Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Carrot For Health Care Reform

What a difference a day makes.

Less than 24 hours after the Obama administration seemed to back away from a public option being an "essential" element of health care reform, all but declaring it dead, Progressives in both the Houses and Senate pushed back hard.

And now the White House can't seem to backpedal fast enough.

In a closed door meeting with California OFA staffers and volunteers, White House Political Director Patrick Gaspard tried to assure the group, "Barack Obama is in the same place today as he was yesterday and the day before that and the day before that -- on a full, robust public option".

Yet, when pressed on the President's position regarding so-called insurance "co-ops", Gaspard would only say the President would not shut down any productive discussion simply because he favored a public option.

While it may be true that Obama's preference for a robust public option may have remained constant, his tactics, and those of the White House, have not. Besides launching White House staffers to key Western states to talk down the faithful, OFA announced Obama would be holding an online "strategy" session" to "update supporters on what's happening in D.C. and around the country, and lay out our strategy and message going forward."

In the end though, President Obama's preference for a public option may not be the most crucial element in ensuring it makes it through Congress and on to his desk.

The goal isn't to have a President who agrees with the concept of a public option. Rather, the goal is to actually have a robust public option that is available to all Americans. Some people might be confusing these two ideas......

We are at an impasse where, due to a Progressive Block in the House, health care reform legislation cannot pass that chamber without a robust public option. In the Senate, it appears that no bill with a robust public option can reach 60 votes. As such, whether or President Obama supports the concept of the public option is not the important point. Rather, the important point is whether the Obama administration, in order to achieve a health care bill, is more willing and able to pressure the Progressive Block in the House or the Conservadem Block in the Senate.

In this light, I don't actually blame the Obama administration and elite Democratic surrogates from starting to apply more pressure to the Progressive Block in the House. From the bailout, to the housing bill, to the stimulus, to the climate change bill, Progressives have consistently proven more willing to fold than Blue Dogs and / or Conservadems. Given this, the White House is simply pressuring what recent history has shown to be the more easily pressured group when it needs to pass legislation. Past collapses have made the Progressive Block on health care less credible, and so pressuring Progs is the obvious play.

Well, we have to change this dynamic once and for all. It needs to be made clear that Blue Dogs / Conservadems are just as, if not more likely, to fold than Progressives. Otherwise, not only will be lose meaningful health care reform, but we will lose pretty much all legislative fights down the road.
So how do we do this?

With carrots, that's how. We're going to reward the people who are doing right.

ActBlue has set up a fundraising page to reward those Progressive lawmakers who have stood up to defend the American people against the Republican obstructionists, teabaggers, and corporate lobbyists who are trying to destroy healthcare reform. In only a day, they've raised nearly $100,000.

Let's keep that mojo going. On the list are 13 deserving CA Legislators who could use your dollars and/or words of encouragement. Please click on the links to make a donation. Nothing is too small.

For those who can't chip in, DFA has a thank you action item to thank our healthcare heroes. With an approach that uses more carrots and less sticks, hopefully we can encourage others in California and across the country to join these brave progressive leaders.

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