Last night, the Prez mentioned health care, somewhere down there in the middle of his speech, sort of the fourth waffle in an eight-waffle stack. He said in not exactly ringing tones:
"Here's what I ask Congress, though: Don't walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people. Let's get it done. Let's get it done."
Woo-ee, talk about your clarion call! Well, sir, my eyes were downright damp -- or maybe I'm just allergic to banana oil.
OEN coroners have dissected his whole speech, but we need to look harder at the effect of this shifty shift on the progressive base. Here in Oregon, my wife is a shot (that's some ranks below a big shot) in Organizing for America, an outfit related to regular democrats the way the Rangers are related to the regular army. For months now, she's been recruiting dedicated, hard-working volunteers. A few come aboard because they believe that "grass roots" is a long-term workable concept; but most of her committed workers signed up because they believe passionately in health care reform. It's not all they believe in, but it's first; and for months now, it's what they've rallied for, walked for, phoned for, and donated for. If it succeeds, they'll stick around to take on other issues say, like the economy?
But as of last night, the Federal goal of health care reform has become less important than designing new postage stamps; and these intelligent, dedicated OFA recruits have learned that the cause that turned them into activists is dead or at least, has sailed into the vast congressional Sargasso Sea from which no legislation returns. For months, they've done everything grass roots is supposed to do and done it well and now President O has told them their efforts have been worthless, useless, pure one-hand entertainment. The folks don't matter a damn (except as e-mail lists for raising ever more cash). What lesson does that teach them, class? Anyone? Anyone?
Let's keep this really, really simple:
a) in a few months a third of the senate and three-thirds of the house has to get re-elected, and,
b) the Supremes have just opened a floodgate of corporate money, most of which will go to the regressives, and, therefore,
c) progressives must depend on thousands of dedicated, intelligent folks to give millions of small donations and work billions of volunteer hours.
But Fearless Leader has just told all of us that our very best efforts are negligible.
But maybe not. Let's give it one last try. Write, or better yet call your congressman and every other congressman until your cell phone minutes run dry and say, if you want one penny for re-election, one phone call of support, one minute of volunteer effort, then cut to the chase right now: vote to accept the Senate health bill and send it to the president.
Because, if the volunteer effort for health care reform dies, the renewed spirit of civic engagement dies with it, and eventually, so does the Republic.