The Majority Still Want Health Care for All

August 14, 2009
by Blair Hinderliter

The moment I arrived to Netroots Nation yesterday, multiple activists outside the convention center from various organizations greeted me. Some of the flyers they were handing out called for a single-payer system while others called for a public option.

Netroots NationFor a moment, I was reminded of all the news stories that I’ve been reading lately that say the Obama administration will fail when it comes to health care reform. Visuals of the outrageous behavior of protestors at various town halls and the captions below saying that Americans are not ready for health care reform popped into my head. In times like these, it’s easy to become disheartened. It’s easy to believe what you read in the media, and it’s easy to believe that perhaps we’re not ready for health care reform.

But then, I walked into Netroots Nation, and I snapped back into reality. I was confronted with an overwhelming belief in our democracy. The power of individuals to participate and make change. In essence, I was confronted with what makes RESULTS so powerful. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that I was at a meeting with over 2,000 other RESULTS activists, and I was ready to participate in our democracy.

Picking up my registration materials and looking through the agenda, it was obvious that there’d be a lot of discussion about health care these next few days, and I was excited to see how this played out. Is America ready for real reform?

Chuck Rocha, political director at the United Steelworkers was the first speaker at Thursday evenings’ opening keynote. I had never heard him speak before, and it was truly an engaging experience. Rocha really got the crowd amped when he said, “We must not let a few hundred screaming people ruin the dreams of the millions that voted for change this past November.” How true those words are. We can’t let a minority of folks causing scenes throughout the country ruin the dreams of millions that want change. We can’t let them divide us in our fight for health care for all.

The calls for health care reform continued throughout the evening when President Bill Clinton stated, “We must get this done now, but President Obama needs your support. He can not do it on his own.”

Flash to this morning and health care was right back on top of the agenda. The first session this morning was a health care town hall with Governor Howard Dean. Dean spoke a lot about the health care reform that he fought for in Vermont. I won’t get into those details here, but I definitely recommend checking out what they’ve been able to accomplish in Vermont. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely a start.

While Dean did admit that he thought it was a mistake that Democrats did not start out with a single-payer option and open debate from there, he acknowledged that the final bill would not have been single-payer system, so we must work to make a strong public option. He went on to say that “somehow single-payer became a heated word like liberal,” and “Democrats became reluctant to even talk about a single-payer system.” However, Dean was optimistic about the final outcome of the bill stating, “the fact of the matter is that this bill has passed four committees — three in the House and one in the Senate. This bill is in good shape, we’ve made progress, and we’re winning this fight. It’ll be an ugly process, but we’ll pass the bill and it’ll have a public option.”

When asked about all the fighting we’re seeing surrounding the recent town hall meetings, Dean concluded that the protests really aren’t about health care reform. The anger and outrage stems from the involvement of a new generation of political activists and the older generation is feeling threatened. “These meetings are not about health care. The real issue is that it’s a new generation of people taking power and that makes people angry,” Dean said.

Almost as if Dean’s talk was tailored for RESULTS, he went on to talk about community health centers saying that the system needed to be expanded. While Dean was reluctant to give President Bush a compliment, he did acknowledge that the expansion of Federally Qualified Health Centers was one of the very few positive things of Bush’s administration, and that the system needed further expansion. Speaking to the quality of care these centers provide Dean said, “Federally Qualified Health Centers are not poor people’s clinics anymore. They are now places that the middle class goes to for quality care. We must expand these.”

Dean ended the town hall with a call to action saying, “We expect the Democratic president and Democratic Congress that we elected to do the work that we elected them to do, so you must hold them accountable. Let them know that you voted for change, and that you won’t accept anything less.”

Organizing for America is holding three phone banks here today at the convention. I’ll be attending and making my calls. So while you’re not all here with me to make calls from Netroots Nation, I urge you to continue making the calls you’ve already been making. Don’t be discouraged. There is so much hope out there for a reformed health care system. We can’t let the vocal few that are causing ridiculous scenes around the country to halt the change that so many millions and millions of us want and need.

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