HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ad Buys and Organizing for Health Care Reform

Ezra Klein provides the latest ad promoting health care reofrm from the new organization Health Care for America Now.  He reports that the supporters of health reform have learned many lessons from their failures during the Clinton administration.   He writes,


. . . . .   So it's of both enormous practical and symbolic significance that, in 2008, the first major health reform coalition with serious money and a genuine pressure plan is on the left. Health Care for American Now is a joint venture founded by a Who's Who of progressive organizations. The primary partners -- which is to say, those who put up $500,000 to join -- are include The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Americans United for Change, Campaign for America’s Future, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Center for Community Change,, National Education Association, National Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Service Employees International Union, United Food and Commercial Workers, and USAction. Within that list are old guard groups like Labor and new wave organizations like MoveOn. Both Change to Win and the AFL-CIO are represented. Standing behind them are a much larger list of coalition partners that include the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Women's Law Center. It's about as broad a progressive coalition as you can imagine, and exactly what didn't exist in 1994.

But the biggest, broadest coalition imaginable isn't of much use if it doesn't have money behind it. This one does. $40 million, to be exact, and given the lineup, there could be more coming if the campaign is effective. The YouTube atop this post comes is their first ad, which is backed by a $1.5 million buy. Beyond national media, they'll also be hiring hundreds of organizers and centering them in swing districts and in the communities of wavering congressmen. Yesterday, the Huffington Post reported that they'd pay particular attention to Blue Dog Democrats, but today, Richard Kirsch, the campaign director, denied that report (which doesn't mean it isn't true), and said, “We’re going to be talking to every member in the country. We’re asking every member of Congress in the country which side they stand on."That's the campaign's primary question: Which side? As Kirsch puts it, " Are you on the side of quality affordable health care? Or on the side of being left alone to fend for yourself in the complicated, bureaucratic, private insurance market?" Private insurers are the enemy here: They're the villains named in the ads, invoked from the podium, assaulted in the images. The poster behind the stage -- a blow-up of the first print ad -- asked, "Trust the insurance companies to fix the health care mess?" The answer? "Not on your life." Indeed, the campaign's second principle, after a "truly inclusive and accessible health care system where no one is left out," is "a choice of a private insurance plan, including keeping the insurance you have if you like it, or a public insurance plan without a private insurer middleman."

All of which is to say, this year, the Left is organizing first. They're raising money first. They're mounting a grassroots strategy first. They're building the pressure coalitions first. . . .   It may, of course, prove insufficient. But unlike in 1994, it won't be non-existent. And that's a huge, and promising, difference.

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