Frightening America Out of Healthcare

There was an election in November, 2008. You may recall it. A person of color with a vaguely suspicious first and last name — and a positively terroristic middle name — was on the ballot, promising “change” and “new beginnings” and all that hoo-hah. The other guy was reassuringly old and white and aligned with the political party that had run things for the past eight years (although it felt more like 16). 

Folks on the reliably destructive Christian Right did their best to intimidate voters, employing the predictably ruthless email and Internet smear campaigns that had worked wonders for them since the days of Ronald Reagan. A variety of self-interested corporations bankrolled advertising that reminded the lazy populace that reason and argument weren’t really all that important; if you couldn’t feel safe from evil fanatics with beards, why waste time discussing the so-called “issues”?

Miraculously, inexplicably, it didn’t work. Voters had finally had enough of failure, and they recognized that change, even uncertain change, is sometimes better than wallowing in the mire of the status quo.

Sadly, depressingly, less than a year later, it’s working this time, again.

Now that the discussion is about revamping our dysfunctional healthcare system, fear of the new and different is winning out. Too many Americans are being convinced that the broken, patently horrible system that they’ve endured for most of their lives, the one that sets the United States apart from every other civilized country on the planet, isn’t bad enough to warrant trying something radically improved.

I don’t have enough time, space, or tendon elasticity to enumerate point-by-point how and why many of the ideas proposed by the Obama administration and others who support reform are better than what we have now. I do, however, have the inclination to say this: If you think your family, your neighbors, and your fellow citizens will be collectively better off under the current healthcare configuration than with any randomly chosen alternative, you must be fabulously rich or fabulously deluded.

That we are even having a debate about healthcare reform seems absurd. Is there really anyone, including those in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, who thinks we can’t do better? This protracted fiasco brings whole new depth of meaning to the word “conservative.”

But as the Obama camp pointed out last week, “there are those who profit from the status quo, or see this debate as a political game, and they will stop at nothing to block reform.” They are filling the airwaves and the Internet with outrageous falsehoods to scare people into opposing change. And some people, not surprisingly, are getting pretty nervous.

Fighting lies with truth is usually a pretty good strategy. But when you’re dealing with fear — aside from love, the emotion most immune to reason — truth isn’t nearly strong enough. Smart operatives working to get healthcare reform mandated, legalized, and enabled need to recognize the irrational emotions involved, and they need to play to them. The debate is over. The charades have begun. And this time they’re a game we can’t afford to lose.

You may also like...