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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Stuck in the Middle: The Enthusiasm Gap

Back during the campaign, I remember one Obama ad. It went something like this. He said that government run health care was "extreme". He also said that market oriented health care was "extreme". That's why he favored a "moderate" plan that combined the two. By doing so, he presented his health care plan as the "moderate" plan. It obviously worked since he's now the president.

One of the biggest criticisms of the president was that he was an extremist. He tried to moderate his image throughout the election and again it worked. He tried to split the middle in the campaign and it worked. On the other hand, splitting the middle in legislating, at least as far as health care is concerned, appears to be his undoing. There are currently four positions in which people are passionate toward health care. The first position is opposed to the health care plan currently making its way through Congress. The second position of passion is for single payer. The third position is in favor of reform in general. The fourth position of passion is against any reform.

You'll notice that in the middle of all this there is no passion for the president's reform. Even those that support the president only support him because they believe strongly that the system is broke and needs fixing. Those folks are passionate in picking apart what's wrong with the system now. They are passionate that the president is doing the right thing in tackling the issue. They aren't passionate in believing that he has it right.

In fact, the real passion as far as specific reform is concerned is in single payer, or socialized medicine. A recent Rasmussen poll found that 62% of Democrats favor single payer. If the president wanted to get people passionately excited about HIS health care reform, he would propose single payer. Of course, he isn't proposing that, at least not outwardly.

At the same time, many of the folks that oppose the president's plan oppose because they fear it's a back door way toward single payer. This fear is reinforced when both Barney Frank and Jan Schakowsky proclaim that this bill is a gateway toward single payer. It's reinforced even more when video from 2003 show then State Senator Obama signing onto single payer. In that same poll, 57% of the voters at large oppose single payer. So, the president gets passionate opposition even though outwardly he isn't for single payer.

At the same time, passionate supporters of single payer also passionately oppose this plan because it doesn't go far enough. A great example is the president's own former doctor, Dr. David L. Scheiner.

I speak to you today as an advocate for the single-payer approach to health reform, an expanded and improved Medicare for all, but I am hoping that President Obama and Congress will hear me also. As some of you may know, I was supposed to be at the recent town hall meeting at the White House where I was to ask a question of the president, but my visit was cancelled at the last minute, presumably to prevent the national airing of my views on health reform. Is the single-payer message so dangerous that it cannot even be discussed by Congress and the administration?

(Dr. Sheiner is opposed to the president's plan) So, talk about a political conundrum. The president is opposed by those passionately opposed to single payer because they think that's where he's headed. He's also opposed by passionate supporters of single payer because they don't think he's going there. The president has found himself in a dubious position of having political opponents both opposing him passionately over the exact same issue.

That's what happens when you try and moderate for political purposes. I think that if you asked the president in a moment of honesty he would say that he favors single payer. In fact, at yesterday's town hall event he said that he opposed single payer because it would create "too much disruption" to the system. He didn't say he opposed it because he thought the system was bad but that moving to it right away would be disruptive.

That's why groups on all sides are so opposed to the president's plan. He's produced a plan that tries to please everyone. By doing so, he pleases no one. He's produced a plan that is based on politics rather than based on his principles. As such, he's created a piece of legislation that no one is excited about, and a lot of people are passionately opposed to.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, that's basically it. The Democrats seem to think the only way they can win elections is by pretending to be conservative rather than making people liberal.

The Republicans don't seem to have that problem. Then again, the Republicans also seem to think that people who disagree with them shouldn't live in this country.