Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What All the Health Care Talk Is Really About

There we have it. Senator Reid couldn't have said it better. It's about us, our stories, our struggles, our health care. Besides, I thought this would be a nice segway from all the talk lately of the politics of Harry Reid and 2010 to the facts of the matter.

We haven't stopped by and visited Desert Beacon in some time, and that's all my fault. Sorry. Now pay attention to what she says:

The difference between legislation and public relations (campaigning) also serves to obfuscate the issue. This crucial difference gets lost in the efforts to offer prognostication about the passage of reform measures. There is a common narrative in American political reporting which is often more applicable to NASCAR than to the legislative process. Simply put, the narrative seeks to find winners and losers, who is leading, who is behind, whose poll numbers are up, and whose are down. What is the "percentage" prospect that a particular bill will be passed, and what are the "odds" it will fail? This narrative frame works well when discussing which drivers have the best statistical chance of placing in the top 12 contestants for the Sprint Cup, but not quite so well when attempting to explicate the legislative process.

The narrative frame is useful for describing the political implications and ramifications of races, national, statewide, and district; but, it rarely serves well as a vehicle for policy analysis. The upshot is that Americans get a healthy serving of political news each and every day, but not quite so much in the way of legislative process information, and even less policy analysis and discussion.

Most of the stories from political reporters are precisely what a reader should expect from political reporters...politics: The summation of poll numbers; The probability of electoral success; The nature and viability of the opposition. If we take as given that most of the news average citizens are getting about health care reform legislation pertains to the political maneuvering and ramifications thereof, then it's easy to conclude that process will run second, and the policy analysis will be the stepchild in the narrative. This, too, adds to the confusion factor.

The health care reform legislation debate is a prime example of how imbalances in coverage (or perceived coverage) translates into electorate confusion. Republicans are eager to note that they've captured the "narrative," and that the Democrats have made inadequate efforts to secure public favor for their proposals. But, wait; notice the internal numbers in the polling cited in the opening paragraph. Only 9% of Nevadans are pleased with the status quo. Only 16% say the system needs only minor changes. If the Republicans are pointing to a generic dissatisfaction with Democratic proposals, they may be missing the specific dissatisfaction with the status quo they are attempting to maintain. In short, the GOP may have "won" the road race narrative but appear to be well behind in policy acceptance, perhaps because legislation doesn't happen on a perfect oval.

There you have it. Behind all the pundits saying this and predicting that, and behind all the confusion created by all the ads flooding the media, we have people who want to see reform but don't know what to think of what's being discussed in the media.

And of course, what Digby says:

In opinion polls a majority of the nation’s voters display generally progressive values. But they do not label themselves liberals. A majority of Americans (57%) also agree, “When something is run by the government, it is usually inefficient and wasteful.” Thus, a skeptical public needs to be convinced of the renewed competence of government. This is not an overnight task particularly in light of the massive failings of the Bush era. Activist government requires very good communication to the public. This is the President’s hallmark.

So this is the problem. Americans are increasingly espousing progressive values and support for "activist government", but they don't know yet if the government can actually be made to work. We can thank the GOP and "ConservaDems" for that.

And when they constantly hear of more corporate bailouts, more talk of protecting HMO profits, and more giveaways to the pharmaceutical companies, they must be wondering what this health care debate is really about. And again, this is the problem.

We need to cut through the lies and give people health care reform that they can understand and they will actually benefit from.

There. Simple as that. Perhaps Reid made some errors in letting "The Baucus Caucus" spend so much time confusing everyone over co-op this and co-op that, Perhaps Obama made some errors in not showing leadership early on in clearly defining what he wants presented to his desk to sign into law. Ultimately, there's still time to cut through the BS and deliver to the American people what they want out of this big mess.

Let's hope that happens ASAP.

No comments:

Post a Comment