June 2, 2009

Liberals Rally To Support Healthcare Reform

On Monday, an alliance of liberal activist groups in the U.S. announced plans for an $82 million campaign designed to help Barack Obama pass his healthcare reform plans into law.

"The election of Barack Obama was the beginning, it's not the end," said former presidential candidate and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean to a group of reporters at a conference sponsored by the activist group Campaign for America's Future.

"It was important to win the presidency so that there could be a progressive legislative agenda. Now we have one and now we've got to get to work," Dean added.

Campaign for America's Future has succeeded in rallying together roughly 1,000 progressive social and political groups with a total of some 30 million members through the organization known as Health Care for America Now.

The coalition formed just as Congressmen prepare to commence with what promises to be long and grueling negotiations over the details of a proposed healthcare overhaul before their month-long recess in August.

Mr. Obama based much of his presidential campaign on the promise to bring universal healthcare coverage to Americans, including some 46 million people "” or nearly one-sixth of the nation's population "” who currently have no health insurance.

But as one of the most contentious and polarizing issues in American politics, efforts to reform the healthcare system have floundered during nearly every presidential administration since the 1950's.

However, Obama aids and supporters say that this time they are pulling out all the stops to try to ensure that his plans do not meet the same fate as those of past presidents "” such as former president Bill  Clinton's, whose failed healthcare reform plans cost him a tremendous loss of prestige and political capital.

According to national campaign manager Richard Kirsch, Healthcare for America Now will channel the majority of their financial resources into building grassroots organizational structures and advertising, though they admit that a "very modest amount" will also be spent on lobbying potential supporters in the Senate and House.

"This will be a crowning achievement of a new progressive era in American politics and, extraordinarily after 100 years of waiting for this, it will happen over the next few months," said Kirsch.

Financial support for the campaign will be drawn from private foundations, union fees and individual contributors, explained Kirsch.

According to Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, an increasingly progressive public opinion gives this campaign a better chance of success than those of previous administrations

"We do this with the wind at our back," said Mr. Borosage. "This debate takes place in the context of a nation that is increasingly a center-left nation."

A number of Republicans have taken issue with Obama's proposed reforms, which would likely include a legal mandate that all U.S. citizens have health coverage as well as creating a federally-run insurance provider.   

Howard Dean, however, said that healthcare reform should be an issue around which politicians from both sides of the aisle should be able to rally.

"We want to work with the Republicans, but we have no intention of working with the Republicans at the price of short-changing the American people," he said.


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