Wednesday, February 24, 2010

We’re For What We’re Against

There’s an old joke: two little old ladies are having dinner in their hotel on Miami Beach. The first one says, “The food here is terrible!” The second replies, “I know, and such small portions!”

I was somewhat reminded of that when I saw this report that shows that while the public may be evenly split over the idea of healthcare reform, when they’re asked about specific items in the Democrats’ plans, the majority of people — even Republicans — are in favor of them.

This says a couple of things. First, the Republicans have been effective in scaring people with their bamboozlement about “government takeover” and “death panels,” but once they get a chance to look under the hood and see what’s actually being proposed, they want it. I’m not sure if I agree wholeheartedly with Oliver Willis’s declaration that “[e]ffectively, many of these people are dumb,” but it does show that they fall for Frank Luntz’s buzzword bingo of finding exactly the right way to frame the argument so that soundbites win over substance. (On the other hand, Oliver may have a point when some of the opponents of the public option were shouting “keep your government hands off my Medicare!”)

Second, the Democrats and the Obama administration have this notion that if you explain things patiently and without resorting to demagoguery, you might actually get your point across. After a while, all the shrieking about socialism and tax hikes becomes just noise, especially when the folks making the claims have nothing to support their dire predictions; they just shout louder. It may seem naive, but the way the Republicans are reacting to the televised healthcare summit tomorrow, it would appear that they realize that six hours of dialogue with the only teabags being the little ones on the coffee service table will take a lot of wind out of their gasbaggery. Their biggest fear isn’t that Congress will pass the bill but that the public will finally figure out that the GOP was opposed to something that the majority of the people want for no other reason than political gain and breaking President Obama.