Pseudo-Grassroots Movements and the Popularity of Democratic Programs

14 Aug

The health reform debate has managed to stray far away from the particulars of proposed legislation and has devolved into an unwinnable ideological shouting match — unwinnable for the left, that is — as Republicans decry the evils of “big government.” Opponents of reform are less opponents of reform and more opponents of the political party they dislike. The town hall rallies turned riots have been spurred on by highly organized interests on the right, and some of the more headline grabbing — even if downright false — information has been widely broadcasted by the media, leading to a “grassroots” movement that is truly anything but.

Grassroots movements are, in fact, truly American. They are widespread organizing efforts originating from the “bottom-up” to exercise the people’s right to have their voice heard in our democracy. In contrast, what we are seeing is a wolf’s movement in grassroot sheep’s clothing. All one has to do is listen to the types of things people are saying at the town hall meetings to understand that their ideas have been carefully crafted and handed down to them from the top. That’s not grassroots. It’s pseudo-grassroots. It’s the powerful using the people to help their message come off as more legitimate. It’s manipulation of the American public by many of the same forces that are already taking us for a ride economically, because the most heavily invested interests in opposing health reform are not Republicans or plain folks like you or I who want less government control of health care; they’re the insurance companies, the hospitals, the clinicians, and the pharmaceutical industry.

Those are the groups that truly oppose reform, but it is not politically feasible for them to come right out and do so, because that would label them the enemy of the people in big, block letters. Instead, they have to find a way to put a different face on the issue, and thus far, they have been successful. At the same time, other power players without a vested interest in health reform per se, oppose it for purely political reasons. Conservatives see a chance to make progressives fail in a grand display on the national stage, and consider this their best hope for winning back Congressional seats in 2010 and perhaps even the Presidency in 2012. Hell, Sean Hannity’s already counting down the days until the next election.

Here’s what gets me about it, though. Health reform — despite what some people may think — is actually in the public’s best interests. It’s time that Democratic leaders capitalize on their history of implementing the most popular domestic government programs in this country: Social Security and Medicare. Sure, both programs have their share of critics, but the vast majority of people love them, and the time-tested benefits to society are well-documented. Here’s a message I and others believe progressives need to get out loud and clear to the public:

“The various players in the health care industry are concerned about health reform, because it threatens to put an end to the enormous profits they’ve been making off of the American people. They oppose reform because they know that’s their best chance of ensuring that you continue to line their pockets with your hard-earned money. The Democratic party has always been the party of the people. History shows us that, and Republicans don’t like it. They know that health reform is what the people need, but they know that when we give it to you, it will harm them politically, so they oppose it. They put their political interests before the best interests of Americans. This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last. We brought you Social Security. They opposed it. We brought you Medicare. They opposed it. Now we’re trying to fix the entire health care system. And–sound familiar? Guess who is opposing it? If you like Social Security, if you like Medicare, if you like having peace of mind when you lay your head on your pillow at night, just remember: Your health and financial security matters to us. Democrats were responsible for bringing you those programs. Let us do it again.”

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Posted by on August 14, 2009 in Uncategorized


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