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Jimmy Kimmel Made the Healthcare Debate Human

Jimmy Kimmel's emotional recollection of his newborn son's surgery humanized the healthcare debate.

Twitter / @mollymcnearney

The emotional monologue Jimmy Kimmel delivered earlier this week about the emergency heart surgery his newborn son William required in late April and the subsequent care he received has been viewed nearly 8 million times. It’s easy to see why: In addition to being an uncharacteristically emotional and honest, the monologue was also political, with Kimmel thanking Congress for recently voting against Donald Trump’s proposed a $6 billion budget cut to the National Institutes of Health. Kimmel isn’t a comedian or entertainer in the video, but rather a father. Kimmel is appealing to all parents when he says, “If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.” By bringing the healthcare debate into such a human context, Kimmel humanized the health care debate on a major stage. Yes, it received its fair share of vitriol. But he also united a lot of people.

Thousands took to social media to voice their solidarity with Kimmel and his simple plea for a parent’s right to keep their kid safe via properly funded and readily available health care. Much like Kimmel, they see the issue of healthcare as not hypothetical or rooted in ideology, but deeply personal. Countless parents applauded Kimmel for speaking out on their behalf, including former Obama Advisor David Axelrod, whose child also suffers from a pre-existing condition.

Of course, health care continues to be one of the most divisive topics in politics, so there still were many who disagreed. But while the Joe Walshes of the world did it with a characteristic lack of class and empathy, others were able to put their differences aside and offer support for Kimmel, such as conservative Ana Navarro.

Ultimately, the power of Kimmel’s message comes from the fact that he has reminded everyone that when it comes to healthcare, there are real lives at stake. This wasn’t a human moment that avoided politics, but rather one that showed us how politics affect humans. Seeing a familiar entertainer tearfully recall the horror of thinking he had lost his son puts real weight to what is being discussed. And based on the reaction, it is clear that, despite opposing viewpoints, the majority of people share Kimmel’s desire to do everything to keep the children of this country healthy and safe. And that includes a certain former President.