Online and Off, "Obamacare" Advocates And Foes Plan Day of Action
BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Thursday, June 28 2012
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue its eagerly-anticipated landmark ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act on Thursday -- and the mainstream news media aren’t the only ones that are going to be covering the news and digesting its implications for the public for the rest of the day.
SCOTUSblog, founded by the boutique law firm of Goldstein & Russell, has become the go-to destination online for its expert, live analysis of Supreme Court decisions. On Monday when the court last issued opinions, nearly 100,000 people flocked to the site to tune in.
Tom Goldstein, the law partner who established the project, said in an e-mail that SCOTUSblog’s reporter Lyle Denniston attends the sessions at the Supreme Court just like all the other reporters, picks up a physical copy of the opinions and then dials in Goldstein and his wife Amy Howe (also a partner at the firm) via a conference call in the Supreme Court’s press room.
What makes the live-blog an addictive read is the staccato-like entries that succinctly summarize the core aspects of the high-court’s legal decisions-- almost as if the lawyers were commenting on a television sports event, giving viewers rapid blow-by-blow updates on the complex legal decisions and procedures of the court.
As the opinions and analysis flow in, groups from across the spectrum including both presidential campaigns will be reacting in real-time to events as they unfold.
“You need to have everyone aware and educated before jumping into action,” said Colin Holtz, who was Organizing for America’s senior email campaigner during the administration’s fight to pass the law and who now works at the progressive group Rebuild the Dream. “I would immediately write about the impact that the decision is going to have on people, and then reach out to advocates, and have them plan on reaching out to their communities, whether it be with social shares, a good old letter to the editor, online video or infographics to share with your friends.”
Some of that has already been happening in the days and months leading up to the decision as the groups in favor of the law try to sell its benefits to the public. Nevertheless, polls show that the public remains by and large skeptical of the legislation.
FreedomWorks, the conservative group that used social networking tools to organize protests at many congressional health care-related town hall events held in members’ districts in 2009, plans on live-streaming from the steps on the court using UStream.
Dean Clancy, its vice-president of healthcare policy, will be there on the steps with his iPad. His live broadcast and analysis of the decision, beginning at 10 a.m., will be embedded in the group’s Facebook page, which boasts almost 1.8 million “likes.” The group will also be sending out its interpretation of the court’s decision to its 1.6 million member e-mail list. They expect about 5,000 people to tune into Clancy’s broadcast.
Asked how the group plans to follow up with the rest of its membership, the group’s communications manager Michael Duncan says that the group’s “gamed out several different scenarios,” but wouldn’t elaborate.
Other advocacy groups we spoke to agreed: The key is to be heard immediately and frame the next phase of the debate over the future of the law.
“We don’t know what the court is going to do, but we do know we’re going to have strong feelings about it,” said Avram Goldstein, communications and research director for Healthcare for America Now, which spent $53 million to build a progressive infrastructure to push for the passage of the healthcare law.
“Either we’re going to be celebrating the upholding of it, or we’ll have different reactions based on other scenarios that might unfold, but we know we want to be heard right away.”
HCAN built a large coalition of progressive groups in 19 states to lobby their members of Congress to pass the law in 2009. That campaign actual visits to the members’ offices as well as 873,000 phone calls and 600,000 faxes, according to Grassroots Solutions and M&R Strategic Services, which conducted a post-mortem of the campaign.
The group maintains a “Protect the Law” list of its coalition members’ Twitter accounts. The list acts as a sort of central exchange of healthcare law factoids and listings of briefings that are going to be happening throughout the day.
One of the coalition’s members is taking advantage of the court’s decision Thursday to build its text-messaging list. SEIU is using Twitter to solicit members of the public to sign up for text-alerts about the court’s decision.
The group is also tweeting out an infographic to illustrate how the healthcare law is affecting communities of color.
Offline, HCAN plans on holding 50 different kinds of action in the 19 states where its member groups are active. The events are going to be press conferences and rallies in front of hospital emergency rooms, churches, court houses, post offices, state capitals, and shopping malls, said Goldstein.
For its part, the pro-Affordable Healthcare Act group Families USA will participate in a 1 p.m. EST conference call, followed with a 2 p.m. EST "tweet chat" about the Supreme Court's decision on Friday. The chat will involve 14 different advocacy groups and the hashtag for the discussion will be #HealthJustice. The groups are presenting both events as ways for the public to learn more about the fallout from the court's decision, and what the next organizational steps should be for their communities.
Over at Heritage Action for America, the group says that the Supreme Court decision is a chance to re-energize conservatives over the issue.
“Regardless of what the court decides, if they strike down the whole thing, we need to start having conversations about how to reform the healthcare system,” said Dan Holler, Heritage Action for America’s communications director. “If they strike it down in part, we need to repeal the rest of it and move onto having conversations about how to reform healthcare the right way.”
The group’s blog and online action dashboard, which presents site visitors with their member of congress’ contact information, Facebook page and Heritage messaging on the action alert of the day, is the way the group plans on pushing the issue forward, Holler said.
“It’s a multi-step thing -- it’s acknowledging that conservative activists have had a great role in shaping the debate across the country, and they need to remain engaged as the debate continues, and social media is a great way to drive that narrative,” he said.