Organizing for America’s Idea of “Change”

Real change in health care comes from changes in the law, not a patchwork of temporary fixes.

The Obama campaign changed its name after the election… from Obama for America to “Organizing for America.” Its intent was to continue the momentum of the campaign by getting Americans involved, but Organizing for America does not, in fact, state a specific agenda that we should be involved in.

Organizing for America is a project of the Democratic National Committee. OFA is promoting National Health Care Day of Service, and I recently attended two health care reform meetings promoted through OFA. One was hosted by Dianne Zeller, who named her group Organizing for America, Hollywood Chapter. That meeting was held on June 13th, a week after OFA had suggested that meetings be held to discuss health care reform across the country. The first such meeting I attended had been the week prior on June 6th, which was when health care reform meetings were suggested by OFA. That meeting was hosted by Sandy Davies, a chapter head in North Miami for Progressive Democrats of America. The two health care reform meetings discussed the same agenda, but both took different approaches to reforming health care.

OFA has provided an agenda for those meetings in order to plan for National Health Care Day of Service on June 27th. It suggested community service efforts like contributing to a food bank, organizing a blood drive or starting a “victory garden.” Such efforts were discussed at the Hollywood meeting, and it was suggested that a food drive could be organized in Hollywood that could also promote what the North Miami meeting had proposed: a march and rally to support single payer health care and House Bill 676- enhancing Medicare for all Americans.

Since that meeting, however, Dianne Zeller has communicated her intent to either hold her own rally on the 27th, which she then said was not feasible, or hold food and blood drives before and after the 27th. While the North Miami meeting has planned on a National Health Care Day of Service effort that specifically promotes legislation that will reform health care and is supported by Progressive Democrats of America, the Hollywood meeting’s plan is specifically along the lines of what is suggested by Organizing for America in regards to a local charity effort.

I also attended an Organizing for America Listening Tour event in Plantation last night. The agenda there was very non-specific, and did not target any specific legislation that has been proposed in Congress. Their intent was to ensure that members of the community “support the President.” While the dialogue from the two employees of OFA was akin to corporate-speak, the dialogue from much of the audience in attendance was unsurprisingly angry and more determined to see legislative change that would benefit individual Americans rather than just huge corporations. Not only was that dichotomy evident, but the OFA representatives voiced their belief that food and blood drives and similar community efforts across the country on the 27th would get huge national attention for health care reform.

Patching the immediate problems in regards to lack of food or the need for stockpiles of blood, let alone feel-good efforts like starting a garden are vital ways of building a sense of community and helping others, but they are continuous efforts that Americans can always get involved in every day. Targeting specific legislation that is on the table in Congress right now is what really leads to reforming health care for all Americans. Progressive Democrats of America’s intent to promote legislation rather than do something like a local food drive is evidenced by the North Miami’s choice to march and rally for single payer health care.

Some of us who attended the Hollywood meeting had expected that we would hold a food drive during the day on the 27th in Hollywood that could promote the march and rally for single payer health care that evening in North Miami, but Dianne Zeller is apparently resistant to that effort. I think that Dianne’s approach is emblematic of what Organizing for America is lacking in really effecting change in America.

Change doesn’t come from promoting the continuation of a patchwork of community efforts to feed the hungry and bank pints of blood and start neighborhood gardens. Change comes from legislation that involves the heft and financing of the government to solve social problems, not a patchwork of community volunteers constantly trying to fix small and immediate problems that never end.

I was extremely disappointed in last night’s OFA Listening Tour meeting. OFA has thus far organized volunteers to ask other Americans to “sign a pledge” to support the President. Pledging support does not achieve what the last Presidential campaign was able to accomplish: getting needed votes.

Until the next election, we need votes not of “support” from Americans for an ethereal agenda of “affordable insurance premiums” and “quality health care” and “expanding coverage” as promised by OFA employees last night, but votes for legislation from our Congressional representatives. Small neighborhood food and blood drives will not promote specific legislation in Congress, and real change in health care comes from changes in the law, not a patchwork of temporary fixes.

Like many people I spoke to at the Listening Tour meeting last night, Organizing for American completely failed to inspire me to do anything that will effect change in America. I’ll stick with the very specific agenda of Progressive Democrats of America. On National Health Care Day of Service, I’ll be marching and rallying with members of North Miami’s Progressive Democrats of America to show my support and encourage the support of other Americans in the community for HR-676 or similar legislation that will effect real and tangible health care reform in the United States of America.

I expect that as time goes on, we’ll have a nearby PDA chapter in Broward County, too, and members will be coordinating efforts with PDA across the country to effect real, tangible legislative change and get more progressives elected in Washington and throughout the country. Right now, in these next few weeks and on National Health Care Day of Service, we need health care reform across America, not just temporary patches in our neighborhoods.