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Richard Kirsch

Richard Kirsch

Posted: August 5, 2009 11:27 AM

The Guns of August: A Call to Arms for Progressives and Obama Activists


History buffs will recognize The Guns of August as Barbara Tuchman's classic history of World War I. The reference works now because August 2009 just opened with trench warfare on health care reform. Unfortunately, the right-wing mob is seeing some early superficial success. We need to enter the battlefield immediately to defend the president's top priority, providing a guarantee of good, affordable health care to all this year. This is a call to arms for the army of activists who powered President Obama to the White House.

We are already seeing the violent excesses of the right. They hung freshman Maryland Congressman Frank Kratovil in effigy, painted Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett as a devil with horns, and screamed insults at HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. This is an angry minority, bitter about an America that they don't recognize, led by a man that doesn't look like them.

These are the same crazies that applauded calls to violence last fall at Sarah Palin rallies and made a hero of Joe the Plumber. But remember, as the public began to understand what the far right-wingers really stood for, it didn't take long for a great majority of the electorate to write them off.

But since health care won't be decided at the popular ballot box, we can't just wait for the public to recognize the reality behind this nutty minority. There are two prizes in the battle at hand -- the national press narrative and Congress' support. We have to win the press war by making it clear that shouts of "socialized medicine" and "government health care" are from a mob on the fringe of American politics. And we need to be sure that wavering Democrats in Congress see that there is strong popular support for health care reform.

Health Care for America Now is joining with progressive groups throughout the country to out-gun the tea-baggers in August. Members of Congress are spending their time at home trying to gauge public support for reform before returning to Washington after Labor Day. It will be a contest all month long, and we have to take it on with all the urgency that the historical task at hand demands.

We've launched a new page on our Web site to help you take action in August: www.healthcareforamericanow.org/fight. Here you'll find out how you can join the fight locally. We'll list town hall meetings and events by Congressman from both political parties so that we can show strong support for reform and keep control of meetings. We'll also tell you how you can directly challenge those members of Congress who are siding with the far right, often using the same extreme rhetoric of the tea-baggers. And we'll be organizing our own actions to show how Congressional opponents of reform are carrying water for the health insurance industry. The page includes pointers for how to organize your own action and how to prepare and respond to the right-wing mob.

As President Obama said on the night he was elected, "I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime."

Of all the challenges in American history, there is none greater than turning health care from a privilege to a right. We need everyone in America who believes that health care is a right to rise to the challenge that the president laid out before us on Election Day. Right now, this month, is the time to declare that this is our country and that an extreme right wing minority will not wreck our nation's path to health care justice.

(also posted at the NOW! blog)