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The letter below is from one of the most dedicated progressive voices in California, Libby Sholes of California Church Impact. It explains why Single Payer health care in California died this year, and is likely dead for a long time to come.

It is a significant wakeup call to all those who purport to support their causes, yet damage them because of their behavior. You can blame the elected officials all you want, but you can't threaten and abuse them and expect to get your way.

Read, learn, improve. This issue is too important for it's advocates to use outreach as a therapy session for their anger issues. Go to the gym/park/backyard and stomp your feet there.

Dear Friends:

It is with great sadness that we must tell you that the course of single payer health care -- "Medicare style care for all" -- appears to be dead. This is not just the bill, SB 810, but the issue. Events unfolded at the end of January that changed, perhaps permanently, the ability of legislators to work with single payer supporters. It is not a pretty story.

This is a long discussion. We believe it is essential to tell it.

Many of you know single payer began as a legislative strategy in about 2003 then was introduced by Senator Sheila Kuehl. It was passed through the Legislature several times only to be vetoed by then-Governor Schwarzenegger. He grew up in Austria with single payer but continued to insist it was "socialist" and thus unacceptable to him.

After Sen. Kuehl was termed out, the bill was eagerly adopted by newly-elected Senator Mark Leno. However, he arrived in the Senate along with a new group of Senate and Assembly leaders who had no history with single payer. By 2010 the financial data from the Lewin Report -- crucial to passage -- was over 12 years old and highly out of date, and educating the new members was therefore increasingly difficult.

Over a year ago the single payer grassroots steering committee, the State Strategy Group, agreed to create a panel of experts who would do a new fiscal analysis to update the information from the Lewin Report.    IMPACT helped find experts on health care financing for the panel, and the SSG knew that it would cost about $250,000 to get this done well.

For both the incoming governor, Jerry Brown and all the new legislators, this evidence of cost savings for individuals, families, small business, and the state was crucial.    Single payer had to show it would be at least as if not more effective than federal health care reform in cost savings for all parties. It would be impossible to convince legislators unfamiliar with single payer that it was a very responsible measure    = without those data.

Consequently, in its first foray under Senator Leno's authorship, the bill did not pass on the Assembly floor. There were simply too many grave doubts, and the newer members had no interaction with single payer supporters who might have eased their    concerns.

In response to that loss, the SSG decided suddenly to abandon SB 810 and the fiscal report and go the initiative route thinking it would be simple and that the governor could put it on the ballot. That is not possible since it would have to be done legislatively and requires a supermajority vote. To do an independent initiative with signature gathering is extremely expensive. SSG fund raising therefore turned to obtaining the $2-3 million needed just to do a signature drive, but the money never materialized for the ballot measure, much less the financial analysis.

No initiative. No fiscal study.

Senator Leno continued to shepherd SB 810 until, as is customary, it went into "suspense" the last week of January in Senate Appropriations. Suspense occurs when there are large questions about costs and means to cover them. Despite the pressure to hold the bill for lack of financial analysis, President pro Tem of the Senate Darrell Steinberg used his leadership strength to send it to the floor. At the first floor vote,    five Senators abstained, all of whom had the same fiscal reservations expressed by Senators in Appropriations. Steinberg, as a strong single payer supporter, kept the bill "on call" until the absolutely last moment, January 31 by which time legally it had to pass or die.

Over the weekend senators Leno and Steinberg asked the abstaining members for a "courtesy vote." This is a vote that occurs when a member with reservations still moves a bill to keep it going.

Those votes    were getting pinned down when on January 30th the grassroots advocates    started a massive phone campaign to senators. The results were shocking. Office after office including Leno's and Steinberg's were flooded with calls -- angry, berating, nasty, threatening, and bullying    calls.    These were not from opponents of single payer. These were from supporters.

When callers could not access senators or their top staff, they lambasted lower-level staff right down to the receptionists.    One young woman, new to the Capitol, was shattered by the vicious attacks on her and her senator. She was absolutely devastated by the personal assaults on her character and politics. Other, older staff were tougher, but every one of them was shaken to their foundations by how incredibly violent and abusive the calls were from supporters.

