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All in to stop Trumpcare, with Anastasia Bacigalupo and Lauren Klinkhammer


The Senate passed the motion to proceed but so far hasn’t passed a healthcare bill, and activists aim to keep it that way. In Washington, D.C. there have been sit-ins, civil disobedience, and camp-outs; around the country activists are rallying to their Senators’ offices–including that of John McCain, who came to D.C. this week straight from cancer treatment to vote in favor of taking healthcare from his constituents. I spoke with two of those activists, who have been in D.C. and in Arizona fighting to keep their health insurance.

Anastasia Bacigalupo: If you live in a state where your Senator is voting against the Affordable Care Act, now is the time to acquaint yourself with that Senator. I would recommend showing up to every single even that Senator has in the community: they have an open house, they cut a ribbon, they smash a bottle over a boat. Whatever they are doing, show up. Show up with signs. Requesting to meet with the Senator.
Not everybody is comfortable with getting arrested and that is okay. You don’t have to get arrested to be a voice, to share your story. You can be out in the community and educate people. I think there are other groups you can also join besides ADAPT. I know MoveOn is very active. Various other Democratic groups are also very active. There are ways in which everyone can get involved in this. Senators really do listen to their constituents. It really makes a difference. Our blessing, being Californians, is that Senator Harris and Senator Feinstein are champions of disability rights and the disability community. We have a lucky circumstance, but even for us, we have friends, we have relatives in those states. You should be reaching out to those friends and relatives. Heck, it is summertime, take a trip and visit them. Talk to them about how to be active civically.
The worst thing is thinking that these elected officials are in ivory towers. They got elected by your votes. They got elected by your friends’ votes, by your family members’ votes. Those votes are important. They have importance. I would say that if you live in a state where your Senator has voted the wrong way, you need to start engaging. If you can’t make it because of your circumstance, if you can’t get to those events, you can send a letter every day. You can send a postcard every day. You can send emails. If you have an iPhone, you can record yourself speaking and send it as an attachment. There is just so much that can be done.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Protect the most vulnerable, with Sister Simone Campbell


“Nuns on the Bus” helped pass the Affordable Care Act in 2010, with a letter that countered the Catholic Bishops’ opposition to the bill. This year, as the Republicans make attempt after attempt to dismantle the bill they fought for, Catholic sisters are once again demanding that Congress listen to them and stop trying to make healthcare worse. Sister Simone Campbell was on Capitol Hill Monday and she spoke with me about the latest campaign.

Our organization was founded in 1971, and we opened our doors in ’72 and we worked on healthcare all these years. In 2009-2010 we worked really hard on getting healthcare for people who were left out of healthcare in our nation. In that process, when it was coming up for a final vote in the House of Representatives, I wrote what’s called the Nuns Letter, that was signed by 59 leaders of Catholic sisters’ communities saying that the vote for the Affordable Care Act was a life-affirming vote…
But between the time I wrote and the time we got signatures back our Bishops had come out opposing the bill and then we released our letter in support of the bill, kind of bookending the Bishops, and I’ve been told by many that they were able, with their Catholic faith, that they were able to vote for the bill because of our letter. I know 29 votes that we got. …
This time we’re taking a letter…signed by the sisters themselves, and all calling on the Senate to care for the most vulnerable. It’s outrageous for us as Catholic sisters who work with the most vulnerable in our nation to see that 23, 22 million people could lose healthcare because of this foolishness? That’s wrong. And so that’s the message that we’re carrying today: Stop it.

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Healthcare as a moral issue, with Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis


Faith leaders from around the country have joined in civil disobedience to protest the attacks on healthcare in Congress, as the Senate continues to see-saw back and forth on whether it will or will not attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis of the Kairos Center was one of those leaders, and is also part of the new Poor People’s Campaign, which aims to link political attacks on the right to vote with the material conditions of poor and working people across racial and geographic lines across the U.S.

LT: I think that part of why we see it as really important for faith leaders to step up in this is because healthcare and all of these issues are moral issues, for too long morality has been confined to a very small number of issues, many of which are barely discussed in faith traditions and texts, and they’ve been in the hands of folks that are trying to exclude and oppress. And instead, we’re saying that if you look at various religious texts within the tradition of Christianity that I come from, Jesus traveled around the countryside healing people for free. Clearly Jesus had a universal healthcare system, but in this time, in this moment, these kinds of healthcare cuts, this kind of repeal of the ACA is all being done in the name of and with the support of many Christians and politicians who claim to be Christian.
And so it’s really important for faith leaders to say no, this is a moral issue, it’s a moral issue whenever you kill people because you deny them Medicare and Medicaid, whenever you deny people healthcare because they have preexisting conditions, that this is not OK in any of our sacred texts and it is a responsibility of everybody, including our moral leaders, our clergy, to not just talk a good talk but actually to be out there with people who are impacted fighting for the kind of healthcare system that we we want.

