Democracy Doesn’t Do Nuance: Why the Dems Lost Control of the Debate

Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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84 Responses

  1. Dan Miller says:

    I think you’re overlooking the fact of industry opposition. Both Wyden-Bennett and especially a single payer plan would have provoked unbelievable resistance from the insurance industry and probably lots of other business groups besides them–Harry and Louise x 20. It might have doomed the bill, just as it did in 1993. Obviously an impossible counterfactual to run, but I don’t think it was an off-base assumption to go with a plan less likely to meet that kind of massive resistance.Report

    • I don’t dispute that industry lobbying efforts would have been hugely difficult, maybe even impossible, to overcome in either event. But I think there would have been a much different type of opposition in that case – a more traditional top-down opposition as opposed to the type of situation we have now where people are screaming about Obamacare taking away their kidneys. It would have been a powerful opposition, no doubt, but I don’t think it would have been much, if at all, tougher than what exists now. One big reason why is just that proponents of reform would have been in a situation where the opposition could easily be portrayed as being led by the much-reviled insurance industry (which, IIRC, was not nearly as reviled in 1994) rather than taking the appearance of just being some angry everyday Joes.Report

  2. Freddie says:

    I really yearn for a day when libertarians and conservatives hold other libertarians and conservatives to the same standards that they hold liberals and Democrats.Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to Freddie says:

      Huh? I’ve been more than a little critical of conservative and libertarian protesters in the past. I also personally think that these particular protesters are being ridiculous in the way they are approaching everything. My post the other day was even a fairly sarcastic attempt to attack the slippery slope argument.

      The point of this post is just to attempt to explain why those protests seem to be succeeding in a way that other protests usually don’t.Report

      • Freddie in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        That’s the problem entirely; it’s so common a thing that you don’t even notice you’re doing it. I’m not arguing content at all. I’m saying that you are, in this post, holding liberals and Democrats to standards you simply wouldn’t dream of holding Republicans and conservatives to.Report

        • Mark Thompson in reply to Freddie says:

          But I’m not holding Dems and liberals in this post to standards at all! I’m explicitly saying I don’t blame them for taking the approach they took, just that in hindsight, that approach hasn’t worked, and to explain why. If anything, I’m criticizing Dems and liberals for not being ambitious enough!

          If you’re referring to my criticism of terms like “astro-turf,” “un-American,” etc. – I’ve been if anything far more critical of conservatives and libertarians for their use of hyperbole than I have of liberals and Democrats over the years.

          I’m just not sure where, exactly, in this post I’ve held Dems and liberals to a tougher standard than I hold libertarians and conservatives.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        I think it’s far from clear they’re succeeding. Check out ths graf:

        “A little more than half of Republicans say the protests have made them more sympathetic to the protestors’ views. ”

        A little more than half? Of Republicans? That doesn’t strike me as surprising except perhaps at the low end — certainly not in a way that’s threatening to the effort. 56% of those polled said the protests either made them less sympathetic to the views of the protesters (whatever those are) or made no difference at all.

        To whatever extent this being played up on on the teevee, it is being overplayed.Report

        • I don’t think it makes sense to include the “no opinions” as being supportive of one perspective or the other. At most, you can use them to suggest that the overall response to the protesters has been to change nothing; but given how ridiculous and over-the-top those protesters have been, that nothing has changed bodes quite poorly for reform advocates, particularly given that polling is increasingly suggesting that a significant plurality of Americans are opposed to the type of reform that is on the table.Report

          • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

            First of all it’s not that they have no opninion. It’s that the protests haven’t affected their view “of the protesters’ views.” And I didn’t lump them in with anyone. I made a statement directly supported by the results. Read it again.

            So your argument is that to say that the protests have hurt the cause of reform all that is necessary is to show there hasn’t been an measurable backlash aginst the protests in favor of reform. In other words that the presumption should be that reform should be helped by these protests and the failure to show that improvement means the protests have harmed reform? I think that’s a crazy standard.

            Also, backlashes come after the things that cause them. Stay tuned.Report

          • Sully Fick in reply to Mark Thompson says:

            but given how ridiculous and over-the-top those protesters have been

            This is a large assumption, I think. Perhaps by historical standards this is arguably true (tho, also arguably false), but the current rhetoric is just an extension of the same trajectory of conservative rhetoric that began 30 years ago. Or 40 years ago, if you want to go back to the source of the Nile.

            So, the fact that it has traction, or isn’t considered outlandish is just where we are on a path that was chosen a long time ago. We won’t veer from that path. Nudges, maybe. But that path was chosen a long time ago by enough influential conservatives that it is now ingrained in the conservative psyche. The path can be changed, but it takes time. Look at where liberals/Dems were 30 years or 40 years ago and where they are now. A lot of slow progress – luckily in a progressive direction (like dumping the Dixicrats). Conservatives face a long slow slog in any direction – it just depends which direction is chosen by enough influential conservatives.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Freddie says:

      I yearn for a day when Democrats support bills written by congressmen rather than industry lobbyists.Report

      • Freddie in reply to Jaybird says:

        Do you ask yourself, Jay, if you’re fair to me? Do you ever ask yourself that at all?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Freddie says:

          If you so despise many of my questions, perhaps asking “is he engaging in some light word substitution of points that I have made?” would be appropriate.

          If your position were “I hold position X because I think that position X would result in better care for more people and the costs are well worth the benefits we will get”, then that would be one thing to get these responses.

          If, however, the argument is “People who don’t agree with me on X want people to *DIE*”, well, then one ought not be surprised to find that one’s opposition is stronger.

          Are you of the opinion that you’re saying something like “I hold this position for these reasons” and not “people who don’t come to my moral conclusions are immoral”?Report

          • Freddie in reply to Jaybird says:

            You know, Martin Buber is the most important writer I’ve ever read. I took his work to heart. What you can say about me, no matter what else is true, is that wherever I argue, there I am. I’m right here. Everyone knows what I think. Everyone knows how I feel. It’s unfiltered and it’s who I am. I’m not afraid to be straight up about how I feel.

            Meanwhile, there’s you. Now, you’ll notice, if you look, that I literally cannot comment on any post, about any issue, without you weighing in on what I’ve said. Seriously, dig around in the recent archives. Try to find more than a couple comments by me, no matter what the issue, where we aren’t immediately given your thoughts on my thoughts. And, you know, cool.