What the enraged supporters did not realize -- because they never asked -- is that yes, the requisite number of courtesy votes were being gathered.    But after the barrage of abuse, these senators, all with reservations    due to the absence of information on financial impacts, withdrew those    votes in disgust. Senator Leno then pulled the bill rather than having it die on the floor.

We are aware that these calls did not involve the faith community. Insofar as people identified themselves, those from faith groups were not the source of the harassment. It did not matter enough, however, to prevent the massive meltdown from other less responsible groups and individuals.

At this moment so much damage has been done from the barrage of nasty calls that it is seriously doubtful any legislator will ever work with any of the single payer supporters again, not even in the faith community.

This means single payer likely is dead in California. The most important point is that SB 810 died NOT due to the insurance industry or even from Senate opposition -- the votes were ready for passage - but due to the obnoxious and outrageous actions of its supporters.

We have no idea what will now transpire. What we do know is thatbefore we go any further as a body of people, faith and secular, we need to have some resolution about how we proceed. We encourage opening these discussions in your area. That will not be easy. No one likes to think that his or her actions could have caused so much damage. No one likes to think that they are in the wrong.    It is easy to dismiss the lack of votes as the fault of the Senators.

But if we are going to be effective, we need to have not just progressive politics but progressive humanity and good sense as well. That is a community conversation we all must have.

We will keep you apprised of what happens next.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Sholes
Director of Public Policy

Originally posted to sanchez96 on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 12:29 PM PST.

Also republished by California politics.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Ms Sholes forgot to include (9+ / 0-)

    a list of campaign contributions made to legislators who voted no or abstained. Oh well.

    Msongs www.hawaiilovesart.com batik, digital design, photography, songwriting

    by Msongs on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 12:36:26 PM PST

  •  Not good. Rule 1 - always be polite. (8+ / 0-)

    That can be hard when you're worked up about an issue. Myself, I've taken to faxing my CA reps on company letterhead.

    "We're here to start a dialog, nothing more. We keep quiet and let the press, the politicians, and the Wall Streeters hang themselves." h/t .- pistols at dawn. I'm a Sacramento/San Joaquin Kossack. Are You?

    by mrsgoo on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 12:37:04 PM PST

  •  I just got a note (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SoCaliana, Shockwave

    That said the bill was defeated by a total of TWO votes. Can you verify or refute this? Just wondering....

    My latest writing I am an American citizen. I am a writer. You have been warned.

    by Bud Fields on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 12:38:38 PM PST

  •  the key paragraphs: massive shoot-self-in-foot: (7+ / 0-)

    ----- quote (boldface emphasis added) -----

    Those votes were getting pinned down when on January 30th the grassroots advocates started a massive phone campaign to senators. The results were shocking. Office after office including Leno's and Steinberg's were flooded with calls -- angry, berating, nasty, threatening, and bullying calls. These were not from opponents of single payer. These were from supporters.

    When callers could not access senators or their top staff, they lambasted lower-level staff right down to the receptionists. One young woman, new to the Capitol, was shattered by the vicious attacks on her and her senator. She was absolutely devastated by the personal assaults on her character and politics. Other, older staff were tougher, but every one of them was shaken to their foundations by how incredibly violent and abusive the calls were from supporters.

    What the enraged supporters did not realize -- because they never asked -- is that yes, the requisite number of courtesy votes were being gathered. But after the barrage of abuse, these senators, all with reservations due to the absence of information on financial impacts, withdrew those votes in disgust. Senator Leno then pulled the bill rather than having it die on the floor.

    ----- end quote -----

    Just as with the vandals who hijacked Occupy Oakland demonstrations, turned them into riots, and lost the support of the majority of Oakland residents.

    What are we going to do about these people?

    When will we ever learn?

    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

    by G2geek on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 12:40:10 PM PST

    •  I can't help but wonder (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SoCaliana, Shockwave

      if the makers of those calls were put up to it by the single payer opponents. It's hard for me to imagine single payer supporters doing this.

      Scientific Materialism debunked here

      by wilderness voice on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 04:37:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Bingo! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shockwave, wilderness voice

        A massive black op to make obnoxious phone calls and claim to be supporters.

        As in, provocateurs throwing the first rocks to start a riot.

        And people who aren't thinking about what's actually happening, getting their buttons pushed by it.

