With Obamacare signups ahead of projections and the machinery moving (relatively) smoothly, Democrats can finally grab a breath -- the post-launch panic isn't needed any more. Instead, it's time we took a calculating look at how a successful expansion of health care coverage might just HELP Democrats in the fall... or at least, how we can get the most benefit possible out of improving the lives of millions of people.
Some individual Democratic candidates have begun to use the Affordable Care Act as a positive in their campaigns, but most seem to have internalized the chattering class's dominant narrative, that Obamacare is a Democratic albatross. They may wake up to the possibility that they can use the ACA to their benefit sometime before November, but will that leave enough time to counter three years of relentless negativity?
Here's one thing Democrats and the progressive movement can do to help right now: Launch a grassroots-focused campaign to leverage the millions of people who have solid health insurance thanks to Barack Obama and the Democrats. We can start by connecting with people who bought on the exchanges, new Medicaid enrollees and 20-somethings now covered under their parents' plans, but we'll also want to reach the millions more who have new freedom because of the elimination of pre-existing conditions.
A grassroots campaign like this would be online-focused, of course, since email and the social web are where we now live much of our lives, but it could also have a strong on-the-ground component as well, enabled by the local social-welfare organizations that have helped sign people up all over the country. The goal? To arm people with the tools to make the case that Obamacare has changed their lives profoundly for the better.
"I got covered" is a strong message: It's MY story, not something promoted by a faceless advocacy group (even though this campaign would of course be run by a faceless advocacy group). Naturally we should also work with opinion leaders, since persuading bloggers, TV pundits and the like that the dominant Obamacare narrative is obsolete is the only thing that will change the broadcast-level public debate.
But elections are also won at the water cooler, on Facebook and at the church supper, and the more people primed to answer Fox news propaganda with their own experiences, the better a chance we have to blunt the hard edge of the Republican message. It's a lot harder to believe something is an unalloyed evil when your own cousin is the living a better life because of it! "Angry Obamacare opponents" may be fired-up right now, but who says we can't assemble a grassroots army just as determined to keep their health care security?
So, who's up for it? I'm in -- somebody just find us a home. Let's not let some media-driven conventional wisdom deny us a chance to help millions of people hold on to the small slice of a better life they were just now able to reach.
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