SCOTUS Health Care Hearing Draws Weak Response
Despite media coverage to the contrary, the promise of thousands to descend on the American capital to show their support for either side of the supposedly passionate debate over the Affordable Care Act, currently being heard by the Supreme Court, was a far from realized hype. The anticipated clash between the armies of concerned citizens, left versus right, was not to be. Perhaps this, the first of three days, was just not worthy of expending too much passion too soon. After all, it is a Monday.
I had a good long sleep in preparation. I awakened early to take care other tasks and clear my schedule for the expected battle to come. I checked the charge on my batteries. I cleaned my camera lens. I made sure I was prepped for audio, video, and stills. This was it, the challenge of the constitutionality of Obamacare was going before the Supreme Court!
As I approached the Supreme Court building, shortly before 09:00, I saw a couple hundred people barely filling the sidewalk area in front of the massive steps leading up to the home of the countries most august litigators. I stopped at the corner. Where were all the people? I looked across the street. Perhaps they were organizing nearby, ready to make an entrance. Perhaps they were unloading buses and getting in formation, ready to march onto the scene and make their voices heard.
Alas, it was not to be. What I saw was all there was to see. I walked through the group trying to get a sense of who was there. The sound of syncopated rhythms and musical chants made it immediately clear that the majority of demonstrators were liberals, left-wingers, progressives… pro-Obamacare. Deny it if you will, but the right wing is as stuck on the down beat as they are in there romanticized version of 1950′s America.
As the morning wore on, more representatives from the anti-Obamacare, save our country from the socialists, right-wing showed up. Their past three years of activism seem to have taught them some lessons. All of their signs, or at least those that I saw, were spelled correctly. No fun there. At it’s peak there was still a two to one ratio of protesters in favor of the Affordable Care Act versus those feeling that the only sure right we have is death since necessary taxes should be avoided and the universal health care those taxes could pay for should be reserved for the wealthy.
My general impression, because of the number of T-shirts, pins, and union made signs, was that labor activists and professionals working for non-profit organizations to promote the Democratic Party’s purported achievements in passing this insurance company friendly bill that leaves even more Americans without health insurance than before comprised the majority of those that showed up. I think I was correct in this assessment. But, then there was the media.
If a scrum had broken out between media and the protesters it would have been a fairly even match. All the big names, with all their big gear, were there. I immediately started having camera envy. I tucked my substandard fifteen year old Kodak under my jacket and weaved my way through the press. Were they as disappointed as I? Perhaps in the protesters, but not in the camera fodder that was to come.
Supreme Court justices had promised to come out and address the group about the progress of their deliberations. What? On day one?! Certainly an unusual move, but it served to support the hype that had been betrayed by organizers lack of ability to mobilize any meaningful numbers for the actual protest. If the Supreme court has become politicized, it may best be seen through their love of the spotlight during high profile cases. Lights, cameras, litigate.
As noon hour approached the numbers began to wane, rapidly. It was almost as if people were there working a shift and their scheduled lunch break was approaching. Go figure.
As I watched coverage on television I was struck by the disconnect between the reality of the event and the portrayal on ‘the tube.’ The movie ‘Wag the Dog’ came to mind. Like the fictitious war of the movie that happened only on TV, produced in a studio with special effects, I felt as though I had just been at the protest equivalent.
With two days left, perhaps we will see if the hype will create the protest. I often wonder if that’s the goal. Fake it, and they will come. Tell them the truth, and rely on people to show up to provide the necessary fight, and you end up being a small group of lonely activists at disappointing actions like I witnessed today. 1-2-3-4, what are we for? 5-6-7-8, is this protest done yet, it’s getting late? Fundamental change is going to take some hard work and commitment. So far, it seems as though we’ve seen none of the above.