In the wake of the passage of President Obama's historic health care reform bill, and over the next seven months before the midterm elections, the administration and the Democratic Party must effectively educate the American public on exactly what comprises the measure and how it will affect individuals and small businesses alike. Obama must convince voters of the significant benefits, especially as the Republican party gears up its "repeal" engine.
Fortunately for Democrats, seven months in politics is an eternity, leaving plenty of time for voters to actually decide for themselves whether or not the bill, as House Minority Leader John Boehner in an Oscar-worthy performance gravely warned, will have caused "Armageddon" and will "ruin our country." They'll see, for example, that they didn't have to switch insurance plans or doctors, as GOP propaganda has claimed. Or that the dreaded "death panels" were nothing more than Republican scare tactics. It's more likely by November that voters will no longer be operating in the current vacuum, and will be more knowledgeable about reform and the positive impact on their lives.
But make no mistake, it's going to be an ugly seven months. Republicans are like scared, cornered powerless rats right now, and they've already begun to show their campaign cards. Seething over Democrats' unilateral passage of the bill, Arizona Sen. John McCain angrily vowed this week to defiantly oppose everything Obama and the party puts forth going forward. "There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year." And Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN) gave a sneak peek into the sleazy GOP playbook by suggesting that routine insurance problems will be deceptively attributed to reform. "Insurance premiums are going to go up normally, and millions of Americans are going to experience higher premiums. All this is going to be coming, and the health care bill is going to get blamed for a lot of it."
Personally, if this is the tact the GOP is going to take in its insatiable hunger to regain power, I'm all for it. Nothing like positioning yourselves as crybaby, sore-losing, self-serving obstructionist do-nothings hellbent on selling your souls, and the nation's best interests, in order to win a few House and Senate seats. So much for McCain's "country first" campaign promise. As we've seen this week, what truly comes first is the coffers of their fatcat corporate special-interest pals and the personal bank accounts of their rich, tax-loathing constituency. Fuck the poor, the middle class, the sick, the needy, the uninsured. I got mine, now go get yours. At least we know what matters most to these selfish elitists.
Last July Republican Sen. Jim DeMint (SC) arrogantly predicted that health care reform would fail and become Obama's "Waterloo" and that "it will break him." With this week's victory and the political capital its bestowed on the president, even conservatives like American Enterprise Institute fellow David Frum fear that Republicans have not just blown an unprecedented opportunity to help shape major policy, but also served to empower Obama, which is the exact opposite of what they aimed to accomplish. "The political imperative crowded out the policy imperative. And the Republicans have now lost both." He said Obama's health care victory is now the Republicans' Waterloo. "We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat."
Yes, I'd really love to see the GOP run on a repeal platform. Because I wonder exactly which parts of the bill Americans will want to give up next year. The ban on being denied coverage due to pre-existing illness? Doing away with lifetime caps? The ability to keep children on the family plan up to age 26? The subsidizing of senior citizens' "donut hole" prescription drug coverage? Seems pretty unlikely that enough voters beyond the hard-core Tea Bag zealots will hop on the "hey-let's-repeal-all-these-awesome-new-protections" bandwagon.
So what happens next? Obama needs to craft a propaganda campaign of his own. He can start with what I call the "Repeal the Lies" PR campaign:
Lie #1: The reform bill is a government takeover of the health care industry:
There's no government takeover of anything, just an extension of the existing system. A system that includes programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans benefits/coverage, and Social Security. People will still get to choose their own private insurance, doctors and procedures.
Lie #2: The health care bill is nothing but socialism or socialized medicine:
Ridiculous. How can a bill which hands 32-million new customers to private, for-profit insurance companies be socialism? What's more, if this is socialism, then the true socialists are U.S. Senators and Congressman, who are current beneficiaries of this "socialized medicine." Fear-mongers like McCain, Alexander and Boehner conveniently forget to tell Americans that they are current recipients of this "governemnt takeover", and quite happily so. I guess it's a cool perk when you get free government health care but it's a socialist nightmare when those lazy poor and middle class folks get it.
Lie #3: Health care reform will swell the nation's already massive debt:
Untrue. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill will reduce the defecit by $143 billion over ten years.
Lie #4: The bill will result in higher taxes for small businesses:
Again untrue. The majority of small businesses in America employ less than 50 people, and these companies will receive tax credits, not increases. It is the large health, drug and medical device companies, as well as tanning salons (yes, tanning salons) who'll be hit with tax hikes.
Lie #5: The bill is the result of corrupt back-room "Cornhusker" deal-making and bribes to states like Nebraska and Louisiana for extra Medicaid money:
There are no such deals in the bill. Period.
So, Obama has a great story to tell here, and a lot of lies to dispel. And as NY Times columnist David Brooks wrote Tuesday, the president can remind America that thanks to this 100% Democratic bill, "millions of working families will go to bed at night knowing that they are not an illness away from financial ruin."
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