            Funny thing about it is, I get your comments on everything I say, and I don’t the fucking slightest idea what you stand for, man. I really don’t.Because you couch everything you have to say in a mountain of sarcasm and snarky bullshit and this desperate, desperate desire to be clever. Sometimes it’s a fact that I literally don’t know what you’re saying, because you are trying so hard to be cute. Most of the time, the short term meaning is clear, but any notion of what you’re actually about, who you are, is just a mystery. Because you’ve bleached all the emotional and personal meaning out of what you say.

            Nobody who reads me doesn’t know who I am. So what can you possibly say to me? In a minute you’ll show up, and you’ll try to come up with some clever riposte that shows how endlessly cute you are, and you’ll dance, dance, dance. That’s all you’ll be doing, is dancing. So what can you say to me?Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Freddie says:

              I and Thou? You seriously put yourself in that category?

              Fair enough. We all have ideas of ourselves in our heads. I will share with you why you get these responses from me.

              I don’t see you as an “I and Thou” kinda guy. I see you as a “Me and You” kinda guy. When it comes to Freddie, it is very, very, very important that everyone know exactly how much you care about the topic at hand.

              “Caring” is *FRONT* and *CENTER*.

              One can even gauge how much you respect an opponent by whether you include, at the beginning of your post, a disclaimer such as “I know that you care deeply about this but…”

              Caring, once again, is front and center.

              When it comes to policy debates, however, once people disagree, they are no longer “thou”. They become “you”. Read back and see what you wrote about Megan in your post. It wasn’t enough that she disagreed with you. She was no longer a “thou”. She became yet another person out there who didn’t care… and because she didn’t care then that means that she could be painted as someone who wanted inner city children to die.

              Having read her arguments, I’ve come to the conclusion that she’s come to them fairly… that is to say, from a position of good will. She’s worthy of being a “thou”. You weren’t treating her as one, however. She was a “you”.

              Treating people like “you” is not necessarily a bad thing, mind. We can’t all be Martin Buber… but it seems that you have no problem treating your opposition like a bunch of “you” (or “you people”) but when people treat you the way you treat the opposition, you point out, once again, how much you care.

              And, by extension, how much you deserve to be treated as a “thou”.

              Buber was not telling you how you deserve to be treated in his philosophy, Freddie.

              He was telling you how you needed to treat others.

              While you write posts thinking of yourself as Martin Buber, the posts that you see me as attacking you are written in the mindset of me thinking “Let’s see if Freddie enjoys being treated the way he’s treating people who disagree with him.”

              Now, of course, you may disagree. I’m sure you will have many, many people point out to me exactly how much you care about the topics at hand. Then, I’m sure, you can go on to write a post talking about how the people who are diametrically opposed to the things that you support are evil people and, after that, go to bed and sleep the sleep of the just.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Freddie says:

              (And, for the record, I wrote a guest post describing, in detail, my moral philosophy)Report

              • E.D. Kain in reply to Jaybird says:

                Here is the wiki entry on “thou” by the way if people are interested in the word more than in the debate between Freddie and Jaybird.

                See, I’m thread-jacking a thread-jack. Neat, huh?

                (P.S. “thou” was often also used in a disrespectful sense back in days of yore.)Report

  3. MattL says:

    I don’t read the Gallup poll as a loss for the Democrats. I read exactly what it says, which is that 34% say the protests make them more sympathetic to the protestors’ viewpoints and 21% say the protests make them less sympathetic.
    However almost half either say the protests haven’t affected their views either way or they have no opinion.
    I’d be curious to see how many have moved from support to opposition due to the protests. I would think it would not be much. The GOP base is not small and they are vocal.
    The real problem is that the Right has been able to define what they think the bill says – and it is very easy to be against something when it is not fully explained. The Left is in the unenviable position of having to explain it. But it is not really a soundbyte plan at this point – and may not ever be. But for the Right all they have to do is use loaded false terms like ‘government control’ and ‘socialism’ and ‘death panel’ and and they can rally their troops pretty fast.Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to MattL says:

      “I don’t read the Gallup poll as a loss for the Democrats.”

      I can make a pretty good argument that this does suggest a net loss of support for the Dems because the poll shows an even bigger pro-protest discrepancy amongst Independents than the population as a whole. But at a minimum, we definitely don’t have a shift in favor of the reformers; given how ridiculous and over-the-top the protesters have been, this alone is an unusual finding – I would have expected at least a slight move in the reformers’ favor.

      Other than that, though, I agree with your comment. The purpose of this post is just to explain why the Right and Left are in those respective positions on this issue even more so than one would expect.Report

  4. greginak says:

    Those survey results are pretty thin gruel for bolstering repub hearts. There a bit more sympathy for the protesters then turn off. That just isn’t all that important. Especially once congress gets back and has one bill that can be looked at for what it has and doesn’t have. One of things that happens in polling on health care is a steady strong support of it in general but that weakens a bit when there is ambiguity. I’m just not seeing any evidence in this poll that 10 % more sympathy then dislike, mostly among conservatives who were likely already opposed to reform, means much of anything. The process of making laws is always unpopular while the plans themselves may be popular. I’m not seeing how a bit sympathy will lead to large changes in opinion.Report

    • greginak in reply to greginak says:

      ps Time is working against the protests in one way. Since there are so many outrageous lies out there about the proposed bills, there will be a slow chipping away at the credibility of the protests. More and more people, at least those whose minds are open at least a bit, will do some research, read the occasional news report and hear from the honorable conservatives who admit how crazy some of the protesters are. The SCARY BLACK MAN will make speech’s and people will calm. Those who are off their meds will never calm down, but they would be opposed to the SCARY BLACK MAN if petted he a doggie.

      I would bet 100 quatloo’s that if they repeated this poll in two months conservatives would not be happy with the results.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to greginak says:

        You have more faith in the willingness of the American people to be informed voters than do I. Significantly so, actually.

        I’d be willing to take you up on your bet, though….hope as I may that I’ll be wrong (whatever my thoughts of the merits of this reform proposal, I’d love to see the actions of Palin, Limbaugh, et al backfire on them).Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to greginak says:

      In this case, though, it looks like the plan is increasingly more unpopular than popular:

  5. E.D. Kain says:

    Really good points, Mark. I’m actually still a little shocked that they’ve been so successful and this helps nudge my thinking in the right direction. Still…Report

    • Freddie in reply to E.D. Kain says:

      I’m sorry, but this evidence that the protests have been effective is really, really weak tea. And it again comes back to this conception of our country that thinks that everyone in it is like the protesters, when they simply aren’t.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Freddie says:

        Treat them like the war protests, then.

