Posts Tagged Organizing

Healthcare is a Human Right

Although disputed, Gandhi has been widely quoted as saying “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Whether Gandhi actually said this or not, the point remains that there are many supposed Christians who do not actually follow the teachings of Christ. Being Jewish, I’m no expert on these teachings, but as far as I understand them, Jesus was what many would consider a left wing “hippy” today. He believed in taking care of the poor, sick and aggrieved, loving your neighbor as you would yourself, countering hate with love, etc. In other words, he was preaching for social and economic justice. Jesus, and all those who follow him (or at least claim to), would most certainly believe that Healthcare is a Human Right, right? Right?

Maybe not everyone, but most people would agree that Healthcare IS a Human Right. Spreading that message is key to getting real healthcare reform. It’s how the Vermont Worker’s Center won a statewide Single Payer system, and it’s how we intend to establish one here in Oregon.

In Vermont, they started with the idea that transforming the debate around healthcare reform would require a message that is indisputable, and therefore based on morality, not facts and figures. Sure, you need the facts and figures to back you up, but if you don’t have morality to frame the debate, your organizing will not be as quick, sure and cohesive. The real key was getting everyone to accept this frame, once it is the accepted frame, how can anyone oppose a universal system? What kind of immoral jerk would do such a thing?

So the Vermont Workers Center organized for 3 years to pass their system, organizing in every corner of the state around five human rights principles; universality, equity, accountability, transparency and participation. By getting these principles enshrined in the law, they were able to achieve an extremely high standard in the final product. The principles will be used as a measuring stick to judge proposed implementation procedures and assure they meet these high human rights standards.

By including these points in all their organizing efforts, they were able to successfully prepare and inoculate their members and supporters against the “divide and conquer” tactics of the opposition. Uniting people around the concept of universality (since healthcare is a human right, nobody should be excluded) and teaching anti-racism workshops, the movement was able to overcome a proposed amendment to exclude undocumented workers from the final legislation. The amendment was stricken after an overwhelming number of constituents called, petitioned and rallied at the capitol.

The truly critical work in how this was achieved is in the organizing. In Vermont, they organized statewide, educated their members, trained leaders, told their personal stories, and created their own press to put the required pressure on the politicians to make what was once politically impossible into the politically inevitable.

It was through the work of thousands of people that this happened in Vermont, and it can happen in your state too, if we organize and build a real movement. Here in Oregon, we’re currently raising money to hire an organizer to help this movement coalesce. On April 14, some of the best blues musicians in Portland will be helping to Heal the Healthcare Blues at the Inner City Blues Festival Reunion. Proceeds will go to funding the Oregon Healthcare is a Human Right campaign, so get your tickets here!

To all my Christian friends, I wish you a Merry Christmas. To all my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah. To all my friends who celebrate other things, Happy Holidays. To the Wiccans out there, I hope you had a great Solstice. And for the rest of us, Happy Festivus!

Cross Posted on Daily Kos.


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The time is Now!

Elections have consequences. In 2010, the Republican base, fired up by the tea party, continued capitulation of the Democrats and their unadulterated hatred of President Obama, swarmed the ballot box and delivered a crushing blow. Many legislative chambers, governor’s mansions, and congressional seats fell to the overwhelming anger of the revved up, conservative base dominated electorate. All the while, the milquetoast Democrats had disappointed, disaffected and generally ignored their base, and so in turn, the people who elected Dems in 2006 and 2008 just stayed home.

The Democrats never seem to get the message that the ideas of the left are much more popular than those of the right. They never seem to fight for our values. Our values are stronger than theirs. Our values are Equality, Liberty and Justice. These are foundational principles of our republic and they are incredibly powerful. But instead of consistently framing their messaging around these values, Democrats back away, compromise, lose faith in the fact that Americans side with the left on issue after issue and crumble in the face of conservative arguments.

The Republicans, however, always align their arguments with their values of “limited government” (even though they tend to grow the government), “constitutional rights” (although they tend to infringe on civil liberties) and “personal responsibility” (while they encourage corporations to externalize costs and internalize profits). They frame every issue around these key values and have gotten a lot of average Americans to buy into their world view through these values.

But it has finally gone too far. In their new found power, Republicans are proceeding to fire up the much larger liberal base by ignoring the vast majority of Americans in favor of catering to their ideologically driven base. Now is the time to build upon the the uprising in Wisconsin and across the Midwest.

It occurred to me recently that I cannot remember the last time that the left had a major offensive (advancing our agenda) legislative victory, but I can name a lot of major offensive legislative victories of the right. The fact that I can’t remember it is primarily because I was born in 1976 and the first President I remember is Reagan and secondarily because there hasn’t been one since at least 1980. You may argue with this, but I’m not talking about elections or court decisions, I’m talking about major pieces of legislation that advanced the progressive agenda. The Affordable Care Act is a gigantic subsidy to the insurance industry, so I don’t see it as a victory. Mostly, the things we’ve won on have been defensive victories, and while it’s important to defend what we’ve got, we’re not advancing our agenda and when we lose, our agenda is being rolled back. Many times, even when we win, we still lose. Had we prevailed in Wisconsin, our unions were still making concessions, so even if the right to collective bargaining is defended, we’re losing ground on pension and salary. What I’m saying here is that because we’ve been on defense for so long, we sometimes win battles, but we’re losing the war.

It’s (past) time to go on the offense. Republicans, emboldened by this past election are staging an all out attack on all fronts. They’re giving tax breaks to businesses that primarily help the wealthy, setting up future crises, while using the current budget crisis to kill public employee unions, attempting to disenfranchise reliably Democratic voters, waging war on women, the poor, disabled and elderly. They are trying to roll back government benefits to the people while bestowing them on the rich all while wrapping this in rugged individualism, limited government and “hey, it’s not in the constitution”.

But we’ve always been in this together,

We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. ~ Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence

had need for governmental protection from abuses,

The public be damned! ~ William Vanderbilt upon his doubling of fares on New York streetcars

and it is in the constitution.

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. ~ Preamble of the Constitution of the United States (Emphasis Added)

And we have instituted real, positive, progressive changes in our society, and we can in the future. All it takes is for us to join together and organize. We have seen the rumblings of this in Wisconsin and I for one hope it continues. We must learn that rallies are all fine and dandy, but limited in their scope if those being protested will not heed the will of the people peacefully. Accountability through recalls is fantastic but horribly slow (especially in this case). There is some talk of a general strike which would be amazing, but how about some creative new tactics? Perhaps the good people of Wisconsin should visit their Governor at his Mansion 3 miles Northeast of the Capitol at all hours of the day and night. Perhaps its time to bang on some pots and pans so that he hears us. Perhaps.

Whatever those on the ground in Wisconsin decide, I’ll be there to help. I’m not going to physically go to Wisconsin as that would be a burden on both me and them, but I will send food boxes for strikers, I will gather donations, I will help organize. This is what we need and there’s a name for it…solidarity.

Which brings me back to my broader point, we on the left are too fractious. We organize around important issues when we need to be organizing around our crucial values. We each fight on our specific issue, but fail to get each others backs. We must realize that there are only two types of power the world has ever known; money power and people power, and people power is stronger if we have the numbers. However, as Ben Franklin made the point earlier in this post, we cannot fail to hang together. We need to unite the various movements of the left. The labor movement, the environmental justice movement, the peace movement, the civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights and human rights movements. We need ALL progressives to come together, to stand together, to fight together. The fate of our country, our republic and our economic well being depends on it. This is an epic struggle for liberty, equality and justice and we must not falter. The time is now.

Cross Posted on Daily Kos

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