drumbeat. Call your representatives. Post it on Facebook. Twitter for health care. Bring it up in casual conversations. Talk to the clerk who sells you your groceries. Call your mom, call your broker. Go to your church, synagogue or mosque, and pray for the public option.
Keith Ellison, D-Minn., represents Minnesota's 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. This article first appeared in the Huffington Post.