Ten years from now, historians will look back and lament how the Republicans' "no" strategy on health care reform marked the worsening of a downturn for the party.
Historians also will examine this moment and see a radical shift beginning as the nation moves away from the centuries-old negative view of African Americans to concluding that black people are God's gift to the United States with the first black president, Barack Obama, ushering in a new era of better health and prosperity.
It is sad that the Republican Party — the party of Abraham Lincoln, the party responsible for the North's victory in the Civil War and for freeing the slaves and Reconstruction in the 19th century — took a wrong turn on such a vital issue. Instead of seeing good health care as a human right, Republicans viewed it as an expensive entitlement that they and their followers were unwilling to have the government involved in so everyone could be covered.
Outrage against that government involvement is one of the focal points of tea party crowds, which brought their anti-tax and "take back our country" rhetoric to the Kansas City area last week. Historians will see that another mistake the Republicans made was to embrace the tea party anger and contrariness and make it their own.
Historians will examine pictures that ran in the news media of our time showing the tea party throngs. They will note that nearly all were white. A lot of the anger expressed was from everyday folks feeling helpless and voiceless over the awful state of the economy. But it is wrong to scapegoat people of color and immigrants.
Sure, people hate seeing billions of dollars in federal stimulus money going to bailout "too big to fail" corporations and institutions. Everyday Americans feel left behind as individuals who were "too little to matter." On their backs are mounting foreclosures, falling property values, low investment interest rates, a crushing joblessness, mounting personal and federal debt, rising college costs and a bleak future for children.
The helplessness people feel has been exploited by politicians and talk show hosts. It has infected tea party rallies and surfaced in racial epithets and homophobic slurs. It is no way to "take back the country." It's why this is a seminal time for the GOP.
Always when people come to their senses, they realize when things went too far. Historians will find that the health care reform bill that Obama signed into law — though not perfect — really did benefit people and families.
What's not to like about the new health care bill? Eventually the public will see through the pundits' and politicians' hysteria. The Republican Party regulars can do that now.
Everyday folks will love that insurers no longer can deny coverage to sick people or impose lifetime caps on coverage. Such acts put people's lives at risk. Why couldn't Republicans look into the future to see this, too?
Uninsured young people who graduated from college but were unable to land a job in today's horrid economy will love that they can stay on their parents' insurance policies until age 26. Because of Obama, 32 million more Americans will have health care coverage. Imagine how that will reduce the cost of emergency room care, benefiting everyone.
Imagine also that it took a black man working with the diversity in the Democratic Party such as Nancy Pelosi, the first woman speaker of the House, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to make this breakthrough possible. The nation has been 100 years and many presidents waiting for this.
Now at last, we have the promise of a healthier population and fitter workforce. Why couldn't the Republicans see that this would be the best thing to happen in America since water purification?
African Americans, long troubled by brutality, racism, stereotypes and discrimination, truly proved themselves to be just as good as anyone if they had equal opportunities. They have helped the country at long last see that people matter more than profits, and enabled America to inch closer to its neighbors in the developed world.
Republicans, historians will say, should have had visionaries in their ranks, looking forward instead of backward.