Plots and Thoughts

Health Care: Progressive Wonk Rhetoric Fail

Posted in Strategy by Captain Optimistic on January 9, 2010

Lindsay takes progressives and allies to task for tearing apart those of us who argue the Health Care bill is so pathetic and harmful it needs to die.  She effectively points out the concepts of negotiation and leverage so many powerful progressives fail to understand well enough to utilize.  However she leaves out a basic rhetorical concept that the right wing has mastered to the continuing detriment of the left: the overton window.

Lindsay observes:

Health care reform is no longer just an intellectual argument, it’s a negotiation. KTBers understand that. Wonky progressives cringe when KTBers say the bill will be worse than than nothing. When they say that, wonks hear a ridiculous overstatement. Which it probably is.

There is political power in ridiculous statements that goes beyond the act of negotiation.  If the discussion is dominated by those far to the right of our goal, and the only opposing voice is aiming for a position closer to the center than our real goals, we are losing ground.  We need people who are so committed to the ideal of universal care that they argue beyond single payer.  Where are the progressives arguing that the right to life enshrined in the constitution entitles every human being to free health care, food, and shelter?  We need people arguing that restricting our goal to only health care, and allowing co-pays at all, is a concession.  We need people arguing that health insurance companies provide such an essential service they have no right to exist as private for profit corporations!  These arguments need to be made with all the skill and fervor we can muster if they are going to be taken seriously enough to push the national discourse back towards an ethical resolution on health care reform.

If we are going to win, we need negiotiators and savvy rhetoricians applying leverage and changing the national conversation in our favor.  Whether or not the current bill passes, we as citizens need to use the above skills to ensure the next round of legislators are braver, shrewder, more effective and more loyal than our current batch.  This means discussing the health care reform effort as the monumental failure it is for failing to go far enough and in the right direction.

If we are going to win, we need to learn the lessons of negotiation and rhetoric well enough to become a political force to be reckoned with.

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