August 16, 2009

President Obama in Grand Junction: New Era Colorado reports.

President Obama was in Grand Junction, talking health care, yesterday—enemy territory that nevertheless could serve as a model for Obama’s healthcare reform in the US. Our friends at New Era Colorado were there to report for elephant…enjoy:

Stop Teabagging America

~ by Steve Fenberg

The New Era Colorado bus made the long voyage to Grand Junction yesterday to go to President Obama’s town hall on Health Care reform. This was his second stop on a trip through the mountain west to promote a free admission weekend to our country’s expansive national park system. I guess he figured he would squeeze in a few town halls at the same time to highlight another system that is in very different shape: our utterly broken health care system, which almost nobody can be proud of.

Several New Era staff and volunteers (and our loyal bus driver, “U-Turn” Jeff) were joined by several dozen active citizens from our brothers and sisters in the labor movement (SEIU and UFCW) and members from the Health Care for America Now coalition. The rowdy bunch came from Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. Every last seat of the bus was filled.

We made the 6-hour drive (buses move slowly when going over the Continental Divide) not because we are democrats that tow the party line, but because we truly believe that this is our country’s moment to finally reform our failed health care system. For far too long too many Americans do not have access to affordable, comprehensive healthcare. Our 46-passenger bus was probably filled with 100 opinions, but there are a few basic principles we all agreed on: we need more affordable health care, equal access to health insurance (no more denial based on “preexisting conditions”), and consumers need a choice between private and public health insurance plans.

We arrived at the Central High School parking lot to see a microcosm of the divided America we have seen on TV over the past few weeks. There were two parking lots—one with hundreds of pro-health care reformers holding signs and chanting and the other with hundreds of anti-health care reformers holding signs and chanting. As our bus pulled in and was escorted by the “friendly” side into a safe parking spot, we were barraged by teabaggers angrily yelling at us. Several of them were spreading a rumor through the crowd that we were from ACORN and paid each of the 46 passengers $100 to show up. I only wish New Era had the budget to spend $5,000 to have people hold signs in a crowd for an hour.

The White House provided New Era a few tickets to get into the town hall. Unfortunately, we arrived after the Secret Service had already closed the doors to the gymnasium—significantly more people showed up to see the President than expected. So, I wish I could tell you that I was in that gymnasium, listening intently as our President made the case for one of the biggest policy changes in our country’s modern history. I didn’t. But, what I did see probably made a bigger impact on me. Yes, I did see blatantly racist signs being held by angry mob-like Teabaggers (i.e. “Get the BLACK Muslim out of our WHITE house”), but that isn’t what I’m referring to. What I saw yesterday is how ridiculous our sensationalist media has become.

There’s no question about it—the parking lots of Central High School were a very polarized place yesterday. But, I don’t believe those parking lots represent today’s America. The images of mobs of angry anti-reformers are a small, but organized group of Americans. You wouldn’t know that from following the mainstream media, though, would you? The teabaggers have been on the front page of every major publication and repeated on every nightly news program. They make it seem like a wave of anti-health care reform has swept the country. It hasn’t.

New Era Colorado interns, volunteers, and staff have been talking to Coloradoans about health care almost every day for the past several months (see New Era’s health care campaign, Generation H). What we’ve seen is that people overwhelmingly believe our health care system is broken, unfair, and a national embarrassment. They may not understand all of the nuances of the different policy options, but they do understand that it’s time for a major overhaul.

I was already in President Obama’s camp about health care reform before yesterday. But, I did leave Central High School yesterday knowing that I had entered someone else’s camp as well: Jon Stewart’s. As Jon Stewart said to the American media machine on CNN’s Crossfire, “Please stop. You are hurting America.”

I have a slightly different message I’d like to send to America’s media: “Stop teabagging America.”


Senator Bennet, on the New Era Colorado bus.

A high school’s message for President Obama.

Senator Bennet, on the bus!

The parking lot. Politics as vitriolic sport.


Steve Fenberg
Executive Director
New Era Colorado & New Era Colorado Foundation
(Office)   720-565-9317
(Mobile) 720-244-2062

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