Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Meanwhile, On The East Coast....

First of all I want to thank everyone out there who made Saturday's posting such a hit. Especially Michelle Malkin who is the heart and soul of the conservative blogosphere.

Now, while I was undercover in L.A. on Saturday, Byron York was openly observing one of the Obamacare meet-ups in Northern VA. Notice the similarities to what I described in my last post. In other words, Obamabots are the same wherever you go.

Digging in for Obama’s health-care offensive
By: Byron York
Chief Political Correspondent
06/09/09 12:05 AM EDT

It's hard to tell whether this meeting, at a La Madeleine restaurant in a sprawling shopping-center complex just outside Washington, is the start of a historic movement or just a strangely wonkish group-therapy session.

About 20 people from Northern Virginia have come to this faux-rustic French café on a Saturday morning to discuss health care reform. That alone makes them unusual; after all, there are a lot of other things one could be doing to begin the weekend. But they have answered the call from Organizing for America (OFA), which is basically the 2008 Obama campaign operating under a new name.

"This is the political issue I care about most, apart from the war," declares one woman, who says she was born and raised in Canada and favors a Canadian-style, single-payer health care system for the U.S.

"It's a moral issue," says another woman, who identifies herself as a nurse.

"It's criminal," says a woman who is from France and envisions a European-style, single-payer system for this country.

This meeting, and others like it -- OFA says there were thousands all across the country -- is the beginning of the hand-to-hand phase of the health care reform fight. After months of buildup, the White House is planning an all-out campaign to pass its reform package, whatever that turns out to be.

Organizing for America prepared a video to accompany the meetings. Much of it is news clips of Obama stressing the need for change. But the second part is a message from Addisu Demissie, the Canadian-born political director for OFA. "We cannot and we will not compromise" on Obama's principles for health care, Demissie says.

Sitting in front of an "I Stand With Sotomayor" poster, Demissie tells participants to "practice sharing your personal health care story." He stresses the need to "be able to articulate what this effort means to you -- your story is the most valuable tool in your arsenal as you talk to your friends and neighbors about the urgent need for reform."

The striking thing about the group at La Madeleine is that most of them don't really have personal health care stories. When the leader goes around the table, none of them has a terrible illness. No one is uninsured. In fact, nearly everyone begins by saying they don't have a problem with health insurance; they have it through their jobs, or in their retirement arrangement, or can afford to purchase it.

But they have their concerns. One woman tells of watching as her mother, and then her younger sister, developed Alzheimer's disease. She is clearly worried about what is next. "I'm by myself," the woman says. "When I walk out of my job, I don't have health care."

A few are nurses who say they've seen patients in dire straits with no coverage. Others are a little, well, quirky. "I'm kind of into alternative, integrative medicines," says one woman. One man appears to be there looking for business opportunities. But many are just people who care a lot about the issue -- and want to win the political debate.

You've heard Republicans warning about a "government takeover" of the health care system. It's safe to say that's exactly what a lot of these people want. Although it's not on the agenda -- "The purpose of the meeting wasn't to discuss policy," the group leader tells me -- in the world of Organizing for America, the most intense debate is among those who want Obama to seek a single-payer government plan now and those who prefer such a plan but believe it is not politically possible at the moment.

A few weeks ago, GOP strategist Frank Luntz conducted research suggesting that Republicans should oppose a government takeover of the health care industry but at the same time acknowledge that the system has serious problems that must be fixed. Seeing this group would be a good companion lesson for the GOP.

Listen to the woman worried that she'll develop Alzheimer's and you'll see why Republicans should have their own plan. But listen to those who just seem to relish the fight and you'll realize they really don't have much of a case for the nationalization of health care. You can help the worried woman without blowing up the system.

Luntz showed Republicans how to make the argument. But as the battle begins, can they match Obama's organization?

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