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Health Care Rally Frustrations
cap, captain miss america
I went to a rally tonight in Columbus Circle. There were about a thousand or so people there. They say that about 50,000 people showed up around the country. The organizers seemed pleased with that.

Let me tell you something.

In 2003, the anti-war rallies in New York? Those numbered in the hundreds of thousands. In one city. Your fucking 50,000 in the whole country is pathetic.

Why is this happening? Why do I hear so many people, so many Americans talking about health care, talking about how desperately they need better coverage and lower bills, talking about sick relatives and dying grandparents...and then we get a paltry 50,000 people nationwide?

This is making me angry. So many people complaining that insurance companies are lying, that people opposing health care are acting on misinformation...and a nationwide, co-ordinated night of rallies gets 50,000 people.

Is it poor communication? Did people know about the rallies? Did they know where to go, how to organize one in their town? Or is it lack of interest, lack of get-up-and-go-ness, lack of motivation?

This is, to me, the single most important political issue facing our country. Not even "right now." Period. We need to fix this. This is a system so rife with classism and racism and able-ism and probably some other isms I am forgetting to mention and we all know it and why is it that the other side is mobilizing and getting loud and angry and we're...not?

Do we need them to become Goliath so we can be David? Come on. They're already Goliath. Nearly a million and a half dollars a day is going into this. That's...well, that's all money that we gave them in premiums. They are fighting us with our money. They are paying off Congress with our money. They are lying to people who desperately need health care to get them on their side with our money. That money was money we gave them so they could protect us if we got sick. That money was supposed to pay for all the treatments they refuse to cover, for all the conditions they label as pre-existing. That money could be helping people who aren't covered right now. That money could be money we pay in taxes to the government to a program that is not allowed to make a profit.

Please continue to call your senators and Congresspeople. Go to rallies. Organize your own. Get involved with MoveOn, Democracy For America, Organizing for America, Color of Change, Bold Progressives, or Doctors for America. Talk to your doctor. Ask them to stand up. Talk to your parents, siblings, spouses, friends, neighbors. Dispel lies and misinformation. Every single one of us knows that all it takes to be completely disenfranchised from the health care system in America today is to have a job that doesn't offer healthcare, or to have an expensive treatment or illness that the healthcare you do have refuses to cover. Thousands of people lose their coverage every day. Thousands more are denied claims. Thousands more have their premiums raised. That money is being used to keep us dependent on the status quo.

We need to do something. We need to get angry, and not just on our computers. Not just at the dinnertable. Not just on Twitter or Facebook or LJ. We need to stand up and be counted. And there are a lot more than 50,000 of us.

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(Deleted comment)
Are there actual reports of things like this happening? The only reports I have seen are ones where some douchebags shout a bunch of stuff. And this absolutely does not excuse people rallying in places like New York, where there is virtually no opposition to health care reform.

That happened after my post :-P

But that is also not the same as someone who lives in one of the most liberal cities in America insisting that she is afraid to go to a rally because of people threatening her with guns.

People don't protest much anymore, in general. Either we're re afraid or just plain apathetic. After Vietnam things went downhill, never to go back up, it seems. This is the same reason I'm fairly confident we'll never have a necessary revolution unless we're speaking strictly about financial revolution, too.

Alsooooo, we never heard anything about a protest in Phoenix. Was there one? No media covered it as far as I can tell. I thought it was just a NYC thing when I saw you FB status it.


I'm kind of tired and blabbling, I guess. Sorry if that was too jumbled and stuff. TLDR; I AGREE.

Things were pretty hardcore in New York post-9/11 and leading into the war. Even before 9/11, I remember going to a Middle East Peace Rally in the spring 2001 that was PACKED and took up a whole avenue for several blocks. And Hillary Clinton spoke.

I think this is really a result of shit for organization on the part of the organizers. Everyone I'm talking to either didn't know there were rallies or didn't know how to find out where their rallies were. I wrote them a scathing email.

ETA: I looked it up, there was one in Tempe and one in Glendale but not one in Phoenix proper.

Edited at 2009-09-03 03:35 am (UTC)

I go to school in Tempe, one of the largest (3rd?) universities in the US. There was NO propaganda on campus, I swear. Fucking weird.

It feels like when Prop 8 passed again, like the pro-equality side didn't give funding or a fight enough in California. I know that was DEFINITELY the case in AZ, when a similarly restrictive amendment got passed/overturned when it had been rejected in the past because it got no air time.

Obviously they did shit for organizing. Which is really embarrassing.

I think that a lot of it was poor communication. I didn't hear about this in advance. And hand-in-hand with communication is planning. The anti-war protest in February 2003, here in NYC, was held on a Saturday. Because it was held on a weekend and publicized far in advance, people from all over the country travelled here for the event. Some groups organized tour buses for the protestors to travel en masse. Actually, I was one of those visitors who traveled down from Maine, bringing my roommate and a friend who had been living in Arkansas. The same was true of the January 2003 protest on the National Mall. It's hard to draw that many people to a common location on a Wednesday night.

