HCAN “Health Care Can't Wait” Rally at the Iowa State Fair
By Caroline Vernon
Last Friday on August 21st, Eastern Iowans from Progressive Action for the Common Good, the Quad Cities Federation of Labor, and NAMI of Scott County boarded a bus and traveled to the HCAN “Healthcare Can't Wait” Rally outside of the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. We joined others from the area and around the state. Senator Grassley was finishing up his Ambassadorial tour – we were hoping to get his attention somehow, but by dumb luck and a little synchronistic guidance by the Universe, a few of us stumbled right on top of him.
Shortly after we got into the fair, it started to rain so a few of us sought cover in the closest building. It turned out to be WHO radio/TV station. Surpisingly, we could hear Grassley's
voice coming out of the speaker system but we could
not see him anywhere. We finally realized he was inside the small glass
booth at the back of the room – they had been recording live. When he came out of the recording session, I called out to
him, raised my bag full of money and said. “Senator Grassley, I have your money!
Thank you so much for your support!” He immediately came over and started talking
to me as if I were his long lost friend. I actually appreciated his engaging us as his handlers could have swept him off immediately but there were many people around and I imagine he was attempting to save face, or perhaps he was just feeling frisky.
It bears mentioning that I was dressed in black business attire, sporting a lapel pin that read, “Wealth-Mark Insurance CEO.” I was carrying a black leather bag stuffed with $100 bills spilling out of the top. A picture of Senator Grassley was taped to the bag, framed by dollar signs.
Dan DeShane accompanied me. Farmer Dan was wearing his bib overalls and chewing on a stalk of grass when he walked up and joined our conversation while Vicki Walters took pictures of the exchange. Dan told the Senator he was
a farmer too and wanted the same health care as the senator — Dan also
said, “Oh by the way, I get farm subsidies too just like you and your son and your
grandson.” This put Grassley on the defensive, somewhat, as he replied, “oh, you don't want to listen.”
I mentioned mental health parity and the need for a public option for
so many who have been systematically denied treatment by private insurers for decades. Grassley laid claim to the work he did on the Wellstone/Dominicci legislation (even though it took a Democratic Congress
to pass the bill last October and the provisions have yet to be implemented). Ultimately, Grassley said a public option would be rationed care, to which we replied, “We have rationed care now!” He rushed off right after that. Vicki took pictures of the
whole exchange – I will share them with BFI once they are developed.
Meanwhile, other rally participants were canvassing the neighborhood focusing their efforts on continuing to encourage Congressman Boswell to support Reform and a public option. The rally started at 2pm. I don't know what our final count was but I estimated about 50 of us were holding signs along the 30th St/Grand Ave entrance to the fair. Counter protesters showed up to join us — approximately 10 of them.
Farmer Dan got into a passionate debate with one of the “teabaggers,” who was complaining about the cost of health care reform and asking how we were going to pay for it. Here is a mock transcript of their exchange:
Teabagger: “We're spending too much money – where's it going to end?”
Farmer Dan: “Where were you guys when the Bush administration squandered the huge surplus left by Clinton — Where was your voice when they invaded and occupied two countries without even declaring war?”
Teabagger: “We are moving toward socialism – where is it going to stop?“
Farmer Dan: “Socialism? We just came out of eight years of fascism.”
Teabagger: “What do you mean?”
Farmer Dan: “Bush
fired federal judges for their political leanings, he started illegal wiretapping without an order from the FISA Court, he catered to big business – we
had a president that was basically a fascist.”
Teabagger: “That's the president's perogotive.”
Farmer Dan: “No. that's fascism, and he is still being investigated for all of his abuses.
If it weren't for social programs like Medicare which came out of the Johnson administration, my father would not have been able to retire – it gave him peace of mind so he could retire and it kept him on his property. By contrast Grassley is a rich farmer who gets subsidies whether he works the land or not – he's not really a farmer – he's a career politician.”
Teabagger: “Well, they all gotta go – Harkin, Grassley, Boswell – they all spend too much.“
Farmer Dan: “Our tax dollars pay for the sidewalks your standing on, the street out in front of us, the lights, fresh water, the sewers, our fire dept, public schools, our parks — all of these things are paid for through our tax dollars that provide us with the standard and quality of life that we enjoy. I don't know about you but I like 'em.”
The entire exchange was recorded live by Rob Dillard of Iowa Public Radio. Once we arrived home on the bus, a few of our fellow activists welcomed us back and reported hearing the exchange on NPR – unfortunately, we were unable to find it posted on their website.
Below are photos and some of the press coverage of the event. Thank you ICAN for taking the lead on this! It was well worth traveling across the state to join our voices with all of yours.
ICAN’s photos of HCAN demonstration:
NOTE: Caryn Unsicker asked the reporter for the Register to relay how many of us there were in contrast to the counter protestors – to which he replied,”No! That's not my job — my job is to report both sides!” Caryn said, “Your job is to report the facts.” The numbers went unreported. ACTION: Call the Register and tell them to report ALL of the facts!
Register coverage of HCAN action at the Fair:
Iowa Public Radio broadcast a story including a debate
between a health care opponent and a health care advocate (farmer Dan) from the
Quad Cities – but I have not found a link to that online.
There was passing mention of HCAN “protest” in Grassley
state fair interview with Radio Iowa:
4 Iowa Politics.com photos from HCAN demonstration in their
flickr coverage of the fair:
Advisory on IowaPolitics/com