Portland rallies for single-payer

August 11, 2009

PORTLAND, Ore.--More than 100 labor and community activists rallied to demand a single-payer health care system in front of Portland's landmark Bagdad Theater on July 30.

Liberal TV talk show host Ed Shultz spoke to a sold-out audience inside as part of his national Tour for Change. Outside the theater, activists marched holding signs and banners to draw attention to the health care crisis and the lack of change coming out of Washington.

There was overall agreement among attendees that some sort of health care reform was necessary. Yet there were differences about what kind of reform.

Shultz is a staunch champion of Obama's "public option," and his fans seemed won to the administration's arguments that this was the best that can be done right now to reform our broken health care system. The activists outside--for the most part, mobilized by the local Jobs with Justice's Health Care Action Committee--were demanding a single-payer system.

Chants like "Everybody in, nobody out!" and "Insurance companies make me sick, single payer will do the trick" were met with supportive honks.

Mad As Hell, a new activist group of doctors demanding single-payer, was also at the event. The doctors are planning a nationwide tour of single-payer rallies and teach-ins highlighting single-payer as the only realistic way to bring real health care reform. The tour's kick-off event will be in Portland in September.

The rally illustrated the energy and activism happening around health care reform. It also showed that debates continue within the broader fight for health care reform.

The question of how to win meaningful health care reform will be central as the struggle continues. As Dr. Quentin Young of Physicians for a National Health Program put it so well in the recent SocialistWorker.org article, "It's going to take a push from below--a big one, just as with civil rights and the women's movement and the anti-slavery movement to name a few."

Rallies like the one on Friday are a good start to that push.

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