Tim over at Balloon Juice is trying to lead in the fight over health care. He’s absolutely right: we have to contact our representatives and senators as often as we can to reinforce their sense that we have their back if they take action on health care, and we will drop them like a rock if they don’t.
But there is another center of gravity in this debate, and that’s the White House. It is my hope, if not quite my expectation, that President Obama will use the State of the Union address to lay his markers down. But I’m growing fearful that what we see in his White House is a political shop that has consistently misread both the mood of the country and the actual dynamics taking place at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. So I think we need to push there too.
If you agree, here’s where you go to send an email. The comment line phone number, closed until Monday at 9 EST, is 202-456-1111. I’ll be calling first thing. The main White House switchboard number is 202-456-1414. I plan on calling that and asking to speak to someone in the policy shop. I’ll let you know if I get anywhere.
Here’s what I sent in to the White House today. Please…keep ‘em coming, and if you do, feel free to post them in the comment thread here.
I am one of your most ardent supporters, and I spent as much of the summer and fall of 2008 as I could trying to make sure we won, and won big. Now I have a request to make.
The time for a “hands off” management approach to the health care issue is clearly over. I ask you to take the lead, using your prestige, your formidable powers of persuasion, and all the levers of power the office of the President possesses to lead the Congress to the passage of health reform.
What I seek is what is being touted as the grand compromise: the House passes the Senate bill, while, with yours and the Democratic Senate leadership’s public commitment, advancing a bill through the reconciliation process that addresses those of the House’s concerns that can be enveloped in that legislative approach.
There is both moral and political need for you to lead here. If we fail, 30,000,000 Americans will lack health care that could have it — on your watch — and as we know from studies of the consequences of lack of coverage, thousands of them will die of “financial arrest.”
I do not want that on my conscience as a Democrat — and I’m sure neither do you.
At the same time, as volunteer on Democratic campaigns since 1976, I can tell you that the impact on me and every other grass roots Democrat that I know will be awful if our party, with large majorities in the Congress and your good self in the White House, were to collapse into a puddle of self-pitying inaction because we lost a special election in which our candidate happened to run a truly terrible campaign.
We’ve come too far; we’ve worked too hard — you’ve worked too hard — to let go now.
All this is said in the context of respect for the job you’ve done across a huge number of complex issues, and thanks for your calm and reflective approach in this very dangerous and complex times. But every now and then both the politics and the policy demand something different. This is such a time.
With all best wishes,
Image: John T. McCutcheon. Political cartoon depicting local politicians struggling to keep up with president Theodore Roosevelt during his visit to Chicago. Early 1900s.