Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Labor Day "Healthcare Reform Can't Wait" Rally in Boston Common

On a day when the specter of Ted Kennedy was invoked by nearly every speaker at a “Healthcare Reform Can’t Wait Rally” in Boston Common, Representative Stephen Lynch, one of the men contemplating a run for the late Senator’s seat, got a taste of how his candidacy might play with liberal voters. The Congressman from the 9th district took the podium to the sound of scattered boos and cries of “Public Option.” As Lynch, the only politician present who has not come out strongly in support of a government-run insurance program, began his speech the crowd started chanting “Public Option, Public Option, Public Option.” Lynch attempted to ignore the crowd, but his words were quickly drowned out be the chanting.

Lynch has not come out against a government-run insurance program, but he has expressed skepticism about the price tag of such a program. He has stated that he will make his decision on the public option and other provisions of healthcare reform when a bill comes out. The question facing Lynch is whether Massachusetts voters are willing to replace the Senate lion who championed healthcare reform with a pragmatist who won’t publicly support a public option (Something many Democrats have deemed an essential component of any real reform effort).

Another hopeful Kennedy successor, Attorney General Martha Coakley, had a strong showing. Large “Martha Coakley” campaign signs lined the paved walkway leading up to the Gazebo where the rally was held. Coakley’s speech was short, but played well with the crowd. The first politician to speak, she drew cheers when she called for “accessible healthcare” for all Americans and “a viable public option.”

As noted in the Boston Globe’s recap of the event, Congressman Michael Capuano (who may be also throw his hat into the ring for the Senate spot) took a shot at others vying for the Kennedy seat, by urging voters to view healthcare reform as a test of who walks the walk. “It’s all well and good,” to have all these politicians present to “tell you how much we love you,” Capuano told the crowd, but what matters most is who is going to be in the trenches fighting “to get this thing done.” Capuano went on to say that he wouldn’t vote for reform for Barack Obama or even for Ted Kennedy, but for the constituents he has “the privilege of representing.”

Mayor Thomas Menino (the only mayoral candidate present) also addressed the crowd and was credited for helping Boston labor unions wage past healthcare battles. Menino was less than eloquent, but still commanded the attention of the crowd and drew applause for his calls for healthcare reform.

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