Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 27, 2010

THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST HEALTH CARE DIDN'T END IN MARCH.... Many proponents of health care reform, including me, hoped the Affordable Care Act would enjoy broader public support as the intense dispute faded. The ACA would become law; Americans would learn more about it; new popular benefits would kick in; and Americans would invariably begin to appreciate it more.

That obviously hasn't happened, at least not yet. The numbers appeared to improve soon after President Obama signed the landmark bill into law, but in the ensuing months, support stalled and opposition inched higher.

One possible reason: those who invested heavily to kill health care reform kept investing to ensure Americans' hostility for the breakthrough accomplishment.

Opponents of the legislation, including independent groups, have spent $108 million since March to advertise against it, according to Evan L. Tracey, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks advertising.

That is six times more than supporters have spent, including $5.1 million by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the new law, Mr. Tracey said.

That's right, there's been more than $100 million in anti-reform advertising "since signed the bill into law in March. And many ads on health care contain multiple falsehoods and distortions."

I'm not arguing that the ACA would be wildly popular were it not for the attack campaign, but let's not forget, health care reform -- at a conceptual level -- has always been pretty popular. When President Obama first started pursuing this last year, opposition was initially very low. After all, he was elected in large part to deliver on reform after a century of trying.

What changed was a coordinated destruction campaign launched by insurance companies, right-wing activists, and Republicans desperate to prevent Democrats from completing a task that has eluded policymakers since the days of Teddy Roosevelt. They spent hundreds of millions of dollars to crush the effort, and they very nearly succeeded.

And when they came up short, they spent another $108 million to convince the public, with still more deceptions, to continue to disapprove of the effort they'd already been told not to like.

Ask Americans if they like the law, they'll say no. Ask Americans if they like the provisions in the law, they'll say yes. Why is that? Because some powerful folks -- some motivated by greed, others by petty partisanship -- have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to make the case that the law is somehow a bad thing. If they didn't, the law not only would be more widely appreciated, but Democrats would very likely be positioned to have a much better midterm cycle.

Voters' attitudes aren't exactly for sale, but you can rent a lot of ill will for $108 million.

Steve Benen 5:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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And exactly what can progressives & moderates do about it? How can we change this continuing stampede against facts, reason, and understanding because the more I read and listen to this, the more hopeless I feel.

Posted by: whichwitch on October 27, 2010 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

It certainly doesn't help that the law enjoys lukewarm support among progressives, at best.

Honestly, I thought Obama was going to be a great salesman; he certainly was during his campaign.

But his near absolute absence and inability to negotiate during the health care debate (that's certainly a misnomer) was eye opening.

I personally find it very hard to go to bat for a policy I'm not altogether on board with, and cringe a little every time I hear progressive radio tout it as a great accomplishment.

I'll be voting, but instead of proudly voting for someone, as I did in 2008, I'm going back to voting against someone.

Posted by: doubtful on October 27, 2010 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

(cue broken record)
Obama did not SELL HCR
He didn't SELL the recovery
If only the Goopers talk about HCR, that's what happens
The Presidency is a Bully Pulpit
(and stop channeling Michael Dukakkis)

Posted by: frisco on October 27, 2010 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Some pigs still look like pigs, even when you put lipstick on em.

Seriously have you read the bill?

A federal mandate (!) to ordinary citizens that they spend a portion of their DISPOSABLE income (over which the government has no jurisdiction and therefore, no authority) on private insurance.

No government supervision, oversight or control to regulate(1) premiums charged; (2) prospective, concurrent or retrospective review; (3) claims administration or provide a federal appeal process to take precedence over the profit-motivated decisions to deny claims; (4) the process of acceptance and rejection of insureds and disparity of treatment amongst the insured pool; or (5) exactly what is and is not to be covered as a bare minimum based on Medicare Parts A and B coverage, for insurance.

Please don't say "it's a start." It was a legislative gift to their insurance industry cronys and nothing more. Expanding existing programs (medicare, etc) would have accomplished what was needed.

Take away the mandate and what do you have? The option to buy private health insurance. Gee thanks.

Posted by: getaclue on October 27, 2010 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Look, I want single-payer as much as anyone. Feel free to join me at PHNP if you do. However, if you're calling the ACA a "legislative gift" to the insurance companies, then why are they spending tons of money to get it repealed?

