The health politics and policy communities are still struggling with the question of “what went wrong” in the 1993–94 health care reform effort. Here I identify which Americans were politically active and inactive during the health care reform debate to explore the role political participation may have had in determining the outcome of the debate. Using data from a national and California random-sample telephone surveys, and controlling for other demographic attributes, I found that those who engaged in political activity specifically related to health care reform were disproportionately more likely to be self-identified conservatives, less likely to favor an employer mandate plan, more likely to be fifty to sixty-four years old, more likely to be men, and more likely to have greater interest in and knowledge of the health care issue. Even in California, where a single-payer proposal was on the November ballot, self-identified liberals were no more likely to engage in political activity on health care reform than were moderates or conservatives. I consider implications for the reform outcome given that liberals, the elderly, and those favoring the employer mandate proposal were all disproportionately “silent” during this debate, and finally I discuss the potential for mobilization during future debates.

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