        Bingo.

        OK, so now what we need to do is ask friendly state legislators for a peek at their phone call logs, to try to figure out exactly what happened there.

        And if this was really a health insurance company black op, launching whatever lawsuits, PR, and protests are appropriate for it. Sit-ins in lobbies included, but always peaceful so as not to generate more bad PR for our side by playing into the enemy's hands.

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 06:29:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'd like to talk to one of those callers (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wilderness voice

          Agent provocateurs if you ask me.

          I got people to call and I called.  I  know a lot of Single Payer activists and not one will be abusive or angry when calling.  Just the opposite.

          Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

          by Shockwave on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 09:51:03 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I wasn't involved at all in the phone calls (3+ / 0-)

    since I haven't lived in CA in about 20 years, but it seems this was the wrong lesson these people took from the passionate callers. Maybe some were abusive, but what I would have wanted them to take from this is that there are lots of very committed and enthusiastic supporters of single payer and seeing that they exist, they would be valuable to have on the legislator's side and would make allies who could walk precincts for and mail letters for their future election campaigns. If the intensity of voters surprised them, perhaps they might want to revisit what has made them that passionate - being screwed over by big business and calculated decisions to make profits rather than to provide health care, resulting in thousands of deaths in California, year after year (at least extrapolated from the national numbers saying something like 45K lives lost/year due to lack of health care).

    I have no problem with people challenging incumbents in primaries by candidates who are willing to make a stand for Californians rather than being people intimidated by a couple of days of phone call lobbying. Yes, having an updated study showing fiscal impacts would be great, but why is this now being brought up as an issue rather than ten days ago?

    •  Re-read her letter (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Deep Texan, ToeJamFootball, fcvaguy

      "having an updated study showing fiscal impacts would be great, but why is this now being brought up as an issue rather than ten days ago?"

      The need for an updated study was brought up two years ago.

      Passion crosses over into anger all too frequently. Don't expect people who've been verbally abused to see the best in human nature.

      •  Not what I was asking. I was instead asking, why (3+ / 0-)

        weren't the politicians who were holding out and not voting for this saying "We might, if we have a study that shows updated funding consequences. We don't, so we won't commit California to this without that important information". I admit I only read the diaries here on DKos, and most of them were action diaries to drum up votes, but I didn't notice a single comment explaining why those politicians were hold-outs. The supposition was, they were being bought off by the Health Insurers or Big Pharma, was not contradicted by anyone saying "so and so said the reason they weren't voting for this was because the funding data was a decade old". It's only now, ten days after the vote, that it is being floated as a reason/excuse.

        I freely acknowledge that I not just might have, but probably missed some of the information on this issue. Still, I'd like to know if the candidates were saying this reason before they chose not to vote for single payer, and why they have a problem with single payer this year and not last, given that the data would have been just one year less stale (still nearly a decade old). Did they abstain or vote against it last year when Arnold was still governor?

  •  Has anyone else reported on this? (7+ / 0-)

    It is a rather dramatic narrative, eh? Bill fails due to too much or too vociferous public demand? I'd like to read more voices...

    IMO Jerry Brown has clearly indicated he doesn't want a bill.

    Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

    by kck on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 12:44:48 PM PST

  •  Give me a break. (11+ / 0-)

    Are you saying legislators voted a certain way on a bill that would be life-changing for everyone in California because of rude supporters?

    Ridiculous.

    AND WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT HEALTH CARE IN 2011? -- Susan from 29

    by voracious on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 12:48:44 PM PST

  •  Why Is This Dead? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SoCaliana, JamieG from Md, Shockwave

    Cant they take another vote on this next year?

    "Don't Let Them Catch You With Your Eyes Closed"

    by rssrai on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 12:51:02 PM PST

  •  Might be time to call Jerry Brown and ask (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify, JamieG from Md, Losty

    if there's any way to get the financial etc. impact details as a directive from the executive--to possibly save CA money in the future.

    Of course, if he requests the legislature to have their analyst actually analyze something, you know anything that's returned is a good faith effort. Right?

    And LOL only the non-faith callers were rude to the point of shaking career politicians to the core. Have to admit that's kind of funny :D

  •  "They were mean to my receptionist, " (7+ / 0-)

    "so I changed my vote."

