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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Theodore Roosevelt: A Champion for Progressive Reform

Opponents of the new health reform law have called the legislation a "Socialist overhaul" and tried to make reform look like a plot to overthrow American values. But they're wrong: Ensuring access to health care is as American as apple pie and Social Security. Nearly a century ago, former Republican President Theodore Roosevelt took on the fight for health reform during his 1912 run for the Presidency on the Progressive Party ticket.

Standing for the Progressive Party, Roosevelt championed regulation during a time when corporate abuses were rampant. He advocated for social insurance to protect families from impoverishment due to poor health or unemployment. And he considered it vital for the federal government to protect the working class from the abuses of corporate interests who put profits before people.

Moreover, Roosevelt and the Progressive Party advocated for government to play a role in helping Americans marginalized by poverty and prejudice. "The supreme duty of the Nation is the conservation of human resources through an enlightened measure of social and industrial justice," Roosevelt's 1912 Progressive Party platform said. "We pledge ourselves to work unceasingly in State and Nation for the protection of home life against the hazards of sickness, irregular employment and old age through the adoption of a system of social insurance adapted to American use."

Roosevelt and the Progressive Party faced similar roadblocks to reform to those we have to deal with today. Powerful interests in health care were resistant to threats to their profits, and special interests later attacked health care reform by calling it a Bolshevik plot to take over American politics. Roosevelt's campaign was the beginning of the fight for health reform in America, and the Affordable Care Act is a major victory in the century-long fight for access to affordable health care. Let's not let the special interests block progress once again.