Well-Dressed Grass Roots? Just can’t be!
Polls continue to indicate President Obama’s and the Democrats’ health care reform is in serious trouble. And the Dems are worried…and paranoid. They haven’t been able to drum up support with their much-touted netroots apparatus and are instead encountering protests against their proposals. But it couldn’t be that their grand plan is wrong…instead, the Democrats are claiming this opposition is nothing more than “astroturf.” (Kinda like the Tea Parties, I guess). California Senator Barbara Boxer thinks that well-dressed protesters to Obamacare must be put-ups. Local progressives theorize that the media is conspiring (“which side are you on”?) against President Obama. And, as Michael Barone summarizes:
So now we have the spectacle of the White House trying to demonize the health insurers which it was not so long ago romancing and trying to label as “mobs” and “astroturf” voters who show up at town meetings and voice opposition to Democratic health care proposals—this from a president who during his campaign urged his supporters to respond to those opposing him by “get[ting] in their faces.” These seem like desperation tactics to me. Most Americans are pretty happy with their health insurance because, for one reason, they can choose a different plan every year. It’s not irrational for them to fear getting shoved into a government plan which, to save money, will ration care.
Barone acknowledges that, usually, there is more enthusiasm by those on the outside looking in, but he thinks there’s something more going on, too.
One of the less commented on features of our politics in this decade has been the huge expansion of voter turnout, from 105 million in 2000 to 122 million in 2004 and 131 million in 2008. These increases were generated by campaign organizations (including the brilliantly targeted efforts of the Obama campaign) but were also a spontaneous expression of enthusiasm—both for and against George W. Bush in 2004, for Barack Obama and against Bush in 2008.
You don’t do an unnatural thing like going to a congressman’s town hall meeting to express opposition to a health care proposal just because you got a robocall from someone from Cigna or Aetna. They don’t dragoon poor people into buses the way Acorn does. You go because you feel really, really strongly about some issue. There are, after all, organizers on both sides. The organizers favoring the Democratic health care plans aren’t able to generate any significant. The organizers opposing the Democratic health care plans are. And, as in the 2008 Obama campaign, a lot of people are turning out of their own spontaneous accord.
Democrats/Progressives are projecting their organizational model onto the average citizen. Believe it or not, folks can get upset enough all on their own: we all don’t require “community activists” to identify our problems for us. When asked the generic question if health care needs to be reformed, the majority of Americans say “yes” (myself included). But this isn’t what we have in mind. Instead, keep it simple by focusing on two words: portability and competition. Then work from there.