With the House of Representatives approving legislation key to health care reform on Sunday, President Barack Obama claimed a major victory for his presidency, thereby proving himself to be a strong leader capable of accomplishing his goals despite heavy criticism.
But it certainly wasn’t easy.
While it is true that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic congressional leaders played a large part in gaining necessary support for the bill, Obama himself led the charge to gather support from America. In particular, he turned to the demographic that came out in full force to help him win the election in 2008: young adults, especially students.
Once again Obama asked his supporters to make phone calls and send e-mails to their respective congressional representatives. By using his already extensive base of students from the presidential election, he was able to mobilize many to reach out to other citizens about health care reform.
But Obama didn’t stop there as he took the health care battle to the Republicans’ home turf — the radio waves. Obama mobilized his base of loyal supporters to call various conservative radio shows and offer viewers their opinion of the health care reform package.
Obama also set up a page for radio on his website similar to the phone banking page he created during the presidential election in which millions of calls were placed by regular citizens across the country all while sitting at their desks.
On this website supporters were able to find a radio show and its phone number, and were provided a script to follow while on air. The process itself was very simple, and the hope was that many supporters of Obama’s health care package would be willing to do some on-the-air campaigning and defend his policy against conservative leaders.
Obama made a good strategic decision by going after conservatives in their own arena, and in doing so also proved there is still a large number of people who are willing to campaign and spread his policies to others on his behalf.
Conservative talk radio remains a key part of the conservative political base. Thousands of people listen to their favorite conservative radio hosts, such as Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Sean Hannity, blast liberals and give their opinions on the news of the day. Limbaugh along with Levin, Hannity and other conservative radio shows, are seen as heroes in the eyes of many American conservatives. Many political analysts go even further and claim conservative talk radio is the heart of the conservative movement and Republican Party.
In creating his web page, Obama hoped to re-energize his youth base that helped him during the Democratic primaries and general election in 2008. Young people were especially helpful in turning out votes on university campuses and going into the surrounding areas and registering people to vote. This demographic would be the best option to take on conservatives on the radio because they are the most energized — and, one could argue, the most optimistic as seen in 2008.
Let’s make it clear that Obama isn’t done using his base to spread his health care message. The coming months will be key in determining whether or not his health care plan will be considered a success.
The polls currently show that a majority of Americans opposed his bill, and it will be very important to see if those people change their minds after seeing the bill’s benefits. Some experts predict that for these people, perhaps just knowing they can keep their health care plans without the entire system collapsing might be enough to sway their opinions.
Many opponents of Obama’s health care plan were acting on the fear spread by Republican politicians who claimed the bill would bring drastic and negative changes to all Americans with or without health care — a claim that Obama has said is false.
Obama must keep his support base mobilized and ready to continue making phone calls to citizens and radio shows.
Without a strong show of support for the bill over the next couple months, a midterm defeat for the Democrats is possible — a defeat that could lead to Republican control of both the Senate and House.
If Obama cannot convince and show the American people that the bill is beneficial, and instead loses Democratic control of Congress, he will face difficulty passing other legislation.
He is already looking into a comprehensive bill to reform the educational system and is also working on an environmental bill. It goes without saying that without Democratic majorities in both the Senate and House, it will be very difficult — if not impossible — for him to lead other comprehensive reform efforts on controversial topics.
Angad Singh is a sophomore majoring in communication and international relations.