While watching health care townhall meetings with Arlen Specter, Claire McCaskill and President Obama today, I was struck by the fact that they seemed focused on calming down the people who are railing against health care reform (organized or not) and spent less time and effort assuring proponents of health care reform about a public plan and about the fact that the reform legislation would indeed address the fundamental problems with our corrupt system.
We are losing our grasp on the core message of health care reform in this country, and I believe that what we are seeing in the media makes it seem like there are more people in this country who are worried about so-called socialist programs and government control. We know from polls that the truth of the matter is that most people in this country want everyone to have access to good health care and that they favor a public plan.
What is needed right now is to have massive, organized demonstrations that show clearly how many supporters of real reform there are in this country, and leaves no doubt in the minds of our Congress what needs to be done. We need to get out in the streets in great numbers and bring about real change. We need to be the change.
Yes, President Obama needs to spend time dispelling the rumors that are rampant, courtesy of the right-wing fearmongers and special interest lobbies. But at the same time, we need to show our Congress that we serious about real reform, about a public plan that provides real competition to insurance companies, that we are many and we are representative of the majority of the populus. Knocking down the birther, deather and anti-HCR talking points is not enough. We need to get out in the streets in great numbers and bring about real change. We need to be the change.
Where Is The Sleeping Giant?
A woman in Lebanon today at Arlen Specter's townhall said that a sleeping giant had been awakened in response to the threat what she sees as socialized health care and too much government control. While there may be some truth to that, her giant would look like a midget standing next to the giant that is awakening in opposition to the corruption, greed and utterly unjust system of health care in this country and in support true reform, a strong public plan that forces Big Health to reform, and in general, a right to decent health care for everyone in this country without bankrupting us, without causing our businesses to be unable to compete or even survive due to the outrageous gluttony of Big Health.
Where is this giant right now? Why can't we see it?
"We Need More Protest to Make Reform Possible"
I have long felt that we are failing and being failed in this fight for justice in our health system. A new article in The Nation written by Peter Deier and titled We Need More Protest to Make Reform Possible inspired me to write this diary. I urge you to read the entire article.
If Congress is not refocused on reining in the Big Health industries and insurance companies, we are going to get a very weak reform bill, and that will result in failure not only for citizens of this country, but also for the Obama administration. We need to "make them do it".
FDR once met with a group of activists who sought his support for legislation. He listened to their arguments for some time and then said, "You've convinced me. Now go out and make me do it."
He understood that the more effectively people created a sense of urgency and crisis, the easier it would be for him to push for progressive legislation.
Where Are Our Leaders? Why Are We So Poorly Organized?
We have a number of organizations who are well-funded and supposedly are out there representing our interests, organizing and supporting health care reform. Where are they? Why are they not organizing marches in Washington and/or all over the country?
Why are we so poorly organized?
HCAN? What are you doing with that forty million dollars?
I've written in the past about the weakness of the coalition model when it comes to progressive advocacy. They are only as risk tolerant as their least risk-tolerant member, and they are generally good only at operating as bureaucracies -- they are just not structured to run in campaign mode. The complete failure of HCAN to conduct the health care battle on behalf of those who should be fighting hardest is a case in point.
HCAN started out with $500,000 from each member of its 13 member steering committee members ($6.5 million), got $10 million from Atlantic Philanthropies, more from George Soros, and came out of the gate announcing that they had an "initial infusion" of $40 million and would spend $25 million in paid media. (Almost none of which, by the way, went to advertising on blogs -- almost all HCAN ads were co-branded with partners and placed directly by those partners. They kept Soros's and Gara Lamarche's money for themselves.)
HCAN and OFA, the two organizations that were tasked with conducting the ground battle, were well financed to engage in this battle by foundations, individual donors and every big liberal interest group in town. That they were caught completely off guard is manifest. It didn't take the Amazing Kreskin to suss out what was going to happen.
But there is an even bigger problem:
Davies, the North Carolina speech therapist, said she attended a recent organizational meeting but left "without any clear script or anything to do."
Organizing for America "hasn't contacted me with a really clear mission," Davies said. "If they came to my door and said, 'Here are the 10 things we want you to do,' then I'd probably do it."
One complication is that activists are being asked to sell an evolving plan; even Obama hasn't committed to details.
The teabaggers know what they stand for. The White House, in its desire to take credit for whatever passes and call it a "win," has remained deliberately vague. Nobody wants to walk into the right wing meat grinder with a bunch of crazies over an issue as passionate as health care when the only thing they're rallying around is a bunch of vague platitudes.
There's only one thing that can fight back against big lobbying money, and that is popular support. The failure of the President and his support organizations to inspire and mobilize those who want to support health care reform well in advance of this moment is short sighted almost beyond belief.
Moveon? Why are you not organizing larger events? Netroots "A List" bloggers? Where are you? Has the newly found access to the White House caused you to fail to use your power and influence over a large group of progressives to organize? SEIU? Other unions? Where's the public display and organization of marches? You are failing us.
