Health reform at the movies?

The new movie Lincoln, remarkable in so many ways, is not primarily about Civil War re-enactments, an unlikely election campaign, or a shocking assassination, but about the more mundane work of politics, policy, and passing legislation.

If nothing else, it reminds those of us who work in politics that merely being right is often not enough to make progress. There is perhaps no more clear-cut moral issue that the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery–but passing the amendment took power and persuasion, personality and perseverance.

There were some parallels to present-day political issues (which obviously are different in both historical scale and substance); the script’s writer, Tony Kushner, acknowledged the similarities in an interview with Chris Hayes in his MSNBC show Up. Both Kushner and Hayes made some specific parallels to the effort to pass the Affordable Care Act–which confirmed for me that I wasn’t just projecting my own focus on health reform onto the movie.

Some of the parallels were the atmospherics: the parliamentary procedure, the close votes. Some were about the need for dealmaking and bringing different factions together. Here, the delicate balance between politics and principle–of compromising to make substantive progress–is reflected in the movie and in the whole history of health reform. Kushner’s discussion about the movie Lincoln and the Affordable Care Act is interesting to watch:

Hayes makes the case that even as a supporter of the law, he was always unsettled by some of the horse trading that had to be done to secure its passage–but the movie reminded him that this is true of most all big legislation–and with the ACA, it simply was more public and transparent. The show Up goes further into the politics of implementing the ACA, and is worth watching the rest of it.

Tommy Christopher at the website Mediaite also took the discussion one step further, with another comparison–which is that health reform, where the issue that seems so divisive today, may seem self-evident in a generation.

Anyway, even without the analysis of what it says about today’s debates, it’s a film worth seeing, on its own terms

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