        Mock the hell out of the hippies, point out their rhetorical excesses, ask people on the fence if they really want to be associated with the right’s equivalent of ANSWER. Your side should clean up.

        Surely the American People will greet you with flowers.Report

      • E.D. Kain in reply to Freddie says:

        I’m sorry, but this evidence that the protests have been effective is really, really weak tea.

        Maybe. It’s either that they’ve been more effective than we thought they’d be or else the President has been really lousy at pushing his reforms. Either way, things are stalling out.Report

      • Ryan in reply to Freddie says:

        I don’t know. I have a deep, unconsolable fear that this shrieking, incoherent, racist rabble really does make up a large enough portion of the American public to kill health care reform. The kind of optimism that says “Americans aren’t really screaming morons” is the kind that doesn’t really strike me as plausible any more.Report

  6. EngineerScotty says:

    Obama and the GOP have played this game before, remember?

    The dems have a harmonious convention, with no visible acrimony between Obama and his party rival, Hillary. But John McCain surprises everyone–and steals Obama’s thunder–with his selection of a certain former Alaska governor as his running mate. She gives a blistering convention speech, calling the Democratic nominee every nasty name in the Rove/Limbaugh playbook, and McCain pulls in front in the polls.

    Massive panic among many Democratic partisans, who call on Obama to take the bait. He refuses.

    What happens? Palin exposes herself as a clueless lying nutjob, and is now–outside hardcore GOP circles–an object of contempt and ridicule. Meanwhile, the economy tanks, McCain makes an ass of himself further, and Obama plays it cool. Game, set, and match.

    Obama has played this game before, guys. He’s won EVERY TIME. My prediction–after a few weeks of simmering in the newsphere, the majority of the US electorate will soon regard the “death panel” nonsense as exactly that–the ridiculous screeching of a bunch of obstructionists.

    Now, whether HB2300 is a good idea (vs other proposals), I have some doubts. But in case the electorate has forgotten what a howling pack of loons the GOP base is, they are now getting a helpful reminder.

    While the match is not over, I expect Obama to break serve within the next couple of weeks.Report

    • Sully Fick in reply to EngineerScotty says:

      No offense here, but the electorate is a pack of insane gibbering fools. All colors – red, blue, purple, whathaveyou.

      There’s a good quote from a movie that explains this quite well:

      Lewis Rothschild: You have a deeper love of this country than any man I’ve ever known. And I want to know what it says to you that in the past seven weeks, 59% of Americans have begun to question your patriotism.

      President Andrew Shepherd: Look, if the people want to listen to-…

      Lewis Rothschild: They don’t have a choice! Bob Rumson is the only one doing the talking! People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.

      President Andrew Shepherd: Lewis, we’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.


      • EngineerScotty in reply to Sully Fick says:

        However, the electorate isn’t voting on health care reform, Congress is.
        There are numerous fence-sitters on the issue, especially in the Senate. Whether or not they have been swayed by all the protests is a bit hard to read at this point, as is pointed out below, the bill is still being debated and amended.

        If anything, this points out to one area where the Democrats do suffer in comparison to the GOP: party discipline. It’s one thing for a Democrat to vote against the health care bill. However we have the situation where certain Democrats are essentially threatening to join and support the opposing party’s (threatened) filibuster if they don’t get their way; were a member of the Republican majority six years ago to attempt something like that, the GOP senate leadership would have their heads for lunch.

        As for Obama–he’s shown, time and again, that he’s perfectly capable of giving a stirring speech and a command performance when he needs one. It won’t convince the teabaggers, of course; but he still seems to be well-regarded by the electorate at large. But right now this is insider baseball.Report

  7. Robert says:

    Like a holograph, your post is a tiny, yet near-perfect, representation of the reasons the health care reform initiative is foundering. As were the Speaker’s “unforced errors.”

    In one sentence, “I’m from the USG/academia/NYT/et al and I know what’s good for you, you poor ignorant American. though you don’t.”

    This post, condensed: If only they could UNDERSTAND! What’s the matter with Kansas?

    Good God, FDR, LBJ and Huey Long would be speechless with wonder at how the Party of the People talks to America these days. Those guys could have passed this thing and had two-thirds of America purring by June. If Ms. Pelosi had smiled and said, “Yelling at your Congressman is a great American tradition. I know many people have serious concerns, they’re worried about how this is going to affect their lives, and we are going to go home during this recess and address those concerns and show them how this initiative will make their lives better.”

    I know some discerning Democrats, politicians and pundits alike, have said things along these lines, but the damage has been done. Once a person believes that they’re unfairly held in contempt, their psychological defenses aren’t going to be penetrated by a promise that they will get to keep their current doctor.Report

    • Sully Fick in reply to Robert says:

      Here, here!Report

    • Freddie in reply to Robert says:

      And yet, they said the same thing during the election– the exact same thing— and it was a blowout loss for your side.Report

      • Robert in reply to Freddie says:

        Freddie: I’m trying to look at this from the practical politics angle, not “sides.” I would disagree that they said “the exact same thing during the last election. Then-candidate Obama mostly did a very good job of avoiding elitist insult to the electorate, and no one brought up swastikas, as I recall. A lot of the new 2006-8 Democrats in the House won former Republican districts by specifically running against the attitude that Washington knows best. Now Pelosi needs their votes to pass the bill. Ironic. I just think it’s lousy politics to go negative on the electorate as opposed to, say, the Republican House minority. FDR understood this in his bones. A lot of smart, educated politicians and pundits, not so much.Report

        • EngineerScotty in reply to Robert says:

          Prior to the election, the line was that Obama was a crypto-Muslim, a terrorist sympathizer, and a socialist. Now, in the minds of the loony right–he’s an ineligible foreigner, and a Nazi. It wasn’t Pelosi who has been making that comparison…Report

          • Robert in reply to EngineerScotty says:

            Those were character assassinations of a politician. My point is, don’t do character assassinations on the voters. I hope I’m being crystal clear. None of that worked, anyway. What worked was Obama getting more people to believe they’d be better of with him in office. That’s what the majority cares about. The majority also does not love Congress as an institution, and enjoys seeing the high and mighty get yelled at. So calling folks names was precisely the wrong way to win, to get voter support, to give the Blue Dogs some cover, and get a bill passed. I just keep trying to stay on point–remember, the post we’re commenting on is “Why the Dems Lost Control of the Debate.”Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Freddie says:

        Then you should be *THRILLED*.

