This time around, opponents to President Obama’s health-care plan lack an apparatus like the one that helped kill Hillarycare in 1993.
“A lot of the opposition to Hillarycare came from the Perot people,” University of Virginia Center for Politics director Dr. Larry J. Sabato said. “Essentially those people remained in place and, almost to a man and woman, they opposed the Clinton health-care reform package,” he said of Ross Perot supporters from the Texas businessman’s 1992 run for the presidency.
While he said today’s Tea Party movement could be seen as comparable to Perotistas, the conservative grassroots aren’t exactly organized or unified. “Rhetoric is easy,” Sabato said. “Organization is hard.”
In 1993, Perot’s campaign organization was able to effectively use its leftover campaign resources and extensive phone and mail list to organize against Clinton’s proposal, he said.
Tea Partiers share a common goal, but friction, rivalry and disagreement dilute their efforts to achieve it. On Tuesday, for example, various unaligned conservative groups descended on Capitol Hill to rally, protest and demand meetings with members of Congress in a last-ditch effort to thwart passage of Obama’s bill.
But as a sign of that friction, some activists with Tea Party Patriots — who was leading efforts near the House office buildings for activists to visit congressional offices — allegedly discouraged activists from attending rival Tea Party Express’s rally on the Senate side of the Capitol.
Tea Party Patriots national coordinators Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin both denied that happening, but Levi Russell, spokesperson for the Tea Party Express, confirmed the reports in an email to The Daily Caller, writing: “There is some truth to that, sadly.”
Juleanna Glover, who worked for the Project for the Republican Future in the 1990s, said real opposition to Hillarycare came when Bill Kristol, who led the organization then, penned a set of intellectually based memos that formed the basis of opposition to the proposal. Today she said she doesn’t see anyone with Kristol’s “similar caliber” having stepped up to formulate intellectual arguments against the bill, though said Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, could be part of the next generation of such leaders.
Glover said the U.S Chamber of Commerce, which in combination with other groups are reportedly underwriting $4 million to $10 million in television ad buys against the bill, has stepped up its opposition efforts.
In fact, as Roll Call reported this week, more than $200 million worth of health-care-related advocacy ads were purchased last year, making it the largest advocacy ad campaign ever for one issue. Despite all the money spent, Sabato said, “we’re in a completely different structure” now than the “three network plus CNN” environment of the ’90s.
“It’s so diluted and diversified when you have a 400-channel universe.”
He mentioned the yearlong television the series of Harry and Louise ads paid for by the Health Insurance Association of America during HillaryCare that showed a fictional suburban middle-class married couple discouraged by the prospects of universal health-care — ads that really turned the tide against Clinton’s health-care proposal. “You have far more ads on, but I haven’t seen any ad that grabbed me like Harry and Louise did,” Sabato said.
Roll Call reporter Bennett Roth listed a number of health-care opposition groups engaged in recent ad buys: America’s Health Insurance Plans is spending $1 million on a campaign, while the League of American Voters is spending $700,000 and is asking donors on its Web site for $5 million in donations to air ads in 40 districts conservative Democrats districts. Americans for Prosperity is also running a $750,000 ad buy.