Where are our progressive leaders? I am only seeing one group, Jane and Eve and Co. at FiredogLake Campaign Silo, organizing, doing real progressive work, and that's not enough. We need more leaders to join them. We need organized groups to join them.
We need groups who have a megaphone and who know how to organize events to help.
BTW, did you know that Jane's initiative was targeted by Democratic members of Congress and that they persuaded a non-profit to yank funding from them with two days notice? They're working really hard and they're doing good work. They are one of the few groups you can really trust. They need money. If you can afford it, for FSM's sake, go give them some money tonight.
Markos? Could you at least put the FDL Action Searchable Events Widget on DailyKos?
If these well-funded groups are not doing it for us, maybe we can organize and do it ourselves. Personally, I'm still hoping they will step up and live up to their position as leaders. Soon. Like... yesterday.
Don't Lose Sight of the Real Fight
A few words on where our true "enemy" is:
This is a complicated issue and we're dealing with a number of different obstacles. We've got the people in our own party who are bought and paid for. We've got Republicans who are bought and paid for, and others who are ideologically opposed to social programs and others who are just absolutely opposed to anything Pres. Obama does. We've got
assholish misguided people in the White House, like Rahm, who try to block our attempts at promoting real reform. We've got the right-wing radio and TV fearmongers. But above all of these, we've got what I call "Big Health". And they are no friend to any American, sans those in the ultra upper echelon. In fact, they are, in the long run, probably no friend to that echelon either, or to themselves, because they are destroying this country, themselves and the proverbial golden goose. We need to remember who the real "enemy" is.
And I'd like to remind my friends on both the left and the right that the powers-that-be are always trying to divide and conquer the American people by creating a fake democrat versus republican dichotomy. Don't fall for the old divide and conquer trick.The enemy is not the guy on the other side of the aisle. We all have to remember that the enemy is giant financial corporation, defense contractor or other powerful player trying to manipulate the system and subvert the rule of law.
Take a look at this Sick for Profit video by Brave New Films to help remember who the real "enemy" is. It's only six minutes long and it is a must see.
Who were these people who forced the New Deal to be made in this nation?
They are us. We are them.
In many cases, the instigators and organizers of the Depression-era protests were radicals who believed that New Deal reforms were a steppingstone to more dramatic change. Many of these radicals had been involved in activist causes for years; others were newly radicalized by the apparent collapse of the economic system and were recruited through issue groups. A self-conscious cadre of radicals helped lead groups as varied as the National Farmers Union; the Unemployment Councils, which engaged in eviction blockings and other militant actions in big cities; the Southern Tenant Farmers Union; and caucuses in workplaces, which laid the groundwork for industrial unions. They were joined by progressives and liberals--clergy, journalists, artists, tenants, workers, farmers, Jews, African-Americans, immigrants and others--who may not have shared the leaders' radical vision but who were willing to try something new and different to bring about change.
In FDR's time, the people rose up.
FDR's election stimulated protest because it offered the missing piece--hope to go with the anger. Americans pushed aside their fear and protested for change. The organizers, in turn, helped channel people's hopes into specific actions that had some likelihood of winning concrete victories.
Rahm Emmanuel may not want protests or ads against Democrats who obstruct reform legislation. Obama may not want it either. FDR didn't either.
But that is what is needed in order for us to be the change that we need. Very often, the people are way ahead of our leaders in knowing the right direction. This is one of those times.
FDR was initially ambivalent about protest and about radicals. For example, he wasn't happy about the pressure exerted by Upton Sinclair--the muckraking journalist, novelist and onetime Socialist--to endorse him after Sinclair shocked everyone by winning the Democratic Party nomination for governor of California in 1934 on a platform to "end poverty in California." But FDR understood that Sinclair's primary victory, and his impressive campaign and narrow loss in the runoff, helped change the nation's political climate and made his own success more likely, since he could be seen as more moderate.
Likewise, FDR wasn't enthusiastic about the mounting protests by farmers, workers, veterans, community groups and the advocates of the Townsend Plan (for old-age insurance), but he understood their utility.
Pressure and Pushing to the Left
Did you notice the part about how, using these groups, FDR could be seen as more moderate? That is your role too. This is not the time to moderate yourself or to fall in line. It's the time to keep pushing to the left. Rahm's and Obama's big mistakes right now are in trying to tamp down dissent from within the party, and trying to keep things calm.
We are not rising up.
We need to rise up and take control of our situations. We are giving away our power. Our response to our situation has been weak -- lame. We are, right now, on the whole, an epic fail.
We need to let Congress know that the party is over and the people are not going to stand for this anymore. And we need to clear the path for bold action in Congress and the White House.
Like any successful politician, Obama is constantly evaluating the political climate and testing the nation's appetite for change. Like FDR, he will be bold when he thinks the political climate is ready for bold action. The unions, community organizing groups, netroots groups, environmental and gay rights groups need to create a climate that will make it easier for Obama and Congress to be bold. As FDR said, their job is to "go out and make me do it."
We need to start with massive demonstrations.
Now go ahead and make them do it.