As much as some would like to believe that the reason that Obamacare isn’t doing well among the American people has to do with “misinformation” being thrown about, in reality it is much more basic than that. Ramesh Ponnuru does a very good job of laying out the two conflicting portions of the promises made and why Americans aren’t buying the explanations given by politicians when they question them:
There are two basic points about health-care reform that President Obama wants to convey. The first is that, as he put it in an ABC special in June, “the status quo is untenable.” Our health-care system is rife with “skewed incentives.” It gives us “a whole bunch of care” that “may not be making us healthier.” It generates too many specialists and not enough primary-care physicians. It is “bankrupting families,” “bankrupting businesses” and “bankrupting our government at the state and federal level. So we know things are going to have to change.”
Obama’s second major point is that–to quote from the same broadcast–“if you are happy with your plan and you are happy with your doctor, then we don’t want you to have to change … So what we’re saying is, If you are happy with your plan and your doctor, you stick with it.”
So the system is an unsustainable disaster, but you can keep your piece of it if you want. And the Democrats wonder why selling health-care reform to the public has been so hard?
Add to this the fact that while Obama makes the promise about keeping your doctor and keeping your coverage, the legislation that has been passed out of committee in the House does not reflect that promise at all. Underlay all of that with the understanding most Americans have about the proven inability of government to handle anything in an efficient and cost-effective manner and you can understand both the angst and anger reflected out there today.
But Ponnuru’s point is very important – Americans may not be read in on the fine print and nuances of the bill (but then neither are the politicians who’re out there saying it’s the best thing since sliced bread without ever having read the thing), but they know enough to understand you can’t have it both ways. You can’t have a radical and complete overhaul of a system – changing the status quo – while at the same time, at an individual level, keep everything in the “status quo”.
And that’s what they’re fighting. The conflicting promises are obvious. Just as obvious then is one of those promises is a lie. And Americans have figured out which it is. Thus the roiling anger at townhall meetings that greet the purveyors of the lie and polls showing whopping majorities of Americans want nothing to do with this plan.
The left has a very short and convenient memory – it apparently begins at January 20th, 2009 and has no memory of , say, 2005. And the left now thinks that what his happening with these townhall meetings is simply unprecedented and a new, low chapter in right-wing extremism.
But as Jon Henke reminds us, this is nothing new:
* NW Progressive Institute, March 2005: “a boisterous crowd which frequently interrupted the discussion with shouts and hard nosed questions. … Democrats in the audience who were interrupting the panel…. the crowd erupted in anger… Democrats in the audience started shouting him down again.”
* Savannah Morning News, March 2005: “By now, Jack Kingston is used to shouted questions, interruptions and boos. Republican congressmen expect such responses these days when they meet with constituents about President Bush’s proposal to overhaul Social Security.”
* USA Today, March 2005: “Shaken by raucous protests at open “town hall”-style meetings last month … Santorum was among dozens of members of Congress who ran gantlets of demonstrators and shouted over hecklers at Social Security events last month. Many who showed up to protest were alerted by e-mails and bused in by anti-Bush organizations such as MoveOn.org and USAction, a liberal advocacy group. They came with prepared questions and instructions on how to confront lawmakers.”
You must understand that when Democrats did it in 2005, it was political dissent. Now that the right is engaged in the same sort of behavior, it is “political terrorism”.
They really don’t like it when their own tactics are used against them, do they?
Peggy Noonan, in her WSJ piece today, said this:
We have entered uncharted territory in the fight over national health care. There’s a new tone in the debate, and it’s ugly. At the moment the Democrats are looking like something they haven’t looked like in years, and that is: desperate.
If you’re wondering what that desperation looks like, Steve Pearlstein of the Washington Post provides the example:
The recent attacks by Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers on the effort to reform the health-care system have been so misleading, so disingenuous, that they could only spring from a cynical effort to gain partisan political advantage. By poisoning the political well, they’ve given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They’ve become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.
Of course there’s no mention of the multitude of lies propagated by those pushing this legislation – like taxes won’t go up, like the public option won’t eventually drive private insurance out of the market, or like Obama’s promise about keeping your doctor and your insurance aren’t reflected in the current version of the legislation.
Nope, those who oppose it and actually try to bring these things to light are now “political terrorists”.
That is so over the top that it is hard to find the proper words to reflect my indignation. Dissent is now political “terrorism”. Again the desperate left shows it is immune to irony and completely blind to its own hypocrisy.
But it should come as no surprise that an ideology which is, at base an authoritarian one would want you to just shut up and let their elite decide what is good for you. Here are couple of vids to show you who the “political terrorists” are and what they’re thinking:
Democrats are playing a very, very dangerous game with all of this. If they continue to try to squelch dissent and mischaracterize the citizenry as it tries to express its views in opposition to what they’re doing, 2010 will be a bloodbath for them.
