Game Changers on Health and Immigration

nunsTakoma Park Sunday in the early spring turns out to be a big event for a change in the DC area for two reasons.

The final votes are being wrangled into the corral for health care reform, and it looks like what Majority Leader Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) calls the “final yard” will be handled in heart stopping, breath taking fashion with prayers said and fingers crossed.  Good news for millions without health care, warts and all.

And, in momentous timing simultaneously, tens of thousands, certainly no less than 50,000 immigrants and their supporters and maybe as many as 100,000, are rallying and marching to demand real, comprehensive immigration reform after more than a year of suffering through empty promises and holding back anger and what Gustavo Torres, the director of the CASA de Maryland, which is bringing more marchers to the rally than any other organization, calls “frustration.”  If the numbers hit the high end of organizers’ hopes, then perhaps immigration advocates will take a lesson from the health care struggle that will be crunching to a close, one way or another, at the Capitol as they pass by on the way to their buses.  The immigration organizers might realize that there is a real movement behind them pushing out of the pain and into the streets that must have relief and win reform.  Perhaps they will stop stifling the grassroots base and unleash them por la causa. If they do, and the beltway lobbying machine finally becomes coupled to the strategy and tactics of a movement, then a real bill, and not simply a  convoluted politicians’ “framework” might emerge.

I wonder how different the health care bill might have looked and whether or not these last ditch manueverings would have been necessary had the health care organizers also stopped “managing” the base, and moved patients, the uninsured millions, and the victims of the current system to the forefront?  There’s a reason that the politicians don’t like to see these messy problems firsthand.  It’s easier to wheel and deal in the cloakrooms of Congress than to have to wrestle with what the President is calling, “doing the right thing.”

The courage of the nuns in the ultra hierarchical Catholic Church is an interesting case study in how the base can trump the brass, or in this case, I should say the bishops.  These quotes from an article on their split in the Times says it all for how the game can change:

“When I read the Gospel, where is Jesus? He’s healing the lepers,” Sister Simone said. “It’s because of his Gospel mandate to do likewise that we stand up for health care reform.”

“We have a number of nuns in his district, and they’ve been calling him [Congressman Stupak],” said Sister Regina McKillip, a Dominican nun who lives in Washington. “Who’s been on the ground, in the field? Who knows the struggles people have to deal with? It’s the sisters.”

It’s time to listen to the base, the brothers and sisters in the streets and barrios, and let them raise their voices and put their feet to the ground and change the way politics is done by reminding many in Washington, that this is not really a “game” at all.

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