TC picnic has grass-roots health-care reform on the menu

So you’re having hot dogs and beans?

Jenn Brown, state director of Organizing for America, was silent for a moment.

“Umm, healthy fare,” she said. “Turkey burgers, salmon burgers, fruit, vegetables. Things like that.”

This is the future of American picnics and health?  Obama-inspired health care reform being pushed, ever so slowly, up a high hill of special interests in Washington? And veggie-burgers instead of brats?

“A healthy lifestyle is important to a healthy country,” said Brown, admitting with a laugh that Organizing for America is not emphasizing the picnic fare.

This subject of health and diet came up because Organizing for America, which grew out of the Obama presidential campaign, is hosting the Twin Cities Health Care Barbecue Wednesday evening — from 6 to 8 p.m. — at Wabun Picnic Area D in Minnehaha Park.

The hope is that the event will give a boost to grass-roots efforts to push health care reform through Congress. Similar events are being held by Organizing for America throughout the country this week.

Organizing for America, whose bills are paid by donations and the Democratic National Committee, is built around the volunteers who fueled the Obama campaign.

“We got him elected to enact change,” said Brown, who was an Obama campaign worker in Ohio. “After the election, we had all of these volunteers, so many of them involved in politics for the first time, saying, ‘Now what?’ “

Organizing for America quickly was formed, held together by state directors such as Brown, lead volunteers and a sophisticated email system that makes it possible to keep people of like interests working together.

The first event staged by Organizing for America was the “national day of service,” held on Martin Luther King’s birthday. But health care reform has been on the front burner of the organization for the last two months.

Brown says selling the public on the need for reform is not difficult.

“Everybody knows someone with a devastating story (about a broken health care system),” she said.

But, of course for years, polls have shown that the public has been far bolder than pols in seeking reform. Through events such as Wednesday’s picnic, Organizing for America hopes to help give Obama the political clout he’ll need to prevent health care reform from again becoming delayed for another day.

The picnic itself seems pretty small for such a large task. Brown says she expects “hundreds” of people to turn out for an event that will feature Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, an Obama/health care booster, as well as everyday citizens telling their health care war stories. (Thousands of these stories have collected by Democratic Party and Organizing for America officials across the country and delivered to the halls of Congress.)

The harsh stories are not hard to find, Brown said. Daily, she receives a new batch of e-mails containing a new batch of stories.

“It makes coming to work seem worthwhile,” she said.

It’s not so much the numbers of people who come to the picnic that matter — though the more, the better, Brown said. The hope is that those salmon burgers and the speeches will help energize volunteers to stand in front of grocery stores and go door-knocking in their neighborhoods searching for people to sign petitions and call the offices of members of Congress.

“We want people to keep spreading the word that this time it can happen,” she said.  “We’re finding that people aren’t cynical at all. They are involved in a real way.”

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 07/21/2009 - 02:34 pm.

    I am one Democrat who cannot support a health care plan modeled after the overly complex and overly-expensive (hundreds of millions of dollars over budget each year but not yet universal) and punitive Massachusetts Plan.

    Early last week, Massachusetts announced that, to save money, it was dropping 30,000 legal immigrants from the program.

    On Thursday, the state was sued by Boston Medical Center for financing “its landmark health insurance law, a model for national healthcare overhaul, on the backs of poor residents by cutting money to the hospital that cares for many of them to pay for expanded coverage,” cuts that “could financially unravel the urban hospital’s key services.”

    To allow the Congress to write legislation to please insurance and other health care “industry” lobbyists will only give us the Mass-Plan writ large. While the sensible plan, the plan most Americans and a majority of doctors want, remains off the table. It is simple (the HR-676 bill is only 13 pages long)and would save $400 billion per year instead of adding to the deficit.

  2. Submitted by Glenn Mesaros on 07/22/2009 - 07:49 am.

    Ezekiel Emanuel, the top healthcare adviser at Obama’s Budget Office and brother of his chief of staff, believes it is “obvious” that people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia (estimated as one of three people who live beyond the age of 65) should be denied health-care, since they are “irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens.” An essay published in the Hastings Center Report (Nov-Dec 1996) by Emanuel, Norman Daniels and Bruce Jennings, says in part:

    “This civic republican or deliberative democratic conception of the good provides both procedural and substantive insights for developing a just allocation of health care resources. Procedurally, it suggests the need for public forums to deliberate about which health services should be considered basic and should be socially guaranteed. Substantively, it suggests services that promote the continuation of the polity – those that ensure healthy future generations, ensure development of practical reasoning skills, and ensure full and active participation by citizens in public deliberation – are to be socially guaranteed as basic. Conversely, services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.”

  3. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 07/22/2009 - 11:47 am.

    Holy Moley. I knew Zeke Emanuel held views that not all may agree with, but not that they were as bad as this. (Would he want HIS aged parent to be denied care during the years Alzheimers can take to destroy his/her mind? What would his position be if/when an effective treatment is found?)

    Ray of Hope: Last Friday, the Education and Labor Committee passed with the Yes votes of 25 Dems and 19 Republicans an amendment from Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) to the House version of the health care bill that would allow the states to develop single payer health care systems if they preferred that to the Mass-Plan clone. The Republicans’ reason for voting for the amendment was that this is a states’ right issue!!

    Inclusion in the final bill would clear the way for passage of John Marty’s Minnesota Health Plan, but even if it isn’t in the final bill, the forced imposition of the Mass-Plan is probably unconstitutional (anything not specified as federal is reserved to the states).

  4. Submitted by joel clemmer on 07/22/2009 - 12:02 pm.

    Bernice Vetsch’s comment is right on. The people are way ahead of the politicians on this one. Extending her thoughts a bit, one can see the necessity of forging ahead with actual, sustainable reform on the state level, since the feds are not yet up to the task. Hence, we should even more seriously consider Senator John Marty’s Minnesota Health Plan, a solution that provides comprehensive care to every resident of the state for less cost than we now are paying for a broken system. When Congress sees a successful implementation at the state level, they will follow suit. See

  5. Submitted by Bill Krause on 08/25/2009 - 08:05 pm.


    Your title mentioned something about “grass-roots” yet the very first sentence you have this

    “state director of Organizing for America, ”

    This is a State Director for a National organization, that evolved out of a national presidential campaign.

    Where exactly is the grass-roots?

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