    Indeed.

    •  Yeah... no one should abuse staffers over the (0+ / 0-)

      phone, but this doesn't add up.

      When HCR was debated federally, the opponents of HCR were rude with Congresspeople and their staff to the point of borderline violence, and we saw no massive uptick in HCR support to strike a blow against rudeness. Because a politician when confronted with a rude, angry mob, almost always caves in, unless he is experiencing significant pressure from elsewhere.

      I support torturous regimes! Also, I kick puppies.

      by eataTREE on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 06:27:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Lame Monday morning quarterbacking by (7+ / 0-)

    a representative of a church group.

    This kind of chastising letter pisses me off. Is Ms. Sholes referring to cementing the original 2 no votes and 4 abstentions, or is she implying that between the 27th and the 31st, additional Dems withdrew their yes votes? We're supposed to observe church impact protocol when trying to persuade our elected reps not to screw us? Perhaps we should just fill out our senator's web form, call and leave a polite supportive message, cross our fingers, then sit back and wait for the senator to vote in the interest of big business as we watch our insurance costs increase?

    I don't condone abusive or threatening calls (unless the threats are non-violent threats about votes and recalls, in which case, I say go ahead and scare them). But senators saying that SB-810 failed because a bunch of passionate progressives got under the senators' thin skin is a cop-out. If these DINOs can't take the heat, they should get out of Sacramento!

    In the future, we need to elect real Dems who don't generate angry calls from the left in the first place!

    BTW,

    Read, learn, improve. This issue is too important for it's advocates to use outreach as a therapy session for their anger issues. Go to the gym/park/backyard and stomp your feet there.
    This is insulting.
  •  I have always thought (0+ / 0-)

    that, no matter how good the idea, single payer would never pass in CA, or pretty much anywhere in the USA. There was a time when it might have happened. Oddly enough, Nixon's plan came the closest. But it's time has passed. The goal should be perhaps to come up with a stealth single payer that creates partial systems that then could be stitched together eventually. I have no idea how one would even do that but maybe there is some other route to take?

    Fructose is a liver poison. Stop eating it today.

    by Anne Elk on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 01:53:27 PM PST

  •  This is insulting. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CamillesDad1, JamieG from Md

    I'm not familiar with Libby Sholes, but based on this, I am not impressed.

    This is craven, cowardly, cover-your-ass scapegoating.

    For shame.

  •  I can't believe anyone thought (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    roycej, JamieG from Md

    they could effectively post this kind of obvious bullshit here and be either believed or taken seriously. Really diarist, this is breathtaking in it's level of unbelievability. Just who are you kidding and/or representing?

  •  Yes ... blame the Hippies ... it's so easy to do (6+ / 0-)

    I remember this from the first anti-Vietnam War/ROTC on Campus demonstrations at my college circa 1961. The reason we weren't getting a proper hearing was that SOME people insisted on showing up with sloppy clothes and straggly beards -- not at all like the young Quakers who organized the events who had a dress and conduct code calculated to assuage the Youth Running Wild anxieties of the senior Administration and ROTC faculty.

    Not long after we were hearing from "responsible Negro leaders" whose names I can no longer remember how hotheads ... like Jackson, King, Evers, Cleaver and many more who everyone remembers today ... were like "crabs in a bucket", dragging everyone else down.

    A few years later, it was the "solid" churchpeople at Washington Square Methodist bemoaning the dress and demeanor of the Fifth Avenue Peace Parade ...

    And OF COURSE we know whose fault it was that Nixon was the One in '68. It was those damned meddling kids again ... being rude -- acting out.

    But the fact of the matter is: when an elected member of the Establishment is not in a mood to "give" ... any reason or no reason will serve as an excuse. But since the Apparatchiks are far above and beyond any consequences ... it's so much easier to believe "if only we had put the question in better words ... if only we had been nicer, better dressed, less angry -- how different the outcome would have been.

    The extreme case of this psychology: the Battered Spouse who can always think of a dozen things she/he ought to have done better/differently to have prevented the most recent slapping-around.

  •  Rude phone calls shouldnt prevent legislators (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SingleVoter, SoCaliana

    from doing what is right for their constituents. It may have given opponents ammunition, but to say its dead b/c some people were rude is silly, if not downright stupid.

