He stood on the small stage between Vice President Harris and President Biden, arms crossed in front of him and chin tilted upwards in a familiar posture, one that projects a combination of confidence and optimism. All three, past and present, these simple humans whom history has entrusted with representing hope, progress and healing, entered the hall together to a steady ovation and jubilant applause from a packed audience. cabinet members, sympathetic legislators and constituent admirers. .
Obama returned to the White House on Tuesday for the first time since leaving in January 2017, to talk about the lasting impact of his landmark achievement: the Affordable Care Act. After its promulgation in 2010, it enabled some 20 million people without health care to benefit from it. This ended the ability for insurance companies to deny people coverage because of pre-existing conditions or cut their coverage because they had exceeded an arbitrary lifetime cap on financial support. The ACA was not perfect. Some people were still uninsured. There were many problems and gaps in the system. The public remains deeply divided, along partisan lines, but a record 14.5 million Americans signed up for the insurance in the last open registration.
“Throughout the story, what you see is that it’s important to start something, to plant a flag, to lay the groundwork for further progress. The analogy I already have used about the ACA is that, in the same way it was true of early forms of Social Security, Medicare, it was a first home,” Obama said. “It guaranteed the principle of care universal healthcare, provided immediate help to families, but it forced us to keep building on it and improving it.”
The current president aims to expand this startup house with an executive order to make the ACA much more affordable for a larger group of people.
Obama’s presence served as a reminder of an alluring past. He was a visual reference to recent history where people believed that while the country may not have entirely overcome its racism, it had taken such a huge step forward that the momentum would surely keep society on track. light. He reminded us of a time when the most daunting problems and concerns now seem quite manageable in light of all the countries the country faces today: a stubborn pandemic, a nuclear Russia at war, and our own nation. post-insurgency so divided that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) asked Biden’s Supreme Court nominee — the first black woman officially considered for such a position — if she believed babies were racist and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) Called out Republican senators who voiced support for the “pro-pedophile” nominee.
The story unfolds with glory, insults, reassurance and patience
Obama came to cast a warm, nostalgic glow over Biden’s White House. He came to deliver some of his familiar prose with his informal eloquence and elevation. But in the process, he also reminded us of how we got here, to this place of national turmoil. Change has its repression. Hope is not always unifying. The light can be blinding rather than clarifying.
Obama began his remarks by calling Biden a “vice president” and then reassured his audience that his mistake was just a joke. “Everything was set up,” Obama said with a laugh. There were references to the political capital Obama spent on the ACA, and he laughed in hindsight at how it clouded his re-election prospects. And, of course, there were multiple references to Biden’s effusive and expletive description of the scope of the matter when Obama signed into law the ACA.
“It feels like the good old days,” Biden said of Obama’s return to the White House. And the president basked in the pink memories. “Listen, it’s only fitting that the first time you come back to the White House is to celebrate a law – a law that is changing millions of lives because of you. And I say “because of you”. We had a lot of help – the staff and I helped a little – but it was thanks to you. A law that shows that hope leads to change.
But amid those fuzzy memories and easy-to-listen-to humor, there are also nagging, familiar realities. Republicans have been relentless in trying to weaken and eventually repeal the law. And Biden warned that remains a risk if Republicans were to win a majority in Congress in the midterm elections.
The Republican National Committee’s response to Obama’s visit to the White House has been to compare him to TikTok influencers and downplay him to just a Netflix producer, reminiscent of years of characterization of him as a celebrity candidate. without consequence during his first presidential campaign. For all the references to the ACA as a symbol of the large-scale change the country is capable of, for the very change that Obama himself represented, the celebratory ceremony was a five-alarm warning against a determined opposition that keeps pushing politics and culture back.
As Biden sat at a small table to sign the executive order, his colleagues gathered around him for a photo. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) stood with Obama. Rep. James E. Clyburn (DS.C.) was behind Biden. Afterwards, Biden handed the pen he used to the former president and bumped both fists in victory. Then the two men did what politicians do. They worked in the room, shaking hands and taking selfies. Smile and laugh. It was a reminder of the way things were. And how they are no longer.