        Hurray! A blowout win for your side must be just around the corner!Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Robert says:

      Robert, this is a brilliant insight.

      Excellent post.Report

      • E.D. Kain in reply to Jaybird says:

        Good God, FDR, LBJ and Huey Long would be speechless with wonder at how the Party of the People talks to America these days. Those guys could have passed this thing and had two-thirds of America purring by June.

        How true.Report

        • Ryan in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          It’s not true at all! FDR actually failed to pass this, and LBJ set his sights lower because he knew he couldn’t. Let’s not let clever rhetoric get in the way of *things that actually happened*!

          That said, FDR, LBJ, and Huey Long might be speechless at a lot of things, but if you honestly believe they’d be on anyone’s side but Obama’s right now, you’re a gigantic effing idiot.Report

  8. Michael Drew says:

    God love ya, Mark, but there are just broad fields of wrong in here almost as far as the eye can see. But there are some things you’ve got right too. Obviously, the message has been irreparably muddled, largely owing to the fact that there isn’t a bill to defend. Members can’t actually say “That’s not in the bill,” because we’re mid-process. They can only say ‘That’s not being contemplated.” But then someone somewhere (cough, Kucinich) contemplates it, and bango, credibility is shot. And if the bill proponents can’t do it, then media probably isn’t going to be very much help either, you’re right about that too. (Though that can go only so far. The media can’t say unequivocally that this absolutely will not lead to single payer, when so many Republicans say it absolutely will. [Incidentally who are these Dems saying that is the what the bill is designed to do?] But the media could go a pretty long way to debunking death panels and the like. They could at least try.)

    I’m not going to have the energy to take up everything you’ve got wrong. I can only hope that I’ll get some assistance on that. I’m going to focus on a few things.

    First, the legislation on the table may be watered down, but it’s not a watered down version of a radical reform. It’s a non-radical, moderate attempt to make some significant but non-radical changes. Individual and employer mandates, exchanges, subsidies, greater regulation, and public option/co-op are not insignificant changes to the system, but they are emphatically distinct and separate from the kind of radical changes that single-payer or a jettisoning of employer insurance would be. That is completely by design — it’s not as if the Dems had a starting proposal of single-payer and walked it back. They rejected it outright from the start, along with Wyden-Bennett.

    Related to this, it is simply not the Dems’ “ultimate aim” to enact single payer. It is some Dems’ ultimate aim, just as it is some R’s ultimate aim to abolish Social Security. I don’t know what fraction of the Democratic caucus would vote for single-payer, but I’ll hazard that it’s not a majority. Meaning something like a quarter of the chamber. A great number of Dems would never support it and truly oppose it on principle. What’s being proposed is not just a bastard stepchild to single payer for most Dems. It probably is a second choice to something in most cases — but that’s always the case in making legislation. And moreover, to suggest they’d have benn better off proposing single payer is I think either daft or insincere. Yes, maybe the messaging is a bit easier. But they don’t have consensus for that proposal in their own caucus, much less a majority in the chamber. The term non-starter exists for a reason. But maybe I’m wrong — maybe ‘Medicare for all” would have taken off like wildfire. Who knows.

    Now, to the protesters (again; hopefully for the last time). First, I wnt to acknowledge the dumb response. The astroturf argument is looking worse and worse in hindsight — never tell an angry bull that it’s not actually angry. “Un-American” — what was the point of that? (I actually get the point — Pelosi’s members were getting death threats, etc. — she was protecting her people. But it could have been done without evoking the Vietnam-Iraq struggles.) And I’m more satisfied now with Mark’s clarity that he isn’t equating the insane tactics with the all-things-considered restrained response, so I won’t harp on that.

    I will harp on this, though:

    Where I think proponents of reform would have a point in their criticism of the media would be in arguing that the claims by these protesters are so ridiculous as to not warrant any media coverage at all. That said, the protest movement is probably too large to have avoided covering altogether.

    You’d be wrong in think we had a point there if we were making such a point. But it’s quite the opposite. Bringing guns to town halls, hanging members of Congress in effigy, painting swastikas on black Southern Congressmen’s office signs, holding a sign referencing the Jefferson quote calling for the blood of tyrants with a loaded gun strapped to your thigh outside an event where the first African-American president is discussing the issue that has people so worked up — these things are designed to garner coverage, and yet also need to be covered. We cannot pretend these things aren’t happening. They are in themselves news — signal facts about this moment in our country’s (no less!). They may not be flattering to your side of the policy debate, but they are real. No one on the proponent side is criticizing the media for covering these things. If you are, I would suggest that you reconsider that view. It’s first of all somewhat obviously convenient to your position (can we just ignore the crazies who agree with me?), and also incorrect on the merits of the story, and I would argue possibly even a bit dangerous. That stuff needs to be covered if it is happening. Fanatics will always be able to disrupt/destroy reasonable, that’s just a hard fact about the world. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away, and when there are violent undertones as there are here, it is actually an urgently important matter to pay close attention to. Ask yourself this question: do you think the Secret Service and the FBI are taking what we’re seeing with a grain of salt?Report

    • “First, the legislation on the table may be watered down, but it’s not a watered down version of a radical reform.”

      I totally agree with this; I was actually trying to suggest in this post that the Dems would have been as well or better off trying for something more radical from the start.

      “Related to this, it is simply not the Dems’ “ultimate aim” to enact single payer.”

      I could point to a number of statements Obama’s made in the past to suggest that it is. I’ve also seen a number of liberal commentators argue that this type of legislation is specifically intended to lead to single-payer. Even the Rasmussen poll that the Right was idiotically screaming about the other day showed an overwhelming majority of Dems who supported single-payer.

      As for your last point: first, I don’t at all consider any of these protesters on my “side,” especially since I’ve long been at the point where I’d actually be willing to support single-payer (albeit reluctantly) as an improvement over the status quo. Additionally, I’m not saying that the media shouldn’t be covering the protesters – I think they clearly should be; but I do think there’s at least a case to be made, albeit one I disagree with, that the media ought not be giving coverage to the claims (as opposed to the behavior) of the protesters. Also, even if I did consider these people on my “side,” I wouldn’t have an incentive to discourage media coverage of them since, crazy as their claims are, they seem to be succeeding in hurting the case for reform.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        Mark, they’re against the legislation (that’s why they’re out there); you’re against the legislation.

