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August 26, 2009


ISTM Health Reform is failing because framing was use on smaller points, but neglected on the overall bill. In a few words, what is the essence of Health Reform?

During the campaign, I thought it was government-paid health coverage for all. But, single-payer was never part of the bill, and even a government option is negotiable, so apparently they're not central to the definition of Health Reform.

I'm left with three guesses:

1. Health Reform is big change in the current system. The current system is so bad that virtually any change will be an improvement. This guess is supported by what the President has said. He has effectively critiqued the current system, but provided only vague descriptions of what he proposes.

2. Health Reform is a stepping stone to single-payer. Various opponents of Health Reform have made this argument, but the proponents deny it.

3. Health Reform is an excuse to pass a Democratic wish list of items. That's what the Stimulus Bill largely turned out to be.

It's a classic arms race dynamic in which neither side improves their relative position and everyone ends up worse off.

Maybe I'm missing part of your argument, but my understanding of the classic arms race dynamic is that each party has to participate, because the first party to stop playing, loses. Doesn't that imply that the Democrats had to use framing to have any chance of success?

This seems to be the implication of your recent research as well. Partisan talking points get imbedded into the psyche and are hard to kill, even when facts are presented to disprove them.

A simple reading of that, suggests that an effective counter to an argument like "Democrats will kill your grandmother" is for the Democrats to respond with a similar attack against the Republican side, even if it's false.

Stalemate is almost always preferable to losing.

Jinchi, ISTM that when Dems called health reform opponents "terrorists", "un-American", and "racists", they made a more scurrilous attack than the Reps did with their mythical "Death Panels."

That's a matter of opinion, David, but I'm not trying to make a value judgment here.

My question is whether Brendan is describing a system in which either party could afford to forgo trying to "frame" the issue so long as the other party continued to do so.

Instead of using his powerful intellect and persuasive skills to lead a thoughtful, honest discussion of health care reform, President Obama chose to present his program as a shmoo, an animal that's the source of everything good, all benefit and no cost. He's made untrue statements of material facts and omitted to state necessary material facts. If he were selling a security, he'd be guilty of securities fraud.

Most Americans may not have the time, inclination or intelligence to study the issues closely, but plenty of them are smart enough to know that covering millions of people is going to impose significant monetary and non-monetary costs and that bending down the curve of medical costs is going to take more than elimination of duplicative x-rays and choosing the less expensive of equally effective treatments. They're capable of discerning baloney when it's served up to them.

This could have been a very different debate, with Obama playing the role of a trusted and trustworthy teacher. Instead, he's acted like a snake-oil salesman, and increasing numbers of the rubes ain't buying it.

Sort of off topic, I wonder if there is information available to allow some sort of quantitative comparison between right-wing agitators such as the tea-baggers and left-wing agitators such as 'Code Pink'. I was always irritated with Code Pink.

JP, it may be appropriate to call Code Pink "agitators", since they used street theatre and sometimes blocked traffic in ways not allowed by their permits. AFAIK the tea parties have simply been legal gatherings with speakers.

BTW a handful of morons on TV thought it was funny to pretend that the group called itself "tea-baggers", since that word has an unusual sexual connotation. The group themselves didn't use that name.

David, unfortunately for the teabaggers, they created the opportunity for having their name ridiculed. They chose an identity specifically because it was provocative, but it turned out to be provocative in a whole other way that they didn't forsee. And, the name is now pretty commonly accepted, not just by a handful of morons on TV.
Also, town hall disrupters used fear tactics to control the "debate," and they denied others their right to free speech, which is pretty un-American. I'd say those are accurate descriptions. Then, they say that Democrats want to kill grandma. No contest in the scurrillous department.

Actually, Raleighite, "teabaggers" is commonly accepted only among those who wish to defame and denigrate tea-party protesters, in the same way that the n-word was commonly accepted among racists, the k-word was commonly accepted among anti-Semites, the w-word and the s-word were commonly accepted among anti-Latinos, and the f-word was commonly accepted among homophobes. It's the kind of slur that was common in, say, Raleigh country clubs in the first half of the twentieth century. If you use "teabaggers," welcome to the club.

I disagree. I think many people who use the term have picked it up in passing and have no idea where it originally came from. It is hardly on par with the slurs you cite. That's a major stretch.
No matter anyway, as it's not like many people are talking about them at all anymore.

Amen to Rob's outstanding post.

Raleighite I have a question. The name "tea party" was chosen because they oppose higher taxes and feel (rightly or wrongly) that their POV is not adequately represented. In what way do you see that name as unusually provocative?

Also, I'm not clear what it means to "create an opportunity for having their name ridiculed." Any name can be ridiculed, if the people doing the ridiculing are sufficiently infantile.

I think you know why Tea Party was provocative -- it was designed to pick a fight, to paint the group as latter-day patriots.
Again, hardly worth spending time arguing over...the Tea Parties are over, right?

"teabaggers" is commonly accepted only among those who wish to defame and denigrate tea-party protesters

Sorry, Rob, but people started calling them tea baggers because many conservatives decided that the best way to have a Tea Party was to send tea bags to Washington.

Instapundit has a post titled: Tennessee Mom launches her own tea bag protest. Or you can go straight to freerepublic and read posts like "send a teabag to the White House (and your representative)", along with debates over whether tea bags are preferable to lose tea, or whether you should send a fax of a tea bag instead.

Millionteabags.org is a conservative site that was created to organize sending 1 million tea bags to Washington and you can still find Tea Bag t-shirts for sale at conservative web sites. Protesters also tied tea bags to their rear view mirrors or wore them on their hats.

And none of them thought twice about it until March when John Stewart pointed out that the phrase "teabag the White House" didn't mean what a Fox News host thought it did.

Jichi, props to you for bringing up the history of how people started using "teabagging". Nevertheless, that history does not justify using the term now as a political epithet.

Stewart is a comedian. He or his writers noticed that a group was using a term that had an obscure sexual meaning. He made a playground level joke out of it: "Ha, ha, they're using a dirty word!" However, that juvenile joke doesn't justify the continued use of the term with the implication that this alternative meaning has some significance.

Rush Limbaugh sometimes makes a joke by mispronouncing a name. E.g., he accents the first syllable of Al Gore's name, perhaps to make it sound like "algae." It might be funny to use that pronunciation if you're among a group of ditto-heads. But doing so in ordinary company would make you sound foolish or worse.

Raleighite, there are still plenty of tea parties being held. The media doesn't give them much coverage. IMHO that's because their message of opposing tax increases is not one that the media favor. See http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/08/28/tea.party.express/index.html BTW the article says TEA Party is an acronym for "Taxed Enough Already" -- a response to runaway government spending.

Today, they began Tea Party Express, a group that set off on a bus tour starting in Sacramento, California, and will finish in Washington D.C. on September 12. See http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/08/28/tea.party.express/index.html
It will be interesting to see how much coverage they can generate. History says, not very much.

BTW the Tea Party groups have taken a position of opposing the President's health care reform.

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