Friday, July 31, 2009

Dialing Back Expectations?

Charles Krauthammer parses President Obama's July 22 speech and spies the language of retreat:
But that bill will look nothing like the massive reform Obama originally intended. The beginning of the retreat was signaled by Obama's curious reference -- made five times -- to "health-insurance reform" during his July 22 news conference.

Over at Swampland, Karen Tumulty asked the president about the word change. She concludes:

The phrase "health insurance reform" is indeed an effort to tailor his message to the concerns of people who have coverage--who are, after all, the vast majority in this country.

Krauthammer claims this change in language represents a failure on Obama’s part, a dialing back of expectations. He’s only correct to a point. Obama certainly campaigned on an overhaul of our healthcare system, and I believe he had every intention of doing so, but the way this debate has been approached and framed from the get-go has always ensured we’d be talking about insurance reform.

If you look at who was invited to those White House meetings, it’s really always been about insurance. Every TV talking head, every Congress Critter, has always talked about insurance. Again, I’ve been talking about this for a long time, since I first clued in to how the healthcare narrative had become a health insurance narrative.

This debate is indeed a failure: a failure on the part of progressive groups to not get their ducks in a row and ensure we kept the conversation on healthcare, not just insurance. Because insurance is just one piece of the puzzle. We should have seen this coming, knowing the powerful and well monied corporate interests we’d be facing, realizing that the political status quo would guarantee any policy solution would focus on the corporate stakeholders while the rest of us would be left out. Business groups are always the squeaky wheel that gets the most grease; too often, the actual people are left out of the discussion.

If there was a failure to rally behind a single, simple message, it belongs on the left. Because we let the message be about health insurance, we won’t be getting the comprehensvie overhaul of our healthcare system that we need. We’ll get a little tinkering here and there. When we get to the end of this angst and rancor I fear we’ll have very little to show for it.