        There is video from before Obama entered national politics saying the government needs to get its act together and pass single payer. I’ve got some news for you: where you stand depends on where you sit. This is about where people are on this now, and what they’d support. If you want to trot out old positions like that you are essentially engaging in gotcha that moves the debate nowhere. Politicians change their stripes. This isn’t a campaign where proving a flip=flop has valence as to the candidates overall ‘character.’ this is about what people are advocating now in this debate, in a black-and-white kind of way.

        You are right about grassroots support for single payer. But the national party in Congress simply isn’t in step on this issue; I’ll remind you that national opinion on issues doesn’t map proportionately onto Congressional representation. If you want to talk about amking the Senate proportional, making D.C. a state, and doubling or tripling the size of the House with truly proportional districts, I guess I’m all for that I’m all for that. But this isn’t a referendum. The name of this game is “Congress!”Report

        • See, this is the problem I have with political discourse today. We see things as binary: you’re either with me or you’re against me, and all those who aren’t with me are tarred with the same brush. I have no interest whatsoever in being on the same side as these yahoos, not because they’re yahoos who are hurting the case against these specific reforms (at a minimum, I think you have to agree that the polling suggests they’re certainly not hurting), but because they’re seemingly against any meaningful reform whatsoever, while I’m only against these specific reforms, which I think aren’t remotely ambitious enough.

          As for the single-payer issue, Obama was saying things even during the primary campaign last year to specifically indicate that he still favors single-payer, but that he thinks it unfeasible. I also recall Ezra Klein taking one of Obama’s advisors to the woodshed last year for suggesting that the point of reform is to save the employer-based health care system when in fact the point of reform is to ultimately put an end to it while creating an alternative government structure in which everyone can obtain coverage. I’ve just read too much from liberals who view this as merely an intermediary step towards something much more sweeping to simply dismiss “slippery slope” based arguments out of hand. I don’t think the slope will slip, as I wrote the other day (which is a central reason I’m opposed to this legislation), but the argument that it will is hardly ridiculous.

          Nor do I view this as gotcha politics – again, I’d be completely okay with the slope slipping. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that a good number (though perhaps not remotely all) of Dem politicians view this legislation as one step towards a more ambitious long-term goal – that’s fairly standard politics: you take what you can get when you can get it and keep pushing for what you really want later.Report

          • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

            I’m not trying to paint you with the same brush except to say that with respect to the debate that is taking place now — should this legislation be passed? — they say no and so do you. That’s not all there is to talk about by any means, but it also isn’t irrelevant. Understood, you have different reasons from them, but everyone has their reasons for a particular position and they’re not all identical save for yours. Your uniqueness as to your reasoning isn’t unique, in other words. And there’s no way that a national debate over a major legislative initiative that is in its final stages can classify everyone according to how they arrive at their position — — or by what other proposals besides the one on the table people might support. That by all means should be attended to and discussed using the time and space available. But at the end of the day it does come down to aye or nay, and that is a fair and legitimate feature of debate, not a pernicious pigeonhole. Where you come down (if you do) matters, and I don’t think it paints people with too broad a brush to take note of it. By no means should you be associated with the crazies who share your position, but it isn’t unfair to say that in this case some crazies do share your position. What I said initially was not that you are on the “same side” as them as if you are on their team, but that these folks agree with you on the legislation, and that that may not reflect well on everyone who holds that broad position — for whatever reason. You have every reason to resent that that is the case, but your resentment should be aimed at those whose tactics you reject, not at those who might allow them to color their view of the position in question.

            As for the slipping slope, to whatever extent some actual Dem Congresspeople really are right now saying that this legislation would in an optimistic scenario lead to single-payer, they are indeed undermining their cause given the way they have decided to sell it. I don’t know how many examples of that there are. But I reject the notion that the fact that some Dems have in the past said, or even admit right now, that if the politics were different, single-payer might be a better option, means that people should believe that this bill might bring it about. The fact is that it won’t — and you yourself are clear about how are confident of that of you are.

            If your point is just that it’s inevitable that some people think that given what’s out there, well then okay — people will believe things. But you seem to be saying not that it is inevitable, but that it is understandable that people think this reform will lead to single payer based on what proponents themselves have said. Unless there are far more Dems in Congress saying that this bill will usher in single payer than I am aware of, I think it is not understandable on that basis that people think that, though perhaps it is understandable as a product of opposition/Republican mythmaking. You’re ignoring that chorus of misinformation in favor of what little could be seen from the other side to justify the myth. If people believe a myth, isn’t it the simpler explanation that they do because of those who are shouting it at them rather than because of those who are trying to dispel it?Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        I didn’t realize you don’t hold the view you’re saying that the Dems would have a point about if they were making. So okay, we agree it should be covered. I don’t think the claims of those with guns are being covered — just the fact of their presence. It’s not the protesters (whom you were discussing) pushing the crazy claims; it’s Sarah Palin and Chuck Grassley. That’s going to be covered. In a less compelling and important way that gun-toting protesters, crazy claims by prominent people are also newsworthy in and of themselves. But you don’t agree with the argument anyway, so I’m arguing with no one apparently.

        Bottom line is — everything is going to be covered. We’ve built an excess of bandwidth and content is at a premium — that’s the environment we have to operate in.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        Last, if you wanted to actually place a bet about whether they’re hurting the case for reform, I’d be willing to do that. What you have cited doesn’t show that, rather it shows that 56% of respondents find that the protesters either make them less sympathetic to their views or make no difference. So what we see is the 44% of folks already against these reforms just had their view get stronger. The numbers matter much more than the strength.

        I really don’t know what to say about your support for single payer, or quite see how it relates, except that if it exists then it exists, if not then not. People make decisions reluctantly or with reservations every day.

        Sorry to respond in segments.Report

  9. Fantastic analysis Mark…I think it sums up the debate beautifully. I agree 100% that the Democrats would have had at least an equal chance of passing single-payer and the added benefit of not appearing to be trying to pull a trojan horse on the American people. This is exactly the kind of problem we have discussed before with Centrism/Compromise-ism. By trying to triangulate between the two extremes they ended up with a product no one really wants.Report

    • Mike:

      Exactly. There are few things more likely to result in bad legislation than legislation written to appease centrists, whether from within one’s own party or from the opposing party.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

      Let’s be clear about the logic here. It is the following:

      Some Democrats in an ideal world favor single-payer health care. ==> Any reform they propose short of that is rightly seen as a Trojan Horse for single payer health care, even if we agree that in reality it isn’t.