    For some reason angry rude Tea Party advocates don't get ignored when they're rude. In fact, they have legislators who will say they have a right to be angry.

    The only thing we have to fear is fear itself - FDR. Obama Nation. -6.13 -6.15

    by ecostar on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 03:03:12 PM PST

  •  as with anything needs more sources (0+ / 0-)

    to confirm that the information in this letter is true;
    no doubt people harrassed but that is too convenient an excuse to deny single payer; it sounds suspicious to me GASLIGHTING the activist public shaming them instead of doing the job the representatives were elected to do;

    http://ballotpedia.org/...

    excerpt

    California Church IMPACT (CCI) and California Council of Churches (CCC} were created in 1913. In 1996, the CCI separated from the CCC as a non-profit organization. Jointly they have helped "to create a world that cares for all of its citizens regardless of economic class, ages, gender, race and ethnicity, religious belief, or sexual orientation." "Together CCC and CCI operate a Sacramento-based public policy office representing 51 different denominations and judicatories with over 1.5 million members from the mainstream Protestant and Orthodox Christian communities as well as allies from other faith traditions."

    Never Elect Republicans : A bill in Virginia would make it illegal for state colleges to require a class that conflicts with a student’s religious views.

    by anyname on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 03:04:01 PM PST

  •  just yesterday (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Losty, roycej

    http://www.singlepayernow.net/

    •Organizing for Single Payer: Another Evening with Dr. Quentin Young
    Wednesday, Feb. 8
    San Francisco, CA

    Never Elect Republicans : A bill in Virginia would make it illegal for state colleges to require a class that conflicts with a student’s religious views.

    by anyname on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 03:24:13 PM PST

  •  letter from Senator Leno (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SingleVoter, roycej

    Never Elect Republicans : A bill in Virginia would make it illegal for state colleges to require a class that conflicts with a student’s religious views.

    by anyname on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 03:25:16 PM PST

  •  We have to change our politics (0+ / 0-)
  •  "I thought about giving health care to all (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave, roycej

    Californians, but then they were rude to me, so fuck 'em." Really Ms. Sholes? How dumb do you think I am?

    I support torturous regimes! Also, I kick puppies.

    by eataTREE on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 06:29:01 PM PST

  •  I find this hard to believe. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SoCaliana, Shockwave

    Sound's like right wing tactics to me. Maybe the insurance companies minions doing some extra work?

    Every time I read the words Citizens United I snort like my dog. - Me And another thing: a**holes are not a protected class under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Just sayin'. - Jon Loomis 1/31/12

    by SanFernandoValleyMom on Thu Feb 09, 2012 at 06:32:03 PM PST

  •  Thank you, sanchez96 ... (0+ / 0-)

    A good friend of mine forwarded this letter to me, knowing how much I support single payer in California. In fact, I very nearly posted it here.

    But I just didn't have the courage. You did. Thank you. I had a suspicion about what kinds of responses it would engender ... and I was right. Guess I need to work on my chain mail suit some more if I want to post at Daily Kos.

    Actually, I didn't want to post this to "scold" or to say "SEE ... SEE what you stupid people did!" I wanted to post it because it was a valid opinion from a source I respect. As my friend said, "Advocacy can be a slippery slope". It's good to keep that in mind.

  •  I appreciate knowing about her letter. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave, roycej

    But... I don't believe for one second that a majority of single payer supporters calling in were rude to the point of causing this vote to fail.

    And this?

    We are aware that these calls did not involve the faith community. Insofar as people identified themselves, those from faith groups were not the source of the harassment. It did not matter enough, however, to prevent the massive meltdown from other less responsible groups and individuals.
    OH please... I smell ass covering.

    California*, Conneticut, Iowa, Massachussets, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington. (and District of Columbia) *pending

    by cooper888 on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 08:35:23 AM PST

  •  Why not just hit the reset button (0+ / 0-)

    and start the process again?  I don't understand why some angry calls would make it impossible to move forward on this issue.  

    Where there's a will, there's a way.

    Bold Progressive. Deal with it.

    by novenator on Fri Feb 10, 2012 at 10:51:11 PM PST

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