Is Health Reform One of the 5 Biggest Stories of the Decade?

Is it one of the top five stories of the last 10 years?


A year ago I posted my top stories and trends for the decade. Given that the decade is actually coming to an end today (more on that in a second) it seems like a good time to revisit and revise the list.

First the issue of the decade ending. As I noted last year, “since our calendar goes from 1BC to 1AD, without a year zero, this is not technically the last year of the decade.”

Here’s the list, in chronological order,  that I put together last December:

  • The 2000 elections. The protracted election, with its voting irregularities, partisan post-election struggles, and final resolution in the Supreme Court set the tone for the political polarization that has marked this decade. [I should add that it not only set the tone for the decade but set the course for the decade--does anyone doubt that the last 10 years would have turned out differently if Al Gore had taken the oath of office on January 20, 2001?]
  • 9/11. I include here the reactions to and consequences of the terrorist attacks, including the U.S. war in Afghanistan. No other single event had such far-reaching effects on U.S. domestic politics and policies, U.S. foreign policies, or the lives of people in the United States and around the world.
  • The Iraq War. A historic blunder and tragic waste of national resources. [Not to mention a turning point for the United States, initiating a war and invading another country without provocation.]
  • The Great Recession. A global financial collapse from which we are still trying to recover. But for government safe-guards (the ones that did work) and action from politicians in both parties it could actually have been much worse.
  • America elects its first black president. You could more broadly put the 2008 election into this category, including Hillary Clinton coming closer than any woman before her to winning the White House and Sarah Palin becoming the first female GOP vice presidential candidate.
  • It remains a defensible list, I think. Looking back over the last 365 days three events stand out as potentially being worth inclusion in this list: The passage of the healthcare reform law, the GOP midterm election landslide, and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

    Time may tell differently, but the House flipping is losing its luster as a historical event. It didn’t happen at all for 50 years and three times in 16 years. We may look back at the Boehner speakership as one for the history books; or the GOP majority could prove to be a blip in a series of congressional flips. As of right now this story doesn’t crack the top five.

    As for the end of “don’t ask...” it’s clearly a significant milestone in terms of the nation’s social evolution. But I’m not sure it rises to the same level as the five mentioned above in terms of historical significance. It strikes me as more of a sidelight in a future history book rather than a main section.

    Which brings us to the healthcare reform law; depending upon your point of view it’s a historic expansion of the social safety net ... or a freedom-destroying federal power grab. For better or worse it’s a landmark event with reach and historic heft.

    Does it crack the top five? If so which should be dropped from the above list? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

    Actually, there’s a simple answer: Bush v. Gore drops off the list because by my definition it occurred in the previous decade. Well with that settled all that’s left is to say: Have a safe and happy New Year.

    • See 2010: the Year in Cartoons
    • Check out this month's best political cartoons.
    • Follow the money in Congress