Report from the Field: We are Not Alone
Yesterday I, two bloggers from Correntewire (Gmanedit and LibbyLiberal) and a woman who had heard about the protest from the PNHP meeting Libby and I had attended, stood on a chilly street in New York City and talked about half-healthcare for women, the deficiencies of the Health Whatever Bill, and the superiority of single-payer (universal) health care. We were accompanied by two stoic but friendly police officers (you have to let the NYPD know when you're going to publicly exercise your right to free speech), who guarded Representative Maloney's doorway from us dangerous hippie types, in case we decided to get WILD and CRAAAAAZY! I designed an eye-catching poster to draw people in, and Libby gathered an amazing amount of information about the bill and created some fantastic flyers to pass out to people. She made 100 copies, and we gave out almost all of them.
We spoke with many, many people. We learned that there were quite a few out there who did not like the healthcare bill - and who objected on pro-choice, or other liberal grounds. We also got a lesson in how NOT to stereotype people when one woman stopped and said she was the president of the Young Republicans New York Chapter, and that not only did she not like Obamacare because she was a Republican, but because she was pro-choice - and so were a lot of her members. "After all, we are women," she said. She then thanked us for our activism and moved on. I can say with conviction that we were all shocked - and pleasantly so.
Some people saw my poster about half-healthcare for women, looked at us, nodded and said, "I agree," or "I know," and got it instantly. We got some "Good for you!" shout-outs, and some people asked us what to do (we said, "Contact your Congressperson.") Others were confused, thinking we were Republicans (of course, because only Republicans oppose the bill, right?). Many did not know that Carolyn Maloney's office was in that building, and I don't blame them, because it's like a secret lair, with no sign anywhere on the front wall. Speaking of location, we truly lucked out, as there was a health food store right next to our little gathering, and a lot of those who go to health food stores are concerned with...you got it!
We got another good lesson in thinking on our feet. We had to come up with quick answers that would keep people interested in our cause. The reactions to our outreach were as varied as the people. On the one hand, we saw another blogger, The Unrepentant Marxist, who told us how angry he was at the whole Health Whatever clusterfuck. On the other hand, one woman, when she found we were advocating for government-paid healthcare, started screaming "No! No! No! No!" as if we were admitting to sexual congress with farm animals. (Hate to inform you, darling, but we already have government-run health care!) One woman became angry and started asking where the women's groups had been when the bill was being developed. She didn't stay long enough for us to tell her that we agreed with her! Others told us half a loaf was better than nothing, if you're starving; at which point I said, "But what if you can't afford half a loaf?"
At first we were all saying different things, but we ended up with a more unified pitch by the end of the day. "Information on health care?" we'd ask, as the flyers flew out of our hands. The time went by quickly, and afterwards, we all went out to coffee and nosh to plot our next move.
At the little cafe, Gmanedit made a great point: we have to be ahead of Obama and his Republican agenda, and call out its Republican roots loudly and often. It has just started to come out that Obamacare is actually a toxic mixture of RomneyCare and NixonCare, created in that famous Republican thinktank with the Orwellian title, The Heritage Foundation. (Amazingly, it was first developed to counter Hillarycare! Wow - I think our instincts were right on as to why Hillary was denied the nomination by the National Party.) Liberals should begin hammering it home that these ideas came from Republicans, and ask the question: why did we elect Democrats if they're going to give us Republican policies? Didn't we all hate them when they came from Bush and Raygun?! (Ahem. Some of us have been doing this for two and a half YEARS, but now, lefty-type people are actually LISTENING!)
We also thought that we should plan another protest, but this time, get together on our talking points in advance. We got our contact information from each other, and are now cogitating upon our next event.
For a small group, I think we did really well.
That's it for now.