Health Care Rally in NH

A personal account from a member who attended a rally in Portsmouth NH, outside of the school where President Obama held a town hall meeting:

It was a day of extremes of every sort. We were to be in Portsmouth as early as 6:30 AM but most people arrived around 8. I had half a dozen people from the Boston rally point. I think there were about the same from each of the other three rally points. The number of non-locals (including elsewhere in NH) from "our side" filled at least a bus. We got to the high school about 8:30 AM in the middle of a fierce thunderstorm so everyone got drenched. Luckily by 10 the sun came out and by about noon we were dry again.

When we walked down the street to the High School we had to pick a side of the street to stand on -- those for health care reform and those opposing. That created a tense atmosphere of rivalry. And the opposition were a truly scary lot. One man with a bullhorn and a nasty streak also carried a gun; it is legal to carry an unconcealed weapon in New Hampshire. This was not really about health care. It was real hatred for everything Obama stands for. There were many signs about socialism and pictures of Obama with a Hitler mustache. Really dumb things like "don't let the government mess with my Medicare". They were very hostile.

All the volunteers Boston volunteers somehow got tickets for the town hall meeting, thanks to John Bowes and a couple of NH OFA staff (John graciously gave up his chance to attend). There were 1800 people in the gym. It was a real old-fashioned town meeting! As reported on TV, the crowd inside was totally partisan. The meeting started promptly at 1:00. The president was introduced by a young woman with a poignant story about how she was uninsurable and unemployable because of a pre-existing condition. The president received a huge standing ovation. He made a short speech and then answered questions.

The press of course focused on the negative...or the sensational. There was only one man who said he was a Republican and asked a question about why Obama changed his opinion on universal health care from the time he was a senator. Obama used the question to explain "single payer" and why he doesn't support it. Later the man was interviewed on national TV and admitted that he believes health care needs reform.

In general, the president answered every question in a way to get a new point across. It was a brilliant strategy for getting to the important points but a fairly transparent way of using the questions to make his points.

I believe for those in the room the speech really helped clarify some finer points and dispel some myths such as "death panels" that will pull the plug on grandma (myth). I don't think anything could change the minds of those protesting outside. They have been underground since the election but they are back in force.


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