The Myths of the Battle of Health Care Reform

The relentlessly cynical and negative traditional media has talked itself into believing certain things about the fight over health care reform, whether there is any serious evidence beyond their own self-reinforcing stories or not. Unfortunately, what happens when these kind of stories are written, everyone - Congresspeople, unnamed lobbyists, unnamed administration, other journalists, progressive activists, and bloggers - then reacts to these stories, usually to reinforce their own point of view or their client's interest.

The problem is that so many of these assumptions are unproven/unknown at best, or downright mythological at worst. Having been deeply immersed in both the lasting health care fight in 1993-94 and this one today, I feel fairly confident in pointing out some of these things that most traditional media reporters seem to believe as gospel that in fact are not all certain. Let me just mention a few of the biggest:

I. Serious Health Care Reform is Dead or on "Life Support"

Versions of this story have been floating around for many months now, with reporters eager to cover a train wreck and flaming failure for Obama.

Now don't get me wrong: I don't want to imply that reporters particularly want health care reform, or Obama, to fail. They just like to declare everything a failure. In the 1992 campaign, reