Dear MoveOn members (and fellow progressive types),
Yesterday and today, MoveOn members have been asked to vote on a very important question: "Should MoveOn support or oppose the final health care bill if it looks like the plan recently proposed by President Obama?"
This is a major decision, both for MoveOn members and the progressive movement generally. And it's about an issue I've spent a lot of time on this year as a grassroots mobilizer at Organizing for America. So I'm writing this open letter now to explain why I'll vote "yes" -- and to urge my fellow MoveOn members to do the same.
I should also explain that for several years I had the honor of serving as a senior campaigner on MoveOn's staff.
Back when I was sending out "Dear MoveOn member," emails, we threw ourselves fully into campaigns to simply preserve a flawed status quo from the latest right-wing threat. (The Alito nomination, Social Security privatization, the Iraq War... you name it.) But we knew that before we could really start making our country better than we found it, we'd have to stop George W. Bush from making it considerably worse. So we made a simple, powerful choice: Take the times as they are, fight like hell, and do the most good we can.
After 10 years of fighting epic battles to ward off harm, we now finally have the opportunity to make things better -- much better -- in the daily lives of millions of struggling Americans.
I know one of those Americans quite well - Malka Brandzel, my mother.
I got into politics because as a child I saw an insurance company cut off her group health insurance plan without warning or reason. For years I watched my single mother suffer through denial after denial due to her increasingly expensive and crippling "pre-existing conditions." I knew then, as now, that her problem was caused by a broken system, and only fixing that system could help her and the millions of others caught in the same cruel trap.
And that's exactly what we're finally poised to do.
The President's latest proposal for health reform would create the greatest single extension of affordable medical care in our nation's history - offering high quality coverage (and tax credits for those who need help paying for it) to 31 million uninsured Americans.
At the same time, decades of insurance company bullying -- pre-existing conditions, arbitrary cancellations, denials, and premium hikes -- would be gone forever. In fact, these new protections represent one of the greatest transfers of power from corporations to consumers in the history of our democracy. It's no wonder that if we win, it will be very much over the fiercest opposition of America's strongest corporate lobbyists.
In short, this proposal means massive gains in the physical, emotional, and economic well being of working- and middle-class families, combined with a historic power shift from corporations to people. And if that doesn't add up to a progressive cause worth fighting for, I don't know what does.
Of course the only reason we even have to ask this question is that, as we all know, after a year of negotiations the final proposal doesn't contain every idea that progressives, or the President, had initially wanted. President Obama long said he preferred a public insurance option, for example, and many of us strongly agree.
But the question we progressives must ask is whether we are more likely to complete the march if we take this giant step forward now, or if we stay on the sidelines to watch the progress we've made stumble and fail?
Can you realistically imagine a time when we'll have larger majorities or more political momentum than we've had this year? And the last time we abandoned health reform, the failure to deliver ushered in a devastating era of hard-right dominance in Washington. We had to fight for 16 years just to get back to this point. How long are we willing to wait for our next chance?
For me, the answer is simple. My mother, like so many others, would see her life transformed if the President's health reform proposal becomes law. And she's been waiting a long time without the care she requires. She's one of the millions who simply don't have the luxury of waiting for 'next time'.
Today, we find ourselves facing a literally priceless opportunity to make our country considerably better - more just; more humane; more progressive - than we found it.
It's an opportunity we earned together through years of hard work in dark times. And the possibilities now within our grasp are so much brighter because grassroots progressives have worked all year to show that Americans deserve and demand leadership that does what's right.
So here's my advice on the road ahead: Let's back this proposal, and make change happen.
Let's make the same simple, powerful choice that got us this far: take the times as we find them, fight like hell, and do the most good we can.
Thanks for all that you do.
Ben Brandzel served as Advocacy Director at MoveOn.org from 2004-2006, and currently serves as Director of New Media Campaigns and Fundraising at Organizing for America. The views expressed above are his alone and do not reflect those of either organization.