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From: Margarida Jorge To: HCAN Field Partners
RE: HCAN—Responding to Right-Wing Attacks in the Field – August 4, 2009
Since early February, we’ve seen increasing numbers of militant right-wing activists attending public meetings across the country targeting Members of Congress and President Obama. Now in the August recess, the “tea-bagger” protesters and right-wing activists are showing up in larger numbers with a mission to be as disruptive as possible in the hopes of rattling Members of Congress and halting health care reform through pure spectacle and obstruction.
Our response is shaped by 3 things:
- Our targets are Members of Congress who must vote “yes” for this bill. Our targets are not the rightwing extremists. The targets of these attacks are Members of Congress. Those Members are also our targets. We need to use these attacks as opportunities to work with the Members in ways that build our relationship in the field and bring us together as allies in health care reform. Members may be more receptive to partnering with us if they know we will help them combat the opposition.
- Our core message is effective, and we should always come back to it. Our campaign plan has always anticipated opposition. No matter what the right-wingers bring up to distract the debate, we should always circle back to our key message. We are on the side of quality, affordable health care for everyone, and we are against turning over health care reform to the insurance companies and lobbyists who got us into this mess to begin with. We need to educate the press and the public that the protesters are aligned with the corporate lobbyists and insurance companies who are trying to stop reform.
- Our ability to put the extremists into perspective helps us frame our narrative. We should be prepared to respond to the other side, but we don’t need to be reactive or feel pressure to answer their accusations point by point. Instead, we should treat them as agents of the insurance lobbyists who want to maintain the status quo. We can dismiss their radical rhetoric by circling back to the basic things that we know most people care about— affordability, access, and quality.
In many cases, protestors will show up at events or meetings you don’t organize but are participating in as an attendee or sponsor. You can still influence the outcome of these events or meetings, and it’s important for HCAN organizers and leaders to be ready to encounter these protesters in order to make sure that our volunteers and activists respond appropriately as well as capitalize on opportunities to also move our message, work with Members, and educate the public.
You can read the entire e-mail HERE.