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Fighting for healthcare in coal country, with Gary Zuckett


The healthcare battle in the Senate has honed in on a few wavering “moderate” Republicans, many of them from states that are heavy users of Medicaid–and the ACA’s Medicaid expansion–for health insurance coverage. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia is one of those, and despite the state’s reputation as being the center of Trumplandia, Gary Zuckett of West Virginia Citizen Action Group says that people are ready to fight to keep their healthcare–and maybe even to make it better.

Like you said, we are sort of labelled as Trump Country now and we have voted for the Republican candidate ever since George Bush II got elected. It is easy to paint in broad strokes like that, but I would also remind folks that in the Democratic primary last year, the State of West Virginia went for Bernie Sanders. So there is a hunger for a populist message here in West Virginia. Unfortunately, our current president and his false populism appeal to a lot of people.
….
We have been painted as a backward regressive state and I think that is unfair. One of the things that we saw after the election was a total insurgency of people coming out of the woodwork wanting to be active. Newly minted activists and people that had been active in their youth and maybe are now retired and decided, “Well, I better get back into this because times are rough” and pulled together. There are Indivisible groups in most of the counties in West Virginia now. There are women’s huddles from the Women’s March that are still meeting here in West Virginia on a regular basis and talking to each other. We, out of this office, helped organize a sister Women’s March to the one in D.C. We had somewhere between 3,000-4,000 people show up at our state capitol, which blew everybody away, including us.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Getting through to the Senate to defeat Trumpcare, with Jaron Benjamin


Networks of activists around the country have been training in protest tactics for months; this week they put them to use in Washington, D.C. 80 were arrested bringing their message to members of the Senate, soon to vote on a proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act and slash Medicaid funds. Jaron Benjamin of Housing Works was one of those arrested and has been one of those providing training to groups around the country on how to reach their members of Congress when said members don’t want to be reached.

The day was pretty moving. And I think it was probably as impactful for people that participated as it was for people that saw it on the news. I didn’t expect that. When you get 150 and 200 activists, however many people we had in the room before we went to the Capitol, and a lot of these folks have either participated in protests or, since we had people from 21 different states, you would assume that people were already feeling as many feelings as they could feel, because everybody in that room is dedicated and committed, but one of the themes that I noticed when I talked to people after being released from cuffs was that we all got way more emotional, not only throughout the day but during the demonstration than we thought that we would. It turned out that we were more angry about this attempt to take away healthcare from millions of people than we possibly knew, and we cared more and we were moved to tears more during the protest.
The day started off with about 150 folks getting together and just talking about why we were together and then going over the scenarios, figuring out which constituencies would be able to go and have a demonstration at which offices at one time. To the untrained eye it was chaotic but to a lot of us it was democracy in action.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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ADAPT and resist, with Bruce Darling


Disabled activists have been leading the charge to save Medicaid from GOP cuts, from Fairbanks, Alaska to Orlando, Florida; from Portland, Maine to Phoenix, Arizona. Bruce Darling is a longtime activist with ADAPT, the disability-rights group that has fought for decades for the right of people with disabilities to live in and be treated equally in the broader community. Now those hard-won rights are at risk as the Republicans aim to cut over $770 billion from Medicaid, the service that pays for home care attendants, medications, wheelchairs, and lifesaving equipment for millions of Americans. Bruce joined me to talk about ADAPT’s fight against “Trumpcare.”

For us, what this bill will do is…disabled Americans will die. Others will be forced into institutions and increase this terrible feedback loop because institutions are more expensive. With capped funds it will drive more money to the institutions, making less money available for healthcare and services and supports in the community, so more folks will die and go into institutions. We wanted to people to see it is the equivalent of basically being dragged off; the way they saw it on the news, that is actually what happens, even now with the Medicaid program as it is. This will just make it far, far, far worse.
…We wanted to highlight that using language that we thought, or hoped, Republicans would understand. There isn’t an asterisk on the Constitution that says “Except disabled Americans.” We should have a birthright of life and liberty. Medicaid is the thing that actually pays for and supports our lives and our liberty in the community. So cutting that is actually cutting the lives and liberty of disabled Americans. It is killing disabled Americans. We really wanted to drive that point home.

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Healthcare for the heartland, with Jesse Myerson


After the election, Jesse Myerson wanted to build something in a place with little progressive infrastructure. He found himself in Bloomington, Indiana, where alongside Kate Hess Pace and a handful of other Hoosiers, he is helping to build Hoosier Action. Many of its earliest actions have focused on fighting Medicaid cuts on the state and national level. He’s also the host of a podcast that, like Interviews for Resistance, aims to spotlight organizers from around the country and the work they are doing.

