Today was about the middle finger of Beth Harwell.
After hundreds of phone calls to her office asking her to support Insure Tennessee….
After texts and emails asking the same thing….
After 20 billboards being put up all over the state asking her to speak up for the uninsured…..
After countless appointments from all kinds of people at her office asking her to speak for Insure Tennessee….
After demonstrations in or at her office door asking her to walk in the shoes of the uninsured……
After public polls and virtually every newspaper, every civic organization, every business organization, every everything in Tennessee coming out in favor of Insure Tennessee…..
After all these things and more Speaker Harwell finally spoke today.
My language is probably unnecessarily crude and for that I apologize but her response when stripped to the basics was simple. She showed us her middle finger.
She held a news conference today to announce that she was appointing a task force to address the issue of health care access for the uninsured based on conservative Tennessee principles. Based on the context of her remarks conservative Tennessee principles mean doing less things for less people and making sure nobody got anything they didn’t deserve. She appointed 4 of the most extreme anti Insure Tennessee members of the House to the task force. The verdict, to put it mildly, is in far before the trial.
Governor Haslam….. I am not sure why he was there. He stood over at the end and when Speaker Harwell let him talk said that all he really wanted was something that worked and then he basically said that Insure Tennessee was no longer an operative possibility.
It was for all intents and purposes the burial of a program that would have given insurance to 280,000 Tennesseans without any expenditure to the state. It would have maintained the rural health infrastructure. It would have created jobs. People who would otherwise die wouldn’t have to die. It was a burial of hope for some that can no longer wait. It was a message to many people who for the first time in their life were trying to share their thoughts, their cares, their values with their government that they were not needed, not wanted, and should go home and be, “good citizens.” It was an act of violence. One citizen got up and asked about the 280,000. He was taken out by security. His words going out the door…. “Health care postponed is justice denied….”
I tried to talk to people about my feelings but was so mad I am not sure I even made a little bit of sense.
A friend pointed out something I had totally missed. Insure Tennessee is no longer “Governor Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee” and I swear I wonder if that was not part of the problem to begin with. He is so remarkably ineffectual that anything he claims as important may be dead before you know it.
It is now our program… our principles… our vision… It is ours to plant… ours to grow. Diane Nash was one of the leaders of the student sit ins in Nashville in the 60s. She told one friend that if they had waited for what politicians “could do” we would still be segregated.
The speaker has spoke and the governor’s plan is probably dead. But maybe a movement has moved to a new maturity. It is a people’s movement, not defined solely what politicians can or will do. It is a movement for justice. It is a movement that says everyone matters and no one is disposable. It is a movement pro living. It is a movement about Tennessee for all Tennesseans.
The speaker had spoken. She awaits our reply.