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Where are the Liberals?

August 5, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

I’ve been writing a bit on the activism dynamic on health care as the August recess begins. I’m not interested so much in the “authenticity” of the rallies and townhall disruptions happening around the country. Obviously, the big conservative groups are heavily involved in organizing events, as are the big liberal groups (including the Obama campaign’s leftover activist arm). The more interesting part to me is why, with polls showing support for the health care bill running 50 percent or higher, the opposition is so much better organized than the support.

Ezra Klein has a good take that I thought I’d pass along:

…the poor in this country are almost entirely unorganized. And that changes political incentives. White House officials have frequently noted to me that 95 percent of the people who voted for Barack Obama had health-care insurance. 95 percent. That number was presumably higher for John McCain.

The electorate, in other words, looks like America after health-care reform passes, not before. The people who are politically involved — both in general and on this issue — are not the people who will be most affected, either for good or for ill. Rather, they’re the people who are … the most politically involved. That doesn’t render their feelings less authentic or valid. But it does make large legislative campaigns harder for both sides, as the battles are more reflections of existing political divisions and trends rather than of the actual need for the policy.

Add to that the fact that it’s way easier to organize against something than it is to organize in support of a President, and the majority of the country that wants health care reform face a major uphill fight from now until the vote in September.

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