      And yet the author of the post (who agrees with the comment that I contend has the above implication) also writes frequently asking that we not be too suspicious of motives, even in cases (such as Republican support for Wyden-Bennett), there is clear structural reason to be wary of stated positions, regardless of the past behavior of the individuals in question.Report

      • Hmm….I think I see where there’s some confusion here, Michael. The statement above about centrism and bad legislation aside, this post is not meant to be a normative post about how I think the world should work, but rather a post attempting to explain what I think has gone wrong for the Dems, figuring out why some policy proposals succeed or fail (and predicting whether they will succeed or fail) being something of my preferred writing topic. My description may be wrong or it may be right, but I don’t intend it as a moral defense or criticism of anyone involved.

        I do think in this case that some degree of confusion on the part of many of the protesters is understandable, though. That is not a justification for that confusion, just a statement that I can see how the conclusion was reasonably if very wrongly reached. I think this is because of poor messaging by the Democrats combined with a decade and a half of fear-mongering by the Republicans combined with some very confusing proposals.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

          This seems to be a response to the back and forth slow more than what it is attached to, so I’ll take it as such. I’ve done some research and found some examples of what you are referring to (particularly in the videos in this post: I’ll concede it’s enough to give a person looking for confirmation of a prior suspicion that this is a Trojan Horse a way to say they have found it. That, however, is a very low bar, and only concedes that there has enough such talk by proponents to give those operating in bad faith a pretense to persist in asserting falsehoods.

          I would say that calling people’s beliefs that are formed in bad faith and “confirmed” by statements that don’t support the beliefs in the eyes of an impartial observer “understandable” implies a defense of those people’s good-faith confusion, and a criticism of proponents who made such statements. We shouldn’t say that it is understandable to operate in bad faith, or with preconceived notions of which you refuse to be disabused.Report

          • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

            slow = below. Don’t ask me.Report

          • But I don’t think you can accuse the protesters of acting in bad faith. The Sarah Palins and Rush Limbaughs of the world, definitely; but the average protester? Not at all.

            I’d also add that even if you don’t view this as a Trojan Horse for single-payer specifically, the idea that this legislation will not be an end unto itself is far from ridiculous – most of the well-informed liberals I read on this stuff justify their continued support of things like HR3200 on a belief that it will eventually spell the end of employer-based health care, which just about everyone who has seriously studied this issue (on all sides) acknowledges is something that eventually needs to go. I think that the belief that HR3200 will eventually lead to the end of employer-based health care is naive and ill-founded, but I’ve also read enough well-informed liberals on the topic to know that it is very much the intent (as, frankly, it should be).Report

            • Not to de-rail the conversation in another direction, but it’s the same with gay marriage. Democrats will point to the micro-steps that Obama has made towards gay marriage and say, “See, he really does want gay marriage but he is being a realist and chipping away rather than trying to do it all at once.” But when we suggest they have the same plans for healthcare (and these claims are based heavily on statements made by Democrats to that effect) we’re told that we’re being alarmist.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

                But you’d be being alarmist if you thought Obama really would be for some kind of national requirement that states allows same-sex couples to marry, even if some liberals tried to placate activists by telling them that lie.Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

              If you’re referring to Klein’s taking whomever to task, I think he was saying that that should be the intent of reform over all, not that it is the intent of this reform. Your critique is 100% justified in that regard.

              Certainly no one is saying this is the last reform that will happen to health care in the foreseeable future. But that’s a far cry from saying a public option is a Trojan Horse to single-payer. If some future reform seeks to bring about single payer, then we will have an equally vigorous debate about it then. The fear, however, seems to be that there will be some semiautomatic (sic) mechanism that will take us to single-payer without further legislation or democratic checks. We all know that is false, and what I’m saying is that anyone who believes it is committed to believing it and will use whatever he can to justify the belief while ignoring contrary evidence. I call that attitude bad faith even if it results from a mental limitation or cultural barrier of some sort, and I’m pretty sure some of the protesters, along with many clearly disingenuous (a greater degree of bad faith that I don’t ascribe to any protesters) pundits and politicians believe it. We certainly aren’t obligated to confer a good faith presumption on all the protesters en masse, without exceptions, are we? I don’t think you can have the belief I lay out above and be in good faith. The truth is available. Good faith requires a willingness to find it out and acknowledge it.Report

              • No time to say more right now, but I think we are using different definitions of “good faith.” For instance, I would use the phrase “due dilligence” for this, rather than “good faith”:
                “The truth is available. Good faith requires a willingness to find it out and acknowledge it.”

                To me, good faith just means that you honestly and reasonably (based on the information you possess – not the information that is theoretically available) believe in what you’re saying.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                It surely requires a willingness to be corrected or informed when the truth is offered. In any case, surely we can say that there are enough protesters that at least some are operating in bad faith just by averages, can we not?Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                …And in that spirit, I just listened to Jack Beatty on the NPR show “On Point” say unequivocally that a “robust public option” absolutely is a step on the way to single payer (he may have even said it would clearly lead us closer to it, I don’t quite remember his wording), and that that is something Democrats simply can’t say. All I’d say is that it’s been a long time since a “robust” public option has been on the table (I don’t think even the unvarnished HR 3200 version is of the nature Jack had in mind). And it’s looking more and more like there isn’t going to be a public option at all, rather the co-op system.Report

  10. Nob Akimoto says:

    I have a question related to this angle…

    If in fact the electorate (and people) are considered too stupid to effectively do nuance and are so easily duped by outrageously untrue claims, how does that square with the idea that these same people can make rational, informed decisions about their healthcare services and providers? I’m not quite sure I’m seeing the logical squaring between “man, the electorate is a bunch of idiots” and “oh the market will solve things if you just gave people choices!”

