‘Make your voice heard’

‘MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD’…. Towards the end of his remarks yesterday on health care reform, President Obama urged Congress to schedule a final vote on the legislation. He then added: “And I urge every American who wants this reform to make their voice heard as well — every family, every business, every patient, every doctor, every nurse, every physician’s assistant. Make your voice heard.”

This wasn’t just a rhetorical plea. The White House knows that if this once-in-a-generation opportunity is going to come to fruition, Americans who actually care about health care reform are going to have to do more than just watch from the sidelines.

Right-wing activists, the insurance industry, and their allies aren’t treating this fight like a spectator sport.

I live in Upstate NY and there is a commercial running quite frequently urging people to call Arcuri and tell him to vote no. They link him to Pelosi and spew a lot of untruths (income tax surcharge, massive medicare cuts, government take over of health care) and suggest that Arcuri is the critical vote. I think the commercial is from Concerned Voters of America.

Greg Sargent asks, “Where the heck is the air cover from the left for these vulnerable Dems? It’s not as if time is on the Dems’ side here.”

Good question. I suspect some of this is the result of spent coffers. Reform advocates had invested in ads late last year, when the House and Senate were voting. Once both chambers had passed their bills, and success appeared inevitable, the push slowed down, fundraising was scaled back, and organizations began thinking about strategies for the midterm election season. The left isn’t spending heavily to get reform across the finish line right now because it — unlike insurers and the corporate lobbying groups — doesn’t necessarily have the money left to spend.

But grassroots activists can make up the difference, if they want to. There’s been a lot of talk about an “enthusiasm gap” in 2010, with right-wing Republicans feeling engaged and energized, while progressive Democrats feel listless and unmotivated. And while this dynamic will likely help GOP candidates in November, it’s also poised to be a make-or-break dynamic on health care.

The right — misguided, misled, and confused — is fighting as hard as it knows how to kill health care reform. Whether the left is prepared to put up a similar effort is unclear. Indeed, by some indications, progressives who would presumably be ready to do whatever it takes to deliver on the promise of reform, aren’t prepared to fight at all — some of the most liberal lawmakers on the Hill are now threatening to side with far-right GOP lawmakers to kill health care reform entirely.

Jon Chait added:

The enthusiasm gap and the significant chunks of opposition from the left have damaged the chances of any reform passing…. When you see things like Michael Arcuri (D-NY) threatening to switch his health care vote from yes to no, every Democratic activist in his district should be counter-threatening to support a primary challenger or general election protest vote unless he backs the final bill. Nothing like that is happening, because the most committed Democrats believe, absurdly, that the final bill has been compromised down to something that only barely improves the status quo.

Success or failure on health care will very likely come down to a simple equation: which side wants it more? Reform proponents took a big step in November 2008 when they elected policymakers committed to getting this done. Now it’s time for the next step. If progressives fail to fight, reform will likely fail to pass.