What follows are my conclusions about the soon to end session. I don’t know if they are correct. Some I am sure are not. Some I fear are not the most politically correct. To anyone offended I apologize up front.
The lessons :
1. We got nowhere. Despite a great deal of effort by many committed people in the final tally we got nowhere. Perhaps there are things to be optimistic about but in any kind of concrete way I don’t see it. This does not mean the effort was not real, energized, committed, and well planned. It was all these things and more. It just didn’t have the impact we all hoped for.
2. After a lot of thinking I think a lot of it simply comes down to power. Legislators are about consequences and there was no real consequences for them saying no. The moral issues were highlighted. The financial and political gains are made clear but on a personal level saying yes asked them to take an unprotected risk and saying no was a no risk choice. If there are no consequences that matter I really wonder about the prognosis for next year.
3. The coming state legislative elections are crucial and may well determine the outcome for Insure Tennessee next year. Some, hopefully several, of the incumbents need to lose and that loss needs to be perceived at least in part as a result of their stance on Insure Tennessee. It is the single most point of credibility for Insure Tennessee. It immediately says saying no matters. If the incumbents all win in mass the campaign next year may well again be defined as one in which saying no again doesn’t matter. If we don’t advocate with our votes next year may, I think, be as difficult if not more than this year.
4. Bill Haslam should not get a free pass. He can not be encouraged to do the right thing. He does not work that way. Anyone who potentially offers cover to legislators taking the risk of saying yes needs to be expected to offer that cover. Any message that in anyway says we understand you feel hopeless and helpless is a poor choice. He needs to be the governor. It is that simple. In my view any gratitude because he proposed Insure Tennessee was spent a long time ago.
5. If a Republican wins the presidency there will be no Insure Tennessee. A Democratic presidency also offers problems. If either Hillary or Bernie is president is there any reason to believe that the legislative response will be a lot different than it would be to Obama? If Insure Tennessee is a symptom of who is president it will fail. The state elections are so crucial.
6. My personal opinion is that no legislator will buy into Insure Tennessee simply because it makes good political and financial sense unless he buys first into the moral urgency of the issue. Too many of our legislators seem to be illiterate about human suffering and we need to present the most intense picture of that suffering possible.
7. Serious discussion needs to be had about strategy and tactics for next year. In particular under what conditions if any should direct action or even civil disobedience be considered? If business as usual assaults 280,000 people should we allow business as usual? Again it comes back to the question of consequences. I can see some serious risks to it but after watching the last action at Harwell’s office I wonder. I don’t know the answer. The question is worth asking.
8. What should be the relationship of our efforts to the promised campaign by the hospital and business people this fall. Are they going to do what they did last year and if they are is there any reason to believe it will be more successful than it was last year?
These are some of my thoughts . I would be interested in hearing yours.