Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Town Bawls

Never underestimate the power of the volume of the thunderingly stupid.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is switching his message on his overhaul of the nation's health care system, readying a fresh pitch designed for those who already have insurance.

The White House is retooling its message amid polling that shows Americans — especially those who already have coverage — skeptical of the Democratic proposals to expand coverage to millions. Instead, Obama will use a potentially boisterous town hall-style meeting in New Hampshire to highlight how his proposals would affect workers whose employers provide their health insurance.

The shift also is a potential blueprint for lawmakers' August recess. Critics of the president's plan have grabbed headlines by disrupting town hall meetings, and the White House expects that Tuesday's event may be bumpy.

Frankly, I do not, but here's a highlight of the difference between the Bush empire and the Barack Obama republic: the seats were largely chosen by lottery, not party loyalty. Events are not staged and that means there will be people who play along and people who will be antagonistic.
Barack Obama can handle both, of course.
The larger reason I do not believe there will be major disruptions to the President's meeting is it would detract from the message of those who oppose healthcare. They frame it as preventing socialism. We frame it as a necessary feature of any democratic society.
The arguments for and against healthcare reform could not be starker, and the President and Congress have taken on a large task here and a big opponent: Big Medicine.
The most effective argument in Obama's arsenal right now is the clear message that there will be no forced switches of insurance plans, that there are no "death panels" (an odious and disgusting trope trotted out by the bloodthirsty fascists of the Palin Party), rebutted beautifully at that link provided by Southern Beale, and that this will actually save the US taxpayer money in the longer run.
It's an investment in our future.
The death panels meme, while offensive and outrageous and the type of tactic Joseph Goebbels would be proud of, seem to have taken on some resonance if you believe the mass media coverage of previous town halls held by Congresscritters. That theme shows up everywhere and it's clear that Congresscritters were not briefed in advance.
Had it been me talking, I would have said the following: "That is the single most absurd statement that I have ever heard in my entire life, and your teachers from kindergarten on up ought to cringe to think that you could so badly misunderstand the English language. The 'panels' of which you speak provide end-of-life counseling to help elderly patients and their families cope with the inevitable. Would you deny your grandmother a priest to talk with as she faces meeting her Maker?"
Which would shut him up and the rest of the pieholes who tried to throw that at me later.
And then, for good measure, I would add this, quoted from the Southern Beale link:
You have no idea what it's like to be called into a sterile conference room with a hospital administrator you've never met before and be told that your mother's insurance policy will only pay for 30 days in ICU. You can't imagine what it's like to be advised that you need to "make some decisions," like whether your mother should be released "HTD" which is hospital parlance for "home to die," or if you want to pay out of pocket to keep her in the ICU another week. And when you ask how much that would cost you are given a number so impossibly large that you realize there really are no decisions to make. The decision has been made for you. "Living will" or no, it doesn't matter. The bank account and the insurance policy have trumped any legal document.
If this isn't a "death panel" I don't know what is.
Insurance companies exist to make money off your death. Period. And that's the theme that Barack Obama needs to throw back at the unruly unwashed masses of the hateful and deceitful charlatans.
And this is exactly why, barring a madman on the waters, I believe the right wing astroturf organzations have worked tirelessly to ensure today's town hall does not become a madhouse. Barack Obama is a gifted debater and very good at confronting without being impolite. To give him a forum to be stern, to be Presidential, will create a blowback thus negating the very arguments the right wing wants to make.
The spectacle of such an unruly mob harassing the President over an issue nearly every American (80% or so) agrees need to be fixed when he's making an honest effort to do so will create an awful lot of sympathy and could create support for a plan that people on the right and left believe is flawed.
There will be debate, to be sure, but to disrespect the President of the United States will be seen as a signal that mob rule is imminent, and as with the student unrest in the 60s, will not be taken lightly. A polarization of this country at this time would be the wrong thing to do, and it would send a signal to the moderates of the nation that the right wing can be ignored.
So, while I do not think it will happen, I am praying for it.