I probably should have posted more about it in advance. I had a migraine this afternoon though so I was tentative on my plans to go.

And yeah, I realize that those were huge, massively orchestrated events, but the march on Saturday only got a thousand people as well. There is a number somewhere between one thousand and hundreds of thousands that is the number that should be showing up for this, and I feel like one thousand is embarrassing. Especially when it is all older people and none of the young people who speak so passionately about the need for health care are there.

The attendance numbers and demographics likely reflect the characteristics of the organizers. The anti-war movement has a ton of young organizers and a lot of support from the Anarchist and Marxist communities. It seems unlikely that the health care reform folks have attempted any such alliances (and there's the issue of health care reform as it's currently on the table is still contrary to Anarchists principles). Has there been any courtship of the radical cheerleaders or street theater groups? To truly draw large numbers for a rally/protest/demonstration one can never underestimate the importance of spectacle. All those people who showed up for the anti-war protests didn't do it purely out of a dedication to their convictions--there was the draw of the experience, the promise of spectacle, the promise of participating in something massive...

Also wanted to add: A lot of the radicals who bring numbers to the anti-war movement don't want the Obama plan, because they see it as too weak. They want single payer system. All the way, no compromise.

I'm not sure what specifically was the purpose of tonight's rally--but possibly another reason numbers aren't as high as one would hope.

A big chunk of the rallygoers were actually single payer people, who seemed more organized than anyone else there. They had coordinated tee shirts and signs and stuff.

These are the same kinds of questions I am asking the rally organizers right now. I wrongly assumed that since these are largely people who worked on the Obama campaign that they would have had their shit together-- but they clearly do not. This is the first event I've attended and I was utterly disappointed. They clearly haven't been communicating well and they are not getting the right kinds of people involved, nor are they getting the right kind of people speaking. The speakers were so uninformed, almost exclusively white and slightly less exclusively older, and most of them were very, very unaware of the privileged language they were speaking in. I wrote them a scathing email to the organizers tonight before I posted this post and brought up some similar points.

So, I actually was going through some of Asher's Punk Patriot Show videos, and found one that seemed pretty damned relevent to this:


Essentially going into the failure of social networking sites to create strong social movements. But also with a rallying cry to progressives and radicals to start organizing better and stop waiting for someone else to do it.

I had a conversation with my mom about this last night, too. I can't watch the video at work, but I'm assuming it's in part the same thing.

I think one of the problems we're seeing is that social networking works as a tool of a social movement, but it isn't the movement in and of itself. It can be used to organize, help collect names and disseminate information, but the problem is that a whole lot of people actually seem to believe that ticking a join button on facebook or changing their Twitter status is activism. They don't realize that that isn't allowing themselves to stand up and be counted and that their opinion is only being heard in an echo chamber. They think that they are doing something, and I feel like the major news media is corroborating that belief. People feel good and pat themselves on the back and honestly aren't aware that that is not doing enough.

In reflection mode, I think that some of this armchair activism worked for the presidential campaign because people could sit in the comfort of their own home and make phone calls, or write emails, or do a variety of other simple tasks that made them feel good about their contribution-- but that also did something. Canvassing by phone is important. It does a lot more than changing your facebook status. I genuinely believe that this is not intentional complacency. I genuinely believe that this is a case of people who are not necessarily aware they are being complacent, combined with, like I said before, piss-poor programming on the part of organizers.

I got the personal email for one of the chief organizers this morning so I've also addressed my concerns directly to him.

You're the only person I heard about this from, and I thought it was one rally and not a national thing - and I'm on the tulane democrat email list which usually gets people to protests anywhere in the gulf south. So yeah, I think they had a publicity problem.

I suspected as much. The strategy and information sessions I've been part of have been much better than this, but I feel like that does no good if the people participating in the information sessions are not the same people participating in the rallies.

It's definitely a communication problem. If I had heard about anything going on in the Hartford area, I would have made an effort to go, but I didn't hear anything until I saw pictures on angelnomoon's Facebook from a town hall meeting/rally which is about a mile from our apartment. And I had no idea!

Yeah, my overwhelming feeling is not that this is individuals not caring-- this is some shit organization going on.

To Destiny's point, that doesn't mean that people shouldn't be organizing their own things, but this isn't a baseball field in an Iowa cornfield either.

I never heard about this (though there wasn't probably any rally of the kind within 75 miles of here), and it probably was a miscommunication.

We seem to be armchair rallyists today. Americans seem to be disenfranchised with just about everything in our system nowadays, so health care seems to just be one of many on the pile. Also, because of the internet, I think more people are looking for ways to protest within their homes - away from the possible dangers that go along with more radical rallies. Not saying this is bad or good, but I think we're trying to find a different way to protest that's just as effective (though obviously we haven't found it yet).

I think that the only way we're going to have a massive push for this is if we have a one-point massive health care crisis that sends everyone over the boiling point. It shouldn't have to be that way, but that's where it seems to be going. We're still only at a simmer. If we can give more voice to the lower class I think that would help a lot more.

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