Posted by: Adenovir on October 27, 2010 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

...then why are they spending tons of money to get it repealed? -Adenovir

They don't want it repealed; they want it revised.

Posted by: doubtful on October 27, 2010 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

don't forget, friends, obama gave his corporate buddies at chicago-based McDonalds a "free pass" on health insurance.

These folks need coverage more than most - probably almost all voted for "hopey-changey".


So how does everyone like chimpy's third term anyhow - reading steve's mindless boosterism, you would think that there was actually a real democrat in the white house.

There isn't.

Posted by: wee little winkie on October 27, 2010 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Back in September the White House launched a major media push to promote the benefits of the new law. Pushed it in the Daily Briefings with Gibbs, several major speeches from Obama (along with a Saturday radio address), Cabinet officials all over the place. It was greeted by crickets from the MSM and congressional Democrats were no where to be found.

All during the summer everytime Obama gave a major address on Healthcare it was ignored by the media. He gave what was probably one of the best defenses of Healthcare reform during the State of Union address and we spent 3 weeks talking about Joe Wilson and whether or not he was rude (including on this site). Virtually nothing about the actual content of the State of Union speech (go back a listen, it was awesome).

The 'bully pulpit' is a nice idea. But it doesn't mean diddly squat when the news doesn't cover any of the speeches, Saturday radio addresses or all the other times Obama speaks out on these issues. And it doesn't help when Congressional Democrats either don't echo the White House talking points or (far too often) outright contradict them. Or when the speeches are covered they talk about anything other than the actual content of the speech (the Joe Wilson silliness).

Posted by: thorin-1 on October 27, 2010 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

108 million could provide a lot of health care to poor people.

Just saying, when you're knocking on heavens door, you might be sent packing.

Posted by: MobiusKlein on October 27, 2010 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

Well, gosh, like no one could have seen this coming from 1,000 miles away. This is one of the reasons I keep telling my Congressman that Washington Democrats, including the WH, always seem to be 25 beats behind the wingnuts on everything, and this in particular NEVER should have been allowed to get so out of hand, so early. A media effort launched months and months *after* the town hall garbage and everything that did is TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE. The far right framed it early and hard and Dems in Washington were caught clueless.

Posted by: Varecia on October 27, 2010 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

First we got Health INSURANCE reform not health care reform.

Second, there are more Democrats out there running against health insurance reform than there are Democrats out there selling it. So this is what happens when you aren't even sold on your own product. No one else is either.

Posted by: Henk on October 27, 2010 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

No government supervision, oversight or control to regulate(1) premiums charged;

That's weird, because Kathleen Sebelius sure thinks she has the right to oversee insurance companies and has been warning them that their current shenanigans with raising premiums may disqualify them from participating in the exchanges.

So is Sebelius confused and just thinks she has regulatory power over the insurance companies that she doesn't actually have? Or are you completely full of shit and posting bald-faced lies about the law?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on October 27, 2010 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, relax, they'll fix it later!

Just like FISA.

Oh, wait...

Posted by: getaclue on October 27, 2010 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

Another reason: Democrats stopped talking about anything positive about it.

Watching Obama on the Daily Show tonight reinforced a sad fact about Democrats: they really thought 2008 was about American voters waking up and loving Democrats.


Americans hated George Bush. It wasn't people suddenly love our policies and principles and just passing good and not bad bills would build a new, enlightened electorate.

What a bunch of idiots.

Posted by: Buggy Ding Dong on October 27, 2010 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Many proponents of health care reform, including me, hoped the Affordable Care Act would enjoy broader public support as the intense dispute faded."

Then you're a fool. With "true progressives" being just as much against Obama as teabaggers, any such hope is asinine.

Posted by: sherifffruitfly on October 28, 2010 at 1:54 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the growing uneasiness with the new health care law is familiarity. When it was first proposed as public, i.e. free, health care it was popular. After all, who doesn't want free health care? As details concerning the plan began emerging, uneasiness grew as people realized that it was not a simple matter of the government writing checks to cover their health care plans. The government would manage their health care, not just pay for it. You cannot have government involvement without politics. It was the details and politics of health care that put people off.

Posted by: Scott Griswold on October 28, 2010 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK



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