a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Public option supporters rally

Posted by Thomas Nephew on September 14th, 2009

Public option rally, Sunday, September 13, 2009, north of the Capitol.
Organized by “Americans United for Health Care and Insurance Reform

I joined about a thousand other people from around the country for a rally near the Capitol Building on Sunday.  I was impressed with how energized people seemed to be, at least compared to my own somewhat glum assessment of the situation after Obama’s speech last week. The slideshow above shows a sampling of the signs on display; my favorite was a young man whose signs bowdlerized biblical verses like Matthew 6:26 to “Look at the birds of the air; they do not pay taxes yet your Lord feeds them. … They must be SOCIALISTS.”

It was a reminder that optimism and humor beat pessimism when you want people on your side.  So maybe my fellow demonstrators had it right when they cheered speakers’ mentions of Obama’s speech; while I felt Obama artfully threw the “public option” under the bus, maybe I’m wrong about that after all, and what good does it do me if I’m right?

The rally was a true grass roots effort, bringing people from all over the country.  A woman from Asheville, North Carolina told the terrible story of her son’s death from colon cancer — and from the insurance companies refusal to pay for needed tests and treatments.  Another woman from Michigan told about holding down four jobs and not seeking medical help for an infected jaw — for four years.  A doctor from Texas told about how ashamed she was when an injured patient’s first reaction after regaining consciousness on respiratory support was to panic — and finally explain why by writing out the message “I can’t pay for this.”  These people came a long way to share their stories; they’re not giving up, and so neither will I.

Some of the recent political news isn’t great — e.g., Senator Harkin (Kennedy’s replacement for the HELP Committee saying dropping the “public option” isn’t a dealbreaker, Senator Snowe saying she’ll vote against it, Obama not meeting with progressive Congressmen and women.  But at least one analyst thinks it’s too early to count out the “public option”.  Writing in the Huffington Post, author and political consultant Robert Creamer points out that (1) it’s the push for a bipartisan deal that seems to be fading, (2) four of five congressional committees have reported out a “public option” in their bills, (3) Obama’s support for the idea matters, as does his support for holding down costs — and the Massachusetts model lacking a public option is seeing rising costs, and (4) likely 2010 voters favor a public option by 62 to 28 percent.  I’d take issue with Creamer’s description of HR 3200 as a “strong” public option, but that’s beside his point, which is simply that it ain’t dead yet.

Congressional progressives like Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva don’t seem to be throwing in the towel, either, and are conducting a “whip count” to gauge the strength of their position that any reform must include a public option.  Ellison thinks 80 to 100 representatives will pledge to oppose any legislation that doesn’t include a “public option”; Grijalva thinks that’s a little high, and told the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim the whip count will “send a message to the administration: don’t cut deals with some elements of our party or with some elements of the Republican Party without including the progressives in that discussion.” That kind of “deal cutting” formulation may or may not be a good sign, but obviously the higher the count the more insistent he and his allies can be.

Locally, Donna Edwards is a co-sponsor of HR 676 (Conyers single payer bill) and is among those insisting on a public option.  Meanwhile, my own representative Chris Van Hollen has been MIA despite pledging support for a single payer bill in last year’s electionleading Gordon Clark to ask During this battle for  health care, where in the world is Chris Van Hollen?” It would be good if he got off the fence on this issue, at least.

3 Responses to “Public option supporters rally”

  1. Tobor Says:

    Thanks for this…

    More pics here:

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Thank *you*! Many more pictures, and better quality than mine.

  3. Nell Says:

    There’s a political version of ‘regulatory capture’ that happens when pols take positions in the major party committees. Tim Kaine, who was and is a horrible choice for DNC chair for many reasons, said not a word as Congress cut out aid to the states, the most effectively stimulative part of the stimulus bill, at the behest of the brain-dead “centrists”. As a free man, he could have been highly influential had he spoken out on behalf of governers, but he wasn’t going to make waves while brand new in his Obama-awarded job. Chris Van Hollen is going to support whatever crappy, defective legislation emerges as the “Democratic health care reform” and expect everyone to run on it.

    Oddly, given that their jobs are to maximize the election of Democrats, neither of them seem to care about the actual effect of the substance of policy on the politics of the races they’ll oversee.

    They just care about what the White House thinks. Obama rewarded Kaine with the DNC position for his early support, and he’s a blind loyalist with no broader vision for the party (in addition to being a milktoast centrist himself). Rahm picked his successor, and has brought Van Hollen in on the WH sellout strategy (buy off industry opposition to get something through, which will then be the magnificent collection of crumbs the Dems will run on).

    The pre-caving to corporate priorities is embedded very deeply in the party’s structures. With Dean gone, there is no one to speak for the instincts of actual voters. (One good and relevant example: HR3200, which the absolute ‘best’ we can hope for, makes those who want to sign up to the public pool wait until 2013. Dean went on NPR and bluntly characterized that as the political idiocy it is. No one else seems to see or care about what actual voters — the whole reason that there is and will be pressure to pass something, however inadequate — will think about the results.

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