The Democratic National Convention sets a message on healthcare
In politics, it’s usually not about winning “the game”, but about determining which game is being played. For Democrats and Republicans, if they can make the presidential election about issues they are strong in, or more importantly, perceived to be strong in, they will likely win the day.
That is why, as I watched the Democratic National Convention, one conversation that the speeches and pundits kept on returning to was healthcare.
With the passing of the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare, the Democrats have a strong and very public hand to play. Now, the president and the Democrats did not convince everyone that Obamacare was in their best interest when the bill was being debated in Congress, and they have not currently convinced everyone of that fact either, but to a certain extent they don’t need to. What the long fight over the bill has done and what the continued noise about it does now, is equate the Democrats and the president with healthcare reform.
Those that oppose it probably wouldn’t vote for the president, for a variety of reasons. Those that are indifferent to it (the group that Democrats need to win), will now likely explore healthcare to determine whether or not they will vote for the president. While the bill had flaws, they will likely find that it was needed, and that Democrats at least made attempts to improve conditions. If undecided voters don’t look into the details of the bill, again, they will at least have the general impression that it is an area where the Democrats demonstrate strength.
Marketing healthcare as a central issue in this campaign, the Democrats brought out a variety of public figures that would carry the message to their expected audiences. Carol Berman addressed concerns of the elderly, a large voting block, citing free preventative care and cheaper drugs, while raising fear of Governor Romney’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program:
“Seniors will get a voucher to purchase health insurance, but the voucher won’t keep up with the costs, which could push people into private insurance plans…even though many seniors are on fixed incomes, it could add up to $6,400 more a year in out-of-pocket costs.”
The Honorable James Clyborn and Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago and President Obama’s former Chief-of-Staff, spoke on the benefits of Obamacare for families, children with pre-existing conditions, those that develop illnesses which could cause their plan to get dropped, and young adults having trouble finding work and needing to remain on their parents plan.
The First Lady, Michelle Obama, echoed the president’s position on women’s healthcare, strongly asserting that the president “believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our healthcare.”
Next to President Obama, the arguable winner of the Convention was former President Bill Clinton. His address aimed to counter the tone of the Republican National Convention, particularly Congressman Ryan’s speech, by focusing on policy specifics and fact-checking; quoting a Romney Campaign pollster that they “are not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” Indeed, Clinton’s success on this point of public perception was confirmed the next day when the veracity (what Stephen Colbert refers to as “truthiness”) of his information was ranked highly and contrasted to the lack of truthiness found in Ryan’s speech.
“Look, here’s what really happened…There were no cuts to benefits at all,” Clinton explained on the changes to Medicare. “What the president did was…cut unwarranted subsidies to providers and insurance companies that were not making people healthier and were not necessary to get the providers to provide the service…he used the savings to close the donut hole in the Medicare drug program…to add eight years to the life of the Medicare trust fund so it is solvent until 2024.”
Clinton spoke on the dangers of voting for the Romney-ticket, citing that it “want[s] to block grant Medicaid and cut it by a third over the coming 10 years. Of course, that’s going to really hurt a lot of poor kids. But that’s not all. A lot of folks don’t know it, but nearly two-thirds of Medicaid is spent on nursing home care for Medicare seniors who are eligible for Medicaid.”
“It’s going to end Medicare as we know it. And a lot of that money is also spent to help people with disabilities, including a lot of middle-class families whose kids have Down’s syndrome or autism or other severe conditions,” Clinton said, invoking a growing contingent of advocates for people with disabilities. “And, honestly, just think about it. If that happens, I don’t know what those families are going to do. So I know what I’m going to do: I’m going to do everything I can to see that it doesn’t happen. We can’t let it happen. We can’t.”
With Clinton giving details and statistics, by the time President Obama took the stage, he could focus on the rhetorical style he does best: disciplined but sweeping speech aimed to inspire.
The president underlined the diversity and needs of voters spoken to by the other Democrats. “I refuse to ask students to pay more for college…or eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor, elderly, or disabled – all so those with the most can pay less.”
Then addressing those disappointed by the lack of progress on numerous issues, the president argued that one of his primary promises since 2008 has been to lay foundations for long term systemic change, as opposed to the Republican program of cutting taxes and regulations.
“This is the choice we now face”, the president said. “This is what the election comes down to. Over and over, we have been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing. If you can’t afford health insurance, hope that you don’t get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that’s just the price of progress.”
The president concluded by framing how the popular movement and promises which first put him into office connect with the last four years which in turn relate to the vote on 4 November. “The election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens – you were the change. You’re the reason there’s a little girl with a heart disorder in Phoenix who’ll get the surgery she needs because an insurance company can’t limit her coverage. You did that. You’re the reason a young man in Colorado who never thought he’d be able to afford his dream of earning a medical degree is about to get that chance. You made that possible.”
“If you turn away now – if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible…well, change will not happen…Only you have the power to move us forward,” the president added, tying in the public as co-responsible for the success of his presidency and the health of the nation. “I’m hopeful because of you.”
Image from: http://www.news24.com/World/US-elections-2012
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