Monday, August 9, 2010

Organizing Activists, Takeaway Lessons From HCR

Healthcare Reform (HCR) happened a while back. It took a forever, it got ugly, a lot of people made asses of themselves, but it happened.

What eventually passed was a deep disappointment to many progressives, who would've preferred to see a single payer option. Or enforced transparency. Or anything that looked, smelled, or felt like reform. It was devastating to many on the right, who were O.K. with the way things where going, or couldn't afford to let a Democrat controlled government do its job, or who actually believed in the mystical invisible hand. It was a disappointment to me because of the individual mandate.

No matter your political stance, you agree that the HCR bill was a big fucking deal. It didn't look all that likely to pass in the end, with a stalling and politically vulnerable cadre of Blue Dog Democrats rallying behind someone named... Stupack, was it? In the months leading up to the final vote, public support for HCR quickly dwindled. A huge number of Americans started to believed in Death Panels, forgot what the word "Socialism" meant, and decided that a black man couldn't really be American.

How did even meager reform get passed in this bizarre environment? The Nation is running an article titled "What Progressives Did Right to Win Healthcare," by Richard Kirsch. I'm still not sure who really won with HCR, but fortunately activist strategies are the focus of the article. No matter your politics, these sort of discussions can be enormously informative. Activists of all stripes can find some tried and tempered advice in this piece. Things like:

"Early in-depth public opinion research." This translates into: "Start polling early."

A detailed campaign plan." This is a biggie, generally the left is not well organized. This time they had a plan of attack, embodied in a massive strategic document that helped create a unified front. Badass, I want a copy of it.

"Organizing Congressional champions." Exactly what it sounds like.

If you have your own political advocacy tips and tricks, leave them in the comments.

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