I met yesterday with Richard Kirsch and Jacki Schechner (yes, that Jacki Schechner) of Health Care For America Now. It’s an interesting campaign uniting a lot of progressive groups — including ACORN, AFSCME, MoveOn, USAction, SEIU and many others — to try and make sure that health care reform is one of the first things that a new administration addresses.
Because if it doesn’t happen in the first year, it probably won’t get done.
These groups have come together before within organizations that often accomplish very little, so I asked them what made this different. To begin with, they’ve got money — a $10 million grant from Atlantic Philanthropies, and $500,000 from each of the 13 steering committee members. Secondly, many of the members have made a significant commitments to mobilizing their grassroots community organizers around the country, and MoveOn is going out to their entire email list in support. They’re planning 58 events in 32 states (you can find an event here).
So my question to them was — what are they going to do about this newfound sense of "fiscal responsibility" on the part of the Blue Dogs, who want to know how everything is going to be "paid for" now, despite the fact that they never met a war funding bill they wouldn’t vote for? There is a huge $1 billion dollar campaign by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation to convince the public of just the opposite — that we need to have budgetary restraint now that the Republicans are done looting the treasury (it’s more Concord Coalition bullshit, of which Peterson was also a member).
I said we all know who are going to be the problematic members of the House — people like Barrow, Taylor, Hill, Marshall, Boren, Bean, etc. — who are taking tons of insurance industry money and are going to whine that we "just can’t afford it." (When I emailed the Peterson Foundation folks, they told me "the problem posed by the uninsured must be addressed, but that it makes sense to do so after something is done to stabilize rising costs.")
Did Health Care for America Now have a plan for addressing that problem?
Kirsch responded that they had organizers in all of the districts of those members, and their hope was to generate enough grass roots activism to convince all members of Congress that there is tremendous support within their own communities that cannot be ignored.
Behind the scenes, it looks like there is also some serious arm twisting going on for members to sign their names to the "which side are you on" pledge — do they want to commit to finding affordable healthcare, or leave people at the mercy of private insurance companies?
If the member groups can stay focused on that and out of the policy squabbling bunker, it looks like they may have a good shot at aligning significant progressive muscle and political will behind the campaign.