    In fact, I would postulate the opposite. The very fact that people who advocate “consumer choice and market solutions” believe that the electorate is too stupid to actually see through the distortions, lies and the rest, and that they employ such tactics willingly, is a tacit assumption of bad faith of what their intentions are with actually advocating a “market based” solution on a bunch of consumers who are evidently not smart enough to realize “death panels” are a complete and utter fabrication.Report

    • It’s not an issue of stupidity, but one of priority. Most people don’t have time to care about politics for more than a few minutes a day, if that. This is because for the most part they’re more concerned about making decisions that directly affect their lives. This is generally a good thing, I think. But people are also going to be relatively poor evaluators of whether a particular national public policy is going to be wise, and the more complicated that policy the less they’re going to be able to understand that policy and the more they’re going to rely on secondhand sources to explain it to them.Report

      • Except I think this is problematic because people on the whole rarely make decisions that affect their daily lives with whole hearted information either. I mean we see this all the time with things like car loans, mortgages, even credit cards and wireless plans. Moreover, the fact that there’s such a large asymetry between loud, demagogues (or marketing) and wonky sources that actually evalute consumer information I think fundamentally makes the argument of market rationality if not a complete myth, then one that needs to be scrutinized with regards to the “volume” (as in loudness) of the information sources from which a consumer feeds from to make their decisions. In short: those who have huge marketing budgets will always distort the relative efficacy of their option and coerce consumers to a degree that defeats their ability to make rational, self-interested decisions.

        I think that this is a matter of “priority not stupidity” is even more disturbing because some of the nuttiest, vocal and misinformed voices in the opposition movement are people to whom healthcare reform evidently matters a lot. From the man believing that reform will force his kid to no longer have treatment because he has cereberal palsy to the woman crying because she thinks she’ll be euthanized. Given that this is literally a matter of life and death, why aren’t they actually bothering to find first hand sources to confirm their hysteric initial reaction? What’s more prioritized than life or death?Report

    • Kyle in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      To take a stab at your question, I think it’s because there’s a difference between “a good/the best” choice being made for someone and a stupid person making a bad choice for themselves.

      In other words, it’s less about the quality of the choice based on a politically determined metric, than who gets to make the choice in the first place.

      So whilst the market may not solve every problem there ever was, the market allows for more metrics for more people, at least in theory, and generally speaking is better at pleasing more people than politics.Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to Kyle says:

        Then I’m going to ask: How is the debate over healthcare any different than what goes on in the market? We effectively have various choices for people to form an opinion over. They then make the choice based upon the information that is available to them.

        Which sounds great…Until you notice that because of how they’re informed of their choices, they’re being given completely false and misleading claims in order to steer things in a direction that’s profitable for the actor doing the lying.

        Now a common refrain is that a market is only truly a pure capitalist market if the decisions made by actors is done upon the basis of honest, rational self-interest, rather than deception and fraud. Yet what’s going on here is effectively that. More over it’s the very people who like to bray and cry about “the market” aren’t even bothering with making a rational argument. Instead their first resort is lie and distort and speak as loudly as possible.

        How is this relevant to my first question, you may ask. Well, often the point is brought up that choice and market solutions are more benevolent. Except if the people who are offering the choices are under the belief that they can lie, distort and curry fear in the interests of advancing their own profit….well isn’t that basically just fraud? And what does it say about the “proponents of the market” that they’re willing to engage in this sort of tactic in the political arena? Is it likely it’s just an ends justify the means approach and in “private” dealings they’re scrupulous and honest? Or will that sort of behavior leech into their business behavior as it becomes obvious that the mass of consumers simply don’t know what they’re picking from?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          More, more, and more transparency is pretty much the only weapon against false and misleading claims. For my part, I think that the internet is one of the best things to happen to medical technology, like, ever.

          I retain hope that the distributed knowledge of the net could, one day, put the equivalent of a GP in every home.

          Now, yeah, there are downsides. The whole “vacines cause autism!” thing probably would have never gotten outside of holistic new-agey circles without the internet… and the internet allows wacky rumors to get a lot farther a lot faster than before. The way to combat that, however, is with more and more and more transparency. And more and more and more information.Report

          • Nob Akimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

            While on some level I think increasing the amount of raw information available from first hand accounts is useful (perhaps there should be some method to make say all medical research journals free to access for ANYONE, with the minimum of a readable abstract) having information out there without giving people the means of sifting through the good and the bad is problematic, because more often than not bad information is broadcast more loudly than good information…

            Which I suppose returns us to the issue of education…Report

            • greginak in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              There was money is the bills for increasing funding for comparative effectiveness research so we would know what treatments worked well. The republicans fought it and may have got that out of the current bills. Somehow they thought it was a bad idea.Report

  11. greginak says:

    I just read a bit about a large advocacy group that i won’t name (because i forgot the name and am to lazy to find it) who is putting a pile of $$$ into pro-reform commercials. The protesters have been getting a lot of press, but there will be push back by the pro-reform side especially when there is actually a bill to push.Report

  12. EngineerScotty says:

    Putting on the tinfoil hat for a second, and given Obama’s penchant for the long view…
    what if this is all part of an effort to orchestrate the ouster of Senate Majority leader Harry Reid? Lots of Democratic activists despise the Majority Leader–both on grounds he’s too conservative and doesn’t represent the caucus well, and on grounds that he isn’t effective in the post. Reid does have sufficient support from his colleages at this time and hasn’t been challenged as ML, at least not yet.
    But what happens if (when) a major piece of the President’s domestic agenda, fails to get through the Senate despite a 60-40 majority in the Democratic caucus? As stated above–Democratic senators joining GOP filibusters against key legislation is a major failure of caucus leadership. I don’t mind if the Max Baucuses of the world vote against the final bill; but they ought aid in preventing their party’s agenda from coming up for a vote.
    This speculation is probably wrong, but its fun to engage in nonetheless…Report

  13. Jaybird says:

    It seems to me that there are several different types of political arguments.

    1) Arguments to get your base riled up and wanting to vote.
    2) Arguments to get people on the fence wanting to vote for you more than they want to vote for the other guy.
    3) Arguments to get people on the other side’s base to get demoralized and have better stuff to do than vote for you (or become #2s).