A lot of this organizing is based on having long one-on-one discussions with people, what their lives are like, what they are interested in, what they are concerned about, what they are afraid of, what they are angry about, what they are hopeful for and growing relationships that way. That is both on the doors and ideally in follow-ups after people get knocked or called. Those stories are important in the actual day-to-day organizing, talking to people and letting them know who you are and finding out who they are. As a kind of public expression, really what we hope to do is to mobilize people with that, but that ultimately that mobilization should turn into becoming a dues-paying member, coming to monthly member meetings, joining a team and taking on work. That can be going and knocking on doors, it can be doing data entry, it can be helping to promote issues or taking on a shift at the farmers market or at a county fair, flyering or taking petitions, but ideally it is not a high temperature sort of organizing such as you and I saw at Occupy Wall Street where it is lots of marches, lots of heat, lots of intensity.

Really, that emotional heat is being channelled into really well-functioning systems that people can take on discrete amounts of work that make sense with their working lives and their family lives, but that they can see serving to proliferate the organization.

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Challenging Paul Ryan on his home turf, with Randy Bryce


Ironworker and cancer survivor Randy Bryce made a splash with the announcement of his campaign against Paul Ryan for Congress. His first ad focused on universal healthcare and Paul Ryan’s attacks on the existing system, and quickly went viral. Bryce talks to me about his decision to get into the race against Ryan, the resistance movement in Wisconsin, and why more working people ought to run for office.

It took a lot of people that were starting to ask me to consider getting into it. I said, “Thanks, I am flattered that you are asking.” Then, some other groups and local electeds had said, “Randy, you should really think about this. You are exactly the kind of guy that we need. You are everything that he is not. What you do for a living, you are a vet,” the experiences that I have had. Pretty much everything that he is doing and everything that he is taking away affects me somehow, is some part of my life he is trying to snatch away.

I know just talking to neighbors that they are being affected, too. This whole divide and conquer thing really has people upset; talking about making America great again, that doesn’t happen by dividing us. It has never helped make us great. What makes us great is bringing up the “united” part of the United States. People are having a lot of buyer’s remorse. Donald Trump had a message that resonated with some working people, but I said, “Just wait and see. He is not going to do any of it. It sounds good, but he is not going to do any of it because he is not one of us.”

Paul Ryan is totally complicit. He is choosing the party over the people. He thanked the entire Wisconsin Republicans at their convention, thanked everybody for electing Donald Trump. He owns Donald Trump. There was a chance at one time, when he was hesitant to back him, but they are handcuffed together right now. They are in the same boat and that boat has a leak.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. You can now subscribe on iTunes! Previous interviews here.

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Fighting no-show Senators for healthcare, with Autumn Zemke


Hillary Clinton won the “purplish” state of Nevada, notes Autumn Zemke of the Northern Nevada Working Families Party, but one of its Senators is still a Republican. Dean Heller has made noises about opposing Trumpcare, but now he’s dodging his constituents. Zemke and others attempted to hold a sit-in at his office last Friday, June 16, but were only let in one at a time. She talked to me about the movement for healthcare in Nevada, and the state’s own proposed Medicaid-for-all solution to the holes in the Affordable Care Act–one that could be even more important if the federal government repeals the ACA.

I think the American public needs that kind of realization, that kind of wake-up that I had, and I just happened to have it a little bit sooner than some people are coming to it. I think it is important for us to tell that story, “This person died.” There is this gentleman who I just came across on Twitter and he was trying to crowdfund his insulin. I think he was in Austin, Texas and he was big in the arts scene and comic book scene. This man actually died because he couldn’t do it.

We shouldn’t be crowdfunding healthcare. Not in the wealthiest country. It is insanity. Plus, it just doesn’t make financial sense. The reality is we have to hold Senator Heller accountable. “Why would you do this? Why would you take healthcare away from us?” And hold them accountable to the fact that there is no financial reason for it.

I have to add, the reality of people who are in the 1% are there off the backs of our labor. It is not like we are trying to take something from them. They have that wealth because they have workers, they have employees, they have people that have lifted them up to this point of extreme. They got there because they have companies where they have people working for them. That is our wealth. We helped make that wealth. Asking for healthcare shouldn’t be that big of a deal when we create the wealth as employees, as workers.

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Stopping Trumpcare wherever you are, with Angel Padilla


The vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with…something is on, but Republicans are hiding the bill away, refusing public debate, and Democrats are unwilling to put it all on the line to stop it. Angel Padilla of the new resistance group Indivisible tells me what their strategy is to stop the bill, and why every single Senator matters.

Republican senators are hiding from their constituency. They are afraid of facing them because they know they are pushing this bad bill that is going to harm them. It is a bill that is literally going to harm thousands and thousands of their own constituents and they are doing it simply because they want to give Donald Trump a win. That is why they are hiding. That is why we have to bring the fight to them.

They are hiding, but constituents can go down to regional offices and they can make their voices heard. They can have sit-ins. They can keep calling. Even if they are not willing to meet with their constituents, they are paying attention. They know that people don’t want it. The only way we are going to stop this bill is if they really get the sense of how widely opposed this bill is. That is the truth.

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