The Presidents' Column:
It’s Time for Another March On Washington by George Gresham, President, SEIU 1199
We must build a united response to our nation’s crises.
This Fall, we’re going to make history in marching on Washington, D.C.
For a year, as healthcare reform dominated the Congressional agenda, groups of people took to the streets in opposition to expanding healthcare coverage to tens of millions and to curtailing insurance industry abuse. These street protests were provoked by outright lies of Fox News and rightwing gasbag politicians—remember the fear of “death panels”?—and resulted in the formation of the Tea Party, or tea-baggers. And of course the mass media gave them far more attention than their numbers deserved.
Unfortunately, we who supported healthcare reform had comparatively little public presence. Many thousands of activists lobbied members of Congress, and millions sent letters and emails, but there never really was a public mobilization. The healthcare overhaul was a tremendous step forward, but might have been much stronger had “we” taken to the streets.
When we elected President Obama two years ago, it was such an historic victory that perhaps our optimism got the better of us. We now had the President we wanted with strong Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. The new President was anxious to work with the Republican opposition to try to repair the damage of the Bush years and move the country forward.