This is the second of a series of on-the-spot reports from the America’s Future Now conference. Check back for more.

WASHINGTON — Progressive groups will spend more than $82 million to support President Obama’s goal of achieving quality, affordable health care for all this year, leaders at the America’s Future Now conference here told reporters today.

Participants in the drive include Health Care for America Now, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win labor federations,, Democracy for America and a variety of groups representing minorities, women and youth.

The push for universal health care involves 1,000 organizations that are part of Health Care for America Now. These groups represent some 30 million members, making this the largest progressive issue-oriented campaign in U.S. history. Organizers here say it is this mass movement that was missing when President Clinton’s health care proposals were defeated by the health care industry and right-wingers more than a decade ago.

“The progress made over the last several years and the election of President Obama are just the beginning,” former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean told the press conference here.

“Over the past few years, we have worked together to build a progressive infrastructure and a movement that helped to elect President Obama and begin to undo the damage of the last eight years,” said Dean, who headed the Democratic National Committee during last year’s election campaign. “As the health care debate makes clear, America needs a strong progressive movement. Now is not the time to become complacent.”

Campaign for America’s Future co-director Robert Borosage said that while conservatives are increasingly splintered and isolated, progressive groups are coordinating their efforts and mobilizing independently to fight special interests standing in the way of the bold progressive-oriented agenda being put forward President Obama.

“While the conservative coalition has collapsed, progressives have continued to build and expand,” said Borosage. “We are both more united and better mobilized than ever.”

Health Care for America Now national campaign manager Richard Kirsch said his coalition began last summer with the assumption that 2009 was going to be the year the nation could finally achieve quality, affordable health care for all.
“We knew we couldn’t win health care reform in 2008, but we knew we could lose it if we didn’t lay the groundwork for the very moment we’re in now,” said Kirsch. “We have the momentum for real change, and with the commitment of the president and Democratic leadership in Congress, we know we can be stronger and louder than the special interests who make money off the status quo and would have any reform continue to put their profits before people’s health.”

The unprecedented health care mobilization, like the conference itself this week, comes at a time when Americans hold progressive positions on an increasingly broad range of issues, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. Also, key constituencies that favor progressives are growing larger, a report released last week by the Campaign for America’s Future shows. (The report notes, for example, that voters under 30, single women and Latinos, taken together, constitute almost half of all voters and this group of voters is growing rapidly.) Leaders at the conference here say that, as a result, progressives are taking what they see as their greatest opportunity for change in more than a generation.

Change to Win chair Anna Burger told reporters that “workers want government to invest in health care, good jobs and educational opportunity.” She said, “Most Americans blame corporate greed and its stranglehold on government for the decline of the American Dream. Workers reject the right-wing view and want positive government action on renewing the American Dream. They are looking for economic security, including jobs that pay a living wage, a secure retirement and opportunity for the next generation to succeed.”

The Change to Win leader declared, “Comprehensive health care reform lies at the heart of the American Dream, and without it, the dream is unobtainable.”

See earlier article on the America’s Future Now conference .

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