Many thanks for Carole Ferguson and the Health Care Huddle for hosting last week's discussion with Dr. Michael Rocha,"Everyone's Health Matters". Michael, a cardiologist, spoke about improving our health care system, lowering costs associated with health care and supporting the doctors, nurses, and other medical staff who provide care. Dr. Rocha stated that our system is "upside down" and should support primary care in a big way instead of specialty care with our emphasis on sick visits and medications. With some form of universal care, as other countries have, better care at lower cost could be provided to all Americans. It is imperative we find a way to create a new equitable system for all.
Political Action and the 2018 Elections
Four members of Marching Forward attended the conference hosted by Indivisible MA in Worcester last weekend. It was a fascinating day which included keynote speakers Elizabeth Warren and Jim McGovern, and a broad range of informative workshops.
Our take-aways from the Conference:
**We are making a difference!! This message came through loud and clear. Indivisible groups, and so many others including the Sister District Project, Swing Left, Open Progress, have already made a measurable difference. The outcomes in Virginia would have been much different without the concerted efforts of many groups and individuals.
**We have the opportunity to have an even bigger influence on races is 2018, by carefully choosing where and how to focus our energies.
**Voting rights and voter suppression are perhaps the most important issues facing the nation.
Workshop on "Voting Rights and Gerrymandering"
-This workshop had top notch speakers - the former and current Secretaries of State of Connecticut.
-It can be argued that voting rights and the trends that are challenging them - especially gerrymandering and voter suppression - is the single most important core issue facing us today. Secretaries of State and State legislatures play a pivotal role in controlling voting, which points to the importance of state and 'down ballot' races. It is in these 'smaller' but very important races that groups like Marching Forward can make a real difference.
- Miles Rapoport urged us to "Make Massachusetts a Model" in terms of voting rights. In recent years,MA has led the way on gay marriage and health care. We can be an example for the rest of the country on voting rights and better registration practices.
Denise Merrill, CT Secretary of State, emphasized the necessity of citizen involvement for a healthy democracy. Voting is our most fundamental civic duty, and insuring that all who are eligible are registered and able to vote is a powerful check on authoritarianism.
Terry Cryan and Carole Ferguson:
- “Energizing” is the word for Elizabeth Warren’s opening keynote. She gave a national view of not just Indivisible but the broader activist movement that she feels is “rewiring” our democracy. Especially urgent are the challenges to voting rights (the foundation on which everything rests) and independent judiciary and press.·
- Jim McGovern, Congressman from Mass 2nd congressional district which includes Worcester, gave the DC view – how hard it is to go to work in Congress every day, trying to work with this President and this Republican party.
Afternoon workshop on healthcare:
- The workshop focused on single-payer, with speakers from Physicians for a National Health Program, Harvard Medical Indivisible, Mass Care and Take Back Our Health.
- Jamie Eldridge, Mass. state senator from Middlesex/Worcester, also spoke. A bill on single-payer he authored has just been passed by the Senate (35-3 vote) – S610/H596. It’s a “benchmark” bill – calls for the state to model a single-payer system to see what the costs would be. If the costs prove to be lower, the “teeth” in the bill is that the legislature would have to institute the new system.
- Interesting discussion on going to single-payer by the federal route or state-by-state. The state model comes from Canada – the province of Saskatchewan went to a public health model (but in the late 1950s!) and then the other provinces followed until they developed the national system.
-Great attendance at this conference with over 600 attendees from all walks of life drawn to action after the shock of the 2016 election.
- It was good to be there in person at this gathering to see so many groups and individuals with so much in common not only in ‘resisting‘ but taking positive action.
-The session I attended on ‘ladder building’ (ways to engage and mobilize people) was perfect for Marching Forward. It was reassuring to learn that our group is as dynamic as we feel. We need to be cautious of ‘blocks’ such as leader fatigue, drifting, trying to do too much.
- Our goals are to reconnect, reignite and pace ourselves for this marathon.
- Engage more activists around key initiatives. Our priority will be 2018 Elections with very specific targeted actions.
- We are at exactly the same juncture as our sister groups and we are ready to make strategic decisions based on our work, reading, learning.
-Katie and I learned much from the 'Election Strategy Deep Dive'
This session addressed issues such as how to choose candidates to support, the power of social media in campaigns, how to engage voters in state and out of state.
-Especially worthwhile was a presentation by Michelle Olson of Minuteman Indivisible. She has done data analysis of congressional races outside of Mass, with the goal of targeting districts to “flip”. The idea is to funnel money and manpower to those races, even though they’re out of state. Her strategy for choosing candidates to support is sound, and we came home with her current list of candidates who have a real shot at winning in 2018.