Thursday, August 6, 2009

No, Mr. President, I Will Not "Back Off"

Updated below.

Dear Mr. President:

According to a senior White House staff member who attended Wednesday’s lunch with the Senate Democratic caucus, you told progressives to “back off” attacking Blue Dogs and ConservaDems for their opposition to meaningful health care reform including the desperately needed public option.

Say what?

No, Mr. President, I will not back off – and I assume other progressives, in and out of the Senate, along with 48-million uninsured Americans and 72% of the country who want a strong public option won’t either.

Please remember that progressives are the people who did much of the legwork during the primary and general election campaign, helping you get elected. In turn, your overwhelming victory enabled a lot of progressive House and Senate candidates to win, allowing the Democrats to take control of both houses of Congress. One of the reasons so many of us worked so tirelessly for nearly two exhausting years was because of your long-standing commitment to genuine change in the way health care is delivered and paid for in the United States.

We did not do this to let six members of the US Senate stand in your way, or ours. Six Senators who, by the way, happen to live in very small states yet receive millions in campaign contributions from the medical-insurance complex. One of them, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, even threatened the entire country with blocking health care reform forever because he got called out for stuffing his campaign coffers with more than $2.2-million from health insurers, medical device manufacturers, big Pharma, hospitals and doctors.

Nelson is simply the latest example of how the medical-insurance complex has managed to block health care reform for nearly 100 years, ever since Teddy Roosevelt first proposed it. This not what we had in mind when we responded to your call for "change we can believe in."

So we won’t back off, Mr. President. Instead, you should stand up.

Charley James

UPDATE: At today's press briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs walked back Pres. Obama's admonition to progressives to "back off" Blue Dogs blocking health care reform. Gibbs said the president was not referring to activists and other proponents of health care reform and a public option.

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