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John Patrick Grace : America has been experiencing three revolutions

Feb. 17, 2014 @ 09:38 PM

Surprised so few  have noticed: Over the past six years we have been living through a series of revolutions. The Beltway and New York media, for the moment, apparently have none of these revolutions on their radar scope. Too busy being cynically dismissive of President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address.

Revolution No. 1: The country has a black president, and the vast majority of the electorate now almost takes this for granted and has come to regard this amazing phenomenon as unremarkable. This presidency has opened the door for any number of other contenders for the White House, such as Latinos, Asian Americans and, of course, women.  

The whole history of the presidency up to 2008 was white males with Wasp or at best Irish-Scottish heritage. Not even Italian or Polish Americans had ever broken through. All that, because of Obama’s election, has changed. A Japanese-American named something like “Masuoka” (name of my first optometrist in Chicago) could run for president, and no one would blink anymore. And Hillary Clinton is not only a leading contender but looks favored to win in 2016.

What’s more, in Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., we now have the first Muslim American serving in Congress. And in  Sen. Tammy  Baldwin, D-Wis., we have the first openly gay senator. These two also represent revolutionary breakthroughs in American life.

Revolution No. 2: The USA has gone far down the road toward energy independence, long  hankered for by generations of U.S. presidents and presidential hopefuls. As Obama mentioned in his address, the number of U.S.-based oil rigs has quadrupled since he took office, and we now export more oil than we import. Besides this, natural gas production is galloping, and solar and wind turbine energy are sharply on the upswing.

It is not impossible to imagine that by the end of Obama’s second term, the dream of American energy independence may be in sight. And that would be huge.

Revolution No. 3: The entire healthcare matrix has changed dramatically. Yes,  implementation of the Affordable Care Act has been wildly uneven, with states such as California and Kentucky leading the way and states such as Texas and Mississippi resisting and dragging things out. Nonetheless, expectations are rising toward the day when universal insurance coverage will be an American reality.  

Most of the country already has moved from an understanding of healthcare as a commodity to an understanding of healthcare as every much a right as public education.

Few in the media or among the public have adequately appreciated how seminal a shift this has been.  We need to remind ourselves that seven presidents before Obama, reaching back to William Howard Taft, had touted the dream of universal healthcare for all Americans. They all failed to deliver — until Obama threw everything he had into it and, without a single Republican vote, made it happen. Then saw the law ratified by the U.S. Supreme Court.

One phrase I heard from pundits after Obama’s latest State of the Union was “small ball.” As if this president wasn’t up to hitting any home runs, just bloop singles. Well, the three revolutions we are living through right now, as outlined just above, are anything but “small ball.” They are big stuff, all three of them.

John Patrick Grace worked for The Associated Press as a reporter in Chicago, an editor in New York and a foreign correspondent in Rome. He now is a book editor and publisher based in downtown Huntington and teaches the Life Writing Class.
 

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