They need to realize that they’ve totally misread the tea leaves of the election and this is obviously not what the American people want. If they ram it through despite what polls tell us is majority opposition to this legislation, they may very well see a completely different Congress in a year.
Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t an “extreme right-wing mobster” doing the attacking. The scene was a townhall meeting in St. Louis, MO. The report is from the St. Louis Dispatch:
Kenneth Gladney, 38, a conservative activist from St. Louis, said he was attacked by some of those arrested as he handed out yellow flags with “Don’t tread on me” printed on them. He spoke to the Post-Dispatch from the emergency room at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center, where he said he was awaiting treatment for injuries to his knee, back, elbow, shoulder and face. Gladney, who is black, said one of his attackers, also a black man, used a racial slur against him before the attack.
“It just seems there’s no freedom of speech without being attacked,” he said.
So now we have violence introduced into these meetings where none existed previously.
And what’s been the only change?
The mobilization of unions to counter the protesters from the right.
Yeah, nothing can go wrong with that plan, can it?
UPDATE: Video of the attack.
Listen at about the 1:00 mark when one of the thugs that attacked him claims that Gladney “attacked America”. Also note that the black guy who runs away in the beginning is wearing a union tee-shirt as is the guy who is eventually arrested.
We now have real paid organizers promising to produce bodies to confront the citizenry showing up at townhall meetings to loudly voice their disapproval.
The nation’s largest federation of labor organizations has promised to directly engage with boisterous conservative protesters at Democratic town halls during the August recess.
In a memo sent out on Thursday, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney outlined the blueprint for how the union conglomerate would step up recess activities on health care reform and other topics pertinent to the labor community. The document makes clear that Obama allies view the town hall forums as ground zero of the health care debate. It also uses the specter of the infamous 2000 recount “Brooks Brothers” protest to rally its members to the administration’s side.
What could go wrong with this scenario? First, who says they’re all “boisterous conservative protesters?” This is about union members going to an event expressly to confront those who are voicing a dissenting opinion and quelling that. Talk about setting themselves up for a huge “fail”. Talk about setting themselves up for a huge backlash.
“The principal battleground in the campaign will be town hall meetings and other gatherings with members of Congress in their home districts,” reads the memo. “We want your help to organize major union participation to counter the right-wing “Tea-Party Patriots” who will try to disrupt those meetings, as they’ve been trying to do to meetings for the last month. …
Yeah, nothing could go wrong here.
But, of course, since this is true astroturfing, there’s a political payback being demanded:
But while the union conglomerate seems poised to flex its political muscle on Obama’s behalf, it may find some friction on the policy front. Detailed in Sweeney’s memo are certain legislative priorities that are clearly at odds with what seems likely to be produced in the Senate Finance Committee’s compromise bill.
Sweeney describes it as a “requirement that ALL employers ‘pay or play,'” that the final bill have “a robust public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers and drive down health costs,” and that the legislation contain “relief for company/union funds providing pre-Medicare retiree coverage, and no taxation of health benefits!”
Yes friends, these protesters will truly be paid protesters. If they help intimidate the citizenry at the townhall meetings, then they expect to see their legislative desires fulfilled.
As the AFL-CIO spools itself up to confront the “mobs”, its secretary issues the battle cry of the astroturfer:
Every American has the inalienable right to participate in our democratic process. Our politics is passionate, heartfelt and often loud — as was the founding of our nation. But that is not what the corporate-funded mobs are engaging in when they show up to disrupt town halls held by members of Congress.
Major health care reform is closer than ever to passage and it is no secret that special interests want to weaken or block it. These mobs are not there to participate. As their own strategy memo states, they have been sent by their corporate and lobbyist bankrollers to disrupt, heckle and block meaningful debate. This is a desperation move, meant to slow the momentum for change.
Mob rule is not democracy. People have a democratic right to express themselves and our elected leaders have a right to hear from their constituents — not organized thugs whose sole purpose is to shut down the conversation and attempt to scare our leaders into inaction
We call on the insurance companies, the lobbyists and the Republican leaders who are cheering them on to halt these ‘Brooks Brothers Riot’ tactics. Health care is a crucial issue and everyone – on all sides of the issue – deserves to be heard.
Does anyone out there have to wonder what tactics they’ll use to ensure others are “heard”? Republican can only pray they do.
It apparently was manufactured by lefty blog Think Progress.
Mary Katherine Ham takes a look at the “shocking, secret memo” that Think Progress “”unearthed and the DNC prominently displayed in their ad attacking those who are protesting at townhall meetings as “right-wing extremists” put up to the task by high-profile Republican groups.
As it turns out in this case “high-profile” means no one had heard of him, he is a libertarian and his “group” consists of 23 Facebookers who’ve joined his cause and 5 followers on Twitter.
