Friday, July 31, 2009

Health Care: Clarence the Angel Edition

Spot on perfect. Meet Clarence the Angel, who introduced a resolution to abolish Medicare; gee, I wonder how the repuglicans voted.

Calling Republican bluffs on health care July 30: Rachel Maddow is joined by Rep. Anthony Weiner, to talk about the latest battles in Congress to pass the health care reform bill.

President Obama told Time's Karen Tumulty that, when it comes to health care, the need to reform the system "is so clear to me," but he's finding it "difficult ... to describe in clear, simple terms how important it is" to get this done.

Reading the transcript of the president's comments, I get the sense he's a little surprised by the polls. It seems so simple -- the system is broken, and everyone knows it. Tens of millions have no coverage, and millions more are underinsured or on the verge of losing their insurance. We pay too much, and get too little. Long term, without reform, the costs to taxpayers are practically ridiculous. Obama told Tumulty, "[W]hen you just start hearing the litany of facts, what you say to yourself is, 'This shouldn't be such a hard case to make, because the American consumer is really not getting a good deal.'"

And yet, it's proving to be a very hard case to make, with more and more Americans buying into conservative critiques, even the ones that don't make sense.

Ezra Klein argues, "I don't think the problem for health-care reform is how it's being sold," but rather, the "congressional process" is the hang-up. Kevin Drum makes the opposite case, saying it's all about how it's sold."

Everything has to have a constituency if it's going to get passed. For ag subsidies it's farmers. For lax financial regulation, it's banks. For tax cuts it's rich people.

For healthcare it's ... I dunno. Who? But that's the point. Everyone has been so hung up on congressional process that they seem to have forgotten that Congress responds to the public. If constituents are mad as hell that their healthcare isn't as good as France's, they'll flood congressional offices with phone calls. But if they think America has the best healthcare in the world, while the rest of the world is a socialist dystopia of ramshackle hospitals, yearlong waits for hip replacements, and harried doctors who can't see you for months and treat you like a postal customer when you finally get in -- well, who's going to get pissed off about the occasional scuffle with their insurance company? And if the public isn't worked up, then Congress won't get worked up either.

This has always been about public opinion. Everything is about public opinion. It's about public opinion being strong enough to overcome the resistance of whatever corporate interests are on the other side. For some reason, though, liberals don't seem to get that anymore, and because of that we don't spend enough time on either side of the basic vox populi equation: (a) hammering home why individuals, personally, should be unhappy with the status quo, and (b) promising them, personally, lots of cool new stuff if they buy into change.

You don't have to lie to accomplish this. But you do have to sell, the same way any salesman anywhere sells stuff.

Kevin fears he's "practically alone on this," so let me heartily endorse his argument. I'm hung up on congressional process in part because I find it interesting, and in part because there have been a lot of developments of late, but when it comes to the success or failure, if the sales pitch were more effective, we'd be talking about how Republicans are trying to figure out how to justify opposing a popular, once-in-a-generation reform package that is obviously, desperately needed. We're not having that conversation at all.

Indeed, the right, despite all of its obvious problems -- inability to govern, lack of credibility, partisanship over the public good, no leadership, no ideas -- understand sales extremely well. They decided early on to hammer a few ideas -- socialism, Canada, rationing, complicated, taxes, small businesses -- to instill doubt. They're lying, of course, but salesmen often do. (Ideally we'd have news outlets separating fact from fiction, but to tell the public the truth would represent "bias.")

For what it's worth, I get the sense the White House recognizes where the administration has come up short on its sales pitch, and is trying to adjust accordingly. Expect a better sales job in August than July. Whether it's too late remains to be seen.

Sargent: Axelrod Holding Private Messaging Session With House Dems On Selling Reform

In another sign that the White House will play a very hands-on role during the looming Congressional health care wars of August, senior Obama adviser David Axelrod is set to hold a private messaging session with House Dems tomorrow on the Hill, I’m told.

With a House Dem bill closer to reality, the battle will shift to a new phase: Selling it. And according to an email to House Dems that was sent over by a source, Axelrod and top White House health care adviser Nancy DeParle will be attending a breakfast with members to discuss “health care reform messaging.”

“This meeting is MEMBERS-ONLY,” the email reads, meaning no press and no staff.

The health care delay has dramatically upped the stakes for the White House and individual members of Congress, who will be at home for a month while their constituents are strafed by advertising from all sides. As Nancy Pelosi put it today, “insurance companies are out there in full force carpet bombing” in a “shock and awe” campaign.

“We have a month where 256 members will be in their districts with a bill to sell,” a senior Dem aide tells me. “Axelrod is going to talk to them about getting out and there selling it. House Dems are going on the offensive in August.”

It’s gonna be a hot month. Heck of a lot riding on them getting this messaging right…

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