Today, President Obama will spell out his vision for health care reform before a special joint session of Congress. The president’s speech marks the final phase of health care reform. This is Obama’s last chance to recapture the momentum that Democrats lost to corporate-backed town hall hooligans and misinformation during the August recess.

The Uptake asks movers and shakers in Minnesota what they want to see from the president today (video above). Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn) says he wants to see the president explain why the public option is necessary to hold down costs, and reassure them that the public option will not threaten private insurance or lead to cuts in Medicare. “It’s going to be the biggest moment of his presidency,” Ellison tells the Uptake, “I hope he makes it a Roosevelt moment, a Kennedy moment, a Lincoln moment, because I think he has the ability to do that.”

Devona Walker of New America Media on what Obama needs to do today: Explain the plan clearly, enforce party discipline, and convince the public that reforming health care is the only way to reduce deficits in the long run.

Brooke Jarvis of Yes! Magazine offers a history lesson on why so many presidents have tried and failed to achieve universal health care:

“In each case, says historian Beatrix Hoffman, “the relentless opposition of medical, business, and insurance interests pushed reformers to design health care proposals around placating their opponents more than winning popular support. In turn, ordinary people had trouble rallying around complex proposals [that didn’t recognize] a universal right to health care.”

The root of the problem, Hoffman says, was that the proposals came from elites who sought to compromise with interest groups, where they believed real power lay, rather than to ally with grassroots movements.”

In the Progressive, Cristina Lopez argues that, while everyone needs affordable high quality health insurance, Latinos and women are most in need of a public option because they are at greater risk of being uninsured and unable to afford private insurance.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo wonders if the Democrats are courting disaster by forcing people to buy heavily subsidized private insurance with no public option to reign in costs:

“Am I the only one who thinks that if the Dems pass a bill with mandates and subsidies for poor and moderate income people to purchase it but no public option or competition with the insurers, that it will be pretty much a catastrophe for the Democrats in political terms?

You ’solve’ the problem of the uninsured by passing a law forcing them to buy health insurance which, by definition, most a) cannot afford or b) are gambling they won’t need because they’re young and healthy. Either you end up with low subsidies which still leave it onerous to buy, thus creating a lot of disgruntled people, or you get generous subsidies, which cost a lot of money.”

The health care reform battled has created deep divisions within the Democratic Party. Tonight, the president will pick his side. Will he stand with the progressives for a public option, or will he back the Blue Dogs and their watered-down, politically risky compromise proposal? Keep your eyes on tomorrow’s Pulse for the post-game breakdown.

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