The problems in the current health care debate became apparent early on, when single payer advocates were excluded from participation. Part of that was certainly due to the fact that single payer challenges the logic underlying the entire health care reform effort: if we really cared about cutting costs and providing the best health care services, single payer would come out on top by every measure. Nobody in power wanted to have a CBO score on single payer, precisely because it would win.
But if you’re going to advocate for something that undermines the entire infrastructure of the medical industrial complex, you better lay the groundwork well. And at the time Congress took up health care, that had not happened.
You can’t take a day player and start demanding a movie star’s salary, because nobody will take you seriously. Johnny Depp was a day player at one time, but he had to demonstrate his boxoffice clout before he could ask $10 million for his services. Before the NRA demonstrated its ability to have a serious impact on electoral politics, they did not carry the weight that they do now either.
But the NRA is subsidized by huge injections of cash from arms manufacturers and gun owners. We have to answer that with local organizing efforts and financial support of candidates who support a single payer agenda — with the expectation that if a they get into office, they will work collectively and exercise what power they have to advance it.
The weakness of single payer clout was evidenced this year when none of the 88 cosponsors of H.R. 676 worked collectively to get a CBO score. Withholding even a handful of votes from the war supplemental, or the stimulus bill, or cap and trade could have made that happen.
Instead, Democrats like Charles Rangel and Henry Waxman withdrew as cosponsors. After collecting donations from single payer supporters for years, once their votes counted they were nowhere to be found. Joe Baca, Eddie Bernice Johnson, David Scott stepped forward and said they will not even vote for it if it came up for a vote. And Andre Carson, Linda and Loretta Sanchez, Betty Sutton and Jim Moran wouldn’t commit.
Why did they feel they could do that? Because they felt safe in the knowledge that there would be no political consequences. And there were none.
Organizing around symbolic votes is not a good use of grassroots energy. It does not advance the cause relative to the amount of effort it takes to make it happen. We need to be working to build influence at the local level, to demonstrate the value of our support. And we should be asking more of leaders who are good at getting people excited but inefficient at organizing in Congress. To build a viable movement, we need to be tactically efficient and smart.
Single Payer Candidates in Every District
Blue America is going to be working to get single payer candidates on the ballot in every Congressional district across the country. And no, those who cosponsored 676 when it didn’t matter, and then vote to pass an abhorrent “compromise” don’t count.
As it is in the nascent stage of any organizing effort, we don’t expect everyone to win — in many cases, we’ll be asking people who are simply passionate and eloquent members of the community to get on the ballot and present the single payer position in debates and campaign events leading up to the 2010 election. And we’re asking the people who live around them to come together to help them.
What about you?
Tomorrow at noon ET, Blue America will host Jonathan Tasini, a long time single payer advocate who is running for the US Senate in New York. Jonathan is a good friend of the blog who has been a great supporter in our health care advocacy efforts. Our host will be David Swanson, author of Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union for a “Medicare For All Organizing Forum.” We invite you to join us, and to spread the word.
If you know any candidates who support single payer, let us know.
And please stop by the Blue America page and contribute to Jonathan’s campaign. Working together, and showing our commitment with our time and our money is essential to building the movement whose seeds can only grow as the impact of Congress’s disastrous “compromise” becomes increasingly apparent.
The districts where single payer has the strongest support are also the districts of “liberals” who are going to be called upon to vote for it. They need to know that we are ready and willing to advocate for better than hollow promises and support that is only there when it doesn’t matter.