    If your category one argument pisses off more category 2s than it fires up category ones (and does nothing to change category 3s, or worse, actually gets them even more fired up), your argument is a failure.Report

  14. Bruce Smith says:

    All the Gallup poll indicates is an awful lot of people too lazy to think in any depth about health care reform.Report

  15. nickzi says:

    Well, I don’t think one poll, with fairly limited findings, should be taken with too much seriousness. When one considers the steady drumbeat of lies, innuendo and sheer idiocy from the “protestors”, you could just as easily argue that they’ve picked off the lowhanging fruit of people who just wanted an excuse to play that old “Government is evil” LP one more time. Let’s see how things go when Obama really gets down to selling these reforms. There is a good and powerful case to be made, and, if he makes it, I think he’ll get a decent bill out of it. If he doesn’t, then 2010 may well be unpleasant for Democratic Congressmen – but that’s what you deserve if you can’t manage to hold a majority together to make things happen.
    One point that is simply wrong in this debate is the appeal to a magical golden age where LBJ would simply have got things done, and the implication that therefore Obama just has to channel his inner LBJ and presto, one perfect health reform. If you look at the facts of what LBJ achieved, he worked with two parties that were much less rigidly divided in terms of partisanship, and an electorate that was also more likely to shift and change its mind, rather than simply following its chosen parties fairly predictably. If you consider the arc of LBJ’s career, he started out as a pretty liberal Roosevelt Democrat, and made himself over post WW II into a conservative-leaning Dixiecrat, who was willing to defer Civil Rights in favor of economic progress for minorities, and who, as a result, offended the Texas NAACP quite badly, before coming back to more liberal positions later on . When you look at his later legislative success, he was able to do it precisely because the parties had not calcified into such rigid divisions along ideological lines. I suspect that if LBJ were alive today he would find himself in as much difficulty as Obama when it comes to Blue Dogs versus Progressives and so forth.
    I have to point out on an incidental note that ‘Thou” is not necessarily offensive. Historically, like the German “du”, it is simply indicative of more intimacy, and so can be either affectionate, or else used to indicate an absence of respect. Its default setting though is much more towards relaxed, friendly goodwill than contempt.Report

    • Robert in reply to nickzi says:

      I don’t believe I said there was anything “magical” about LBJ. I’m just saying that he and the other great Democrat leaders mentioned above wouldn’t have “lost control of the debate” in this way. Your point is well taken that the Congressional landscape and dynamics have changed considerably since then, but human psychology has not, and my point that Pelosi and co. have said said things that just make it harder to get a bill done stands. In my opinion, the White House operation has been better, but not greatReport

  16. nickzi says:

    But the problem is that you are attributing something to LBJ that’s essentially an unknown. We might do well to remember that it was LBJ who, in many ways, lost control of the macro debate about the Cold War, containment, dominos etc and convinced himself he had to go into Vietnam, and did so without adequately making the case to the nation, with disastrous consequences. It’s entirely possible that he would have lost control of this debate too. In fact, we might even ask whether the White House can control debates at all, in these days of mass media and the internet in conjunction. They can certainly stonewall, up to a point, but forcing through a narrative is much harder. How is a Democrat supposed to control the debate on Fox, for example?Report

  17. Michael Drew says:

    “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

    That’s lifted from three screen inches away, for what it’s worth.

    Some timely comments by a confirmed liberal icon on my favorite radio show and s a survey of the available evidence online have convinced me I am clearly wrong that the left has not made enough comments to the contrary to make people justifiably suspicious that reform of whatever kind isn’t targeted toward single payer. It’s very much out there, even if officeholders themselves have been largely on-message at least since spring. Typical Democratic message FAIL. Point Thompson.

    Just a couple things as a caveat —

    1) This problem was baked in the cake just based on what was already on the record from before decisions about what policy to pursue and how to sell it were made for this go-round. So they would have been tied to a drastic reform (single payer) in order to avoid the problem. I still strongly disagree that straight up single-payer was a viable starting point at this time in the country.

    2) This is a tertiary component of the overall message failure. Nate Silver had an absolutely devastating critique a couple weeks ago — I think it holds up rather well even with subsequent events:

    The only major concern I would add to what he lays out is general concern over who ends up paying for reform. Do the promises to the middle class hld up? (The answer over the long term is pretty obvious, but then it is without health reform as well.) Fears of a gradual back-in to single payer, while certainly more realistic than death panels, are still on the order of those in significance, and is a strong driver of opposition largely among a similar slice of the agitated grassroots, as well as the Cato Institute.

    I stand by the rest of my original critique of this post, though I may have to dive back in to re-justify my “fields of wrong” contention. But that’s not pleasant work for a Friday evening in which we’ve been exhorted to “Dance!”Report

  18. Robert says:

    I’ll just leave it at this–you can control what you say. You never could control the opposition, even when print and live speeches were the only media. To be precise, it’s Pelosi, Reid and the media supporters of this reform who have blown it. The whole of the Astroturf/Bought and Paid For/Racist aspersions, which could be read to apply to 77-year-old life-long Democrats who showed up at meetings is not only not true, worse, it’s BAD POLITICS. The great ones, whether LBJ, FDR or RWR, would never have talked in those terms, in public.Report

  19. nickzi says:

    Robert, it is arguable that you can control what you say – but nothing prevents Fox (or Palin or Grassley) from serial falsehood. I don’t think Pelosi or Reid said anything false or indefensible, and given what the GOP has done to perfectly reasonable legislation, not to mention Zeke Emmanuel, through selective quotation and falsehood, I don’t think it would make much difference what she or anyone else said. We saw the same game played out in 1994, when McCaughey emerged to peddle flagrant lies. It isn’t good enough that we blame those who suffer the lies – we should be asking why our political culture values falsehood over substance. I very much doubt that it would make any difference if FDR or LBJ etc were here today. The bitter truth is that we live in a broken culture and a divided society, with a deeply unhealthy tendency to put party before country. The result is a spiralling deficit, an increasingly ambitious global agenda which will bankrupt America sooner rather than later, and a total inability to achieve reasoned, intelligent, fact-based discourse. In such a climate, you could bring in the greatest statesmen in history, and they would be helpless.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to nickzi says:

      You are so very right. A key point of evidence is that basically every other inustrialized democracy has come to some consciously designed public-private solution in health care, because a pure laissez-faire approach is proven to have unacceptable social outcomes, (to say nothing of a completely broken regulatory regime on top of unstructured market chaos as we have). While many of these systems make brilliant use of market efficiency within a social structure, in this country nearly any such approach woud be demagogued as socialism or a government takeover. This while the most reliable voters in the population, and among the most susceptible to such rhetoric, are covered without question by their own dedicated government single-payer arrangement. It’s a distortion in the polity that I becoming increasingly convinced is a major contributing factor to our inability as a country to address this issue in a rational way.Report