The Keith Olbermann show on Friday spotlighted the Americans for Prosperity memo that coaches AFP adherents in tactics for disrupting town halls. Guest host Richard Wolffe offered friendly advice to Democratic Congressmen planning to offer town halls during the August recess:
Those angry protestors who will disrupt your attempts to talk with your voters, and trust me, they will, are being coordinated and coached by industry funded rightwing operatives. … And there’s a good chance they don’t even live in your district. One conservative front group is now busing people from all over the country to protest against Democratic members, a strategy endorsed by Republican Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas, who told Politico.com that the days of civil town halls are now over.
After covering the memo, Wolffe interviewed senior Obama aide David Axelrod and asked him a question I want answered: “Have you lost control of the framing of this debate?”
Axelrod’s answer dismayed me. He said they had not–and proceeded not to talk about framing at all.
I’ll tell you why I don’t think we’ve lost control of the debate. Because I think every month people are still paying their health care premiums, and they know that they’ve been going up ten percent a year. Every day, people are dealing with these growing out of pocket costs for their health care. Every day, small businesses are dropping people, large businesses are cutting back what they’re willing to cover for their employees. This is a problem that people live with every single day, and as a result, they want us to do something about it.
Excuse me, Mr. Axelrod. Although high health insurance premiums have certainly made health insurance reform necessary–and changing “health care reform” to “health insurance reform” is effective framing–that regrettable fact does not speak to Woolf’s question about framing. Y’all are doing a slipshod job in that department. Using the phrase health “insurance” reform is not, by itself, going to reverse the sagging poll numbers on the health care issue.
In part, the change is a hard sell because, despite the need for it, too many people–those on Medicare–already got theirs and thus fear change. Balloon Juice cites a study that says:
By a margin of three to one, 36% to 12%, adults 65 and older are more likely to believe healthcare reform will reduce rather than expand their access to healthcare.
John Cole’s comment on those stats is:
I read somewhere that the fact that our seniors are all covered by medicare really makes health care reform difficult. When the most reliable voting bloc already has their coverage paid for by the state, all the Republicans have to do is peel off a few other haves and convince the old folks that Obama wants to euthanize them.
I don’t know what the framing ought to be: “Medicare for those that want it,” maybe? I do know that the issue is crazy complex, and it’s not being sold convincingly–which is exponentially harder when the MSM doesn’t do its job: when it ignores what Americans for Prosperity is up to at town halls and when it fails to call Republicans out on their blatant euthanasia lies.