For six months in 2012 I was a volunteer in Colorado Springs for President Obama's reelection campaign, knocking on hundreds of doors to try engage people in a conversation about issues that mattered the most to them. While this canvassing also included registering voters, and near the end of the campaign, getting out the vote, by far the most interesting and challenging phase was what the Obama campaign termed "persuasion." This entailed knocking on doors of unaffiliated and moderate Republican voters, and cautiously identifying and discussing issues that might influence their votes. Not surprisingly, the top issues were jobs and the economy, but for many the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) was their hot button issue...some for and some against.
I should say upfront that I embarked on this phase with some trepidation, and although I had done my homework on the issues of the day, I never knew what to expect when people opened their doors and looked at my black "Obama 08 cap" that I always wore. In many cases it was a swift "NO!" followed by a door slamming in my face, but in others I had some wonderful conversations on a range of issues lasting as much as 45 minutes.
One of the most memorable experiences, however, was when I knocked on yet another door designated on my sheet as "R" for Republican. Fully expecting another swift rejection, I instead was welcomed by a guy in his 50s, and the conversation quickly turned to Obamacare...or why as a conservative Republican he supported Obamacare and would be voting for Obama in the election. I remember the tone of his voice, a mixture perhaps of both fear and hope as he exclaimed, "I have a pre-existing condition!" and as he then proceeded to unload on me, a total stranger, more details of his medical condition.
I encountered several others in my canvassing neighborhoods that also cited their pre-existing condition as the reason they supported President Obama. While Mitt Romney was exclaiming: "Obamacare, we'll repeal that!" Obama was on the campaign trail educating people on the many benefits of the law, even as some Democrats were shying away from it. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, approximately one out of every two Americans has some kind of pre-existing condition, and in that critical age group 55 to 64 before they are eligible for Medicare, some 48 to 86 percent of people have a pre-existing condition. With those kind of statistics the many supportive responses to Obamacare should not have been a surprise. While some were able to enroll in the interim Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, most of the people I talked to did not have this coverage.
I have not met the guy again who unloaded his worries on me, but I saw the tears and joy of many faces like him on TV as the magic January 1st date had finally arrived, and they were able to sign up for health insurance. It has been an enormous burden lifted off their shoulders, and seeing their jubilation brought me immense satisfaction and reward as I considered the many hours I spent that year knocking on doors and meeting and talking with good Americans struggling to cope, not only with their health issues, but also the economic effects of the Great Recession. With that experience, I can empathize with them, and I only wish that the many vocal "pro-lifers" would also recognize how important Obamacare is to the lives of these middle class Americans, including many self described Republicans.