When the “manufactured” outrage the Left is trying to demonize lines up so inconveniently with public polling, it’s sometimes necessary to create evidence for the “manufactured” storyline.
Enter Think Progress, which unearthed this shocking, secret memo from the leader of a small grassroots conservative organization in Connecticut, which allegedly instructs members on “infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress.”
Right Principles PAC was formed by Bob MacGuffie and four friends in 2008, and has taken in a whopping $5,017 and disbursed $1,777, according to its FEC filing.
“We’re just trying to shake this state up and make a difference up here,” MacGuffie told me during a telephone interview. He’s surprised at his elevation to national rabble-rouser by the Left.
Read all of MKH’s story about this elevation of a absolute unknown to an evil political manipulator by a blog, a national political committee and a willing network (naturally MSNBC jumped on this like a duck on a junebug).
In the meantime Jake Tapper has a report by Steven Portnoy about a townhall meeting in Mardela Springs, MD:
There were no lobbyist-funded buses in the parking lot of Mardela Middle and High School on Tuesday evening, and the hundreds of Eastern Maryland residents who packed the school’s auditorium loudly refuted the notion that their anger over the Democrats’ health care reform plans is “manufactured.”
“I went to school in this school,” a man named Bob told me. “I don’t see anyone in this room that isn’t from Mardela Springs right now.”
“We’ve been quiet too long,” said a woman named Joan.
So much for the “manufactured outrage” meme. Oh they’ll keep trying, but it appears the outrage is genuine and the only thing being manufactured is a story line by the left.
This sort of grassroots dissent obviously makes them very uncomfortable. And, of course they’re in denial right now – how could it turn around this fast to where they, who were on the offensive for at least 4 years, are suddenly on the defensive? The easiest thing to do is hand-wave the troubles away and deny their importance.
Well, they do that at their own political peril. This seems to be far more than a few angry right-wing dissidents as was evident when a registered Democrat called Steny Hoyer a liar the other day in a townhall meeting.
People are rightfully worried about the direction this current government has taken, and, apparently, they’re not going to sit quietly by as they tax and spend us into penury.
The most recent Quinnipiac poll isn’t at all kind to “health care reform”. And, it should tell politicians all they need to know about what the priority of the American people is:
American voters, by a 55 – 35 percent margin, are more worried that Congress will spend too much money and add to the deficit than it will not act to overhaul the health care system, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. By a similar 57 – 37 percent margin, voters say health care reform should be dropped if it adds “significantly” to the deficit.
Voters know about political promises and “estimates” when it comes to cost. They are never – let me say it again – never accurate and they are always, again repeat, always on the conservative side. Or to say it more succinctly, they always cost more than the politicians say they will. This current version is said to conservatively add 1 to 1.5 trillion dollars in debt.
Voters also know that the CBO has twice come out and said this turkey will not “bend the cost curve” down. In fact Douglass Elmendorf, the director of the CBO has said all indications are it will bend that curve up.
Given that, the American people seem to be indicating rather strongly their preference for dropping this entire health care foolishness. And if that’s true and the Democrats ram something through anyway, they put themselves a real electoral risk.
By the way – if you thought the margins were rather large on the last question, check these out:
By a 72 – 21 percent margin, voters do not believe that President Barack Obama will keep his promise to overhaul the health care system without adding to the deficit, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University national poll finds.
I’m sure someone will send this poll to the White House office of fishy links, because this just can’t be right can it? This is a huge majority of voters saying that the bloom is off the rose as far as Obama goes.
And, another thing that politicians ought to be able to discern from these numbers is the anger out there is real and showing up at grassroots level at their townhall meetings. They dismiss them as “extremists” at their own political peril. According to this poll, there is a legitimate reason they’re shouting “just say ‘no'”.
Check out the politics of this thing:
American voters disapprove 52 – 39 percent of the way President Obama is handling health care, down from 46 – 42 percent approval July 1, with 60 – 34 percent disapproval from independent voters. Voters say 59 – 36 percent that Congress should not pass health care reform if only Democratic members support it.
Indies are deserting ship on health care big time. And, should Democrats try to use reconciliation to pass health care, they’ll pay for it heavily (if the Republicans have the wits to use such an abuse of power as they should during the mid-terms).
As for the sales job?
Voters are split 39 – 41 percent on whether the President’s health care plan will improve or hurt the quality of health care in the nation, with 14 percent saying it won’t make a difference.
Only 21 percent of voters say the plan will improve the quality of care they receive, while 36 percent say it will hurt their quality of care and 39 percent say it will make no difference.
Can you say “Edsel”?
Via Hotair, we see the Democrats’ poster child for intellectual firepower, Barbara Boxer, telling us these townhall protestors are fakes because they’re too well dressed.
The problem with this, of course, is that it doesn’t matter what the protestors do or how they act. Democratic propagandists will always tell us it’s wrong. If there were dressed like Code Pink wackos, then we’d hear how they are out of touch crazy people. If they’re quiet and just sit there in the townhalls, then the Democratic propagandists would claim it shows that most everyone is in favor of the healthcare bill(s). If they get up and make their displeasure known, then they’re disruptive extremists.
But Boxer is especially risible. I suppose coming from California, home of leftist protestors who sometimes wear no clothes at all, she really is suspicious when protestors dress like normal people. It must be some kind of plot! Activists just don’t dress like that!
The videos of what are described as “angry” townhalls around the country keep pouring in. Here’s one from Green Bay, WI.
Of course there are tons of others.
The Democrats and the left have answered the protests by claiming that they’re nothing more than “right-wing extremists” under the control of powerful interest groups. Thus the charge of “astro-turfing”.
These accusations by the DNC seem to ignore the Tea Party movement’s origins which was, on inspection, a true grass-roots movement (and one that has taken both Democrats and Republicans to task for their profligate spending). Notice too that they include the “birthers” in their vid to underline their “extremist” claim.
The White House, instead of trying to calm the waters, has chosen employ Saul Alinsky against the protesters:
A key part of the developing strategy: ridicule the opposition — and portray those who disrupt meetings with loud chants and signs as part of the same ilk of people who showed up at campaign rallies for John McCain and Sarah Palin right after the 2008 Republican National Convention.
So this turns into a propaganda war. The left will be attempting to turn public opinion against the protesters by portraying them a certain way.
Patronizing opponents is a tried and true tradition in Washington, and Democrats have used the tactic with success. They ridiculed the hundreds of thousands of conservatives who protested the stimulus package as “tea baggers.”
But Republicans are just as responsible for the perception. The folks who tend to show up at protest events tend to be to the right of the mean in the party. And, as the spread of the birther movement demonstrates, not a small chunk of these Republicans are reactionaries. The challenge for the White House and Democrats is that they find a way to separate genuinely anxious conservatives who ask good questions — even if those questions are provided by conservative groups — and the crazies who tend to pack town hall meetings.
Of course, most reasonable people would suggest, upon reflection, that if this was an “astro-turfed” movement, those who are paying for it would have much tighter control and avoid the obviously unhelpful signage and any connection with the birther movement. That’s obviously not the case.
So the right and Republicans have the momentum, at least for now, but it isn’t clear if they have an advantage for the reasons stated.
The challenge for Republicans is to prevent the media from labeling everyone who attends a meeting with a Democratic lawmaker and who calls him or herself a conservative as a crazy person. Some polling suggests that the percentage of Republicans who don’t know whether President Obama was born in the United States is fairly high, although it is hard to say how much of that confusion stems from ignorance or from a generally jaundiced, perhaps racist, view of the President.
A range of smaller, ideologically conservative interest groups are organizing the protests. Finding pockets of activist-oriented arch-conservatives in places like Texas, Missouri and Indiana is easy, especially if the set goal is to defeat Obama-care, which is being sold to these people as the approach of government-run health care, something that these folks have been worried about for years. Add to the mix a desire to hand the progressive President and his agenda a decisive defeat.
And there’s an interesting question about pushing back on the left – where are its activists and organizations?
The more troublesome question for Democratic strategists is why the major Democratic groups, including Organizing for America, the labor unions, Health Care for America Now, seem to be flatfooted and unable to match the much smaller conservative organizing capacity in these critical districts. One answer is that the media pays attention to the loudest voices, which are coming from the right. The other is that organizing around major — even popular — reforms of existing institutions is tough. The Democrats don’t have a single bill right now, and the elite left is worried about what’s not in the cards — a public plan — and is therefore fairly unenthusiastic. If the liberal elite isn’t enthusiastic, the liberal base — less knowledgeable — will be as well.
And of course, there’s the media – which, it seems, leans mostly toward helping the administration. For instance, the conclusion of the article from which I’ve been quoting from Mark Ambinder at The Atlantic:
To focus minds, Democrats are coordinating TV and radio ad blitzes, including the biggest expenditures by the Democratic National Committee to date. President Obama, his cabinet and his vice president will be ubiquitous. Quickly responding to disinformation will be a key goal, an administration official said, pointing to this morning’s release of a video from Linda Douglass, a former television and print reporter who serves as a key White House health care adviser, which rebutted a misleading video posted on the Drudge Report.
Linda Douglass “rebutted” nothing. She made a bunch of claims she’d have difficulty substantiating. But that is how it is being reported. The implication is that what is coming from the right is “disinformation” and the only true source of factual information is the White House.
I think we all know that dog won’t hunt.
But this should be a very, very interesting August.
[Welcome RCP readers]
How to explain what is going on with government today using a horror movie analogy:
Explains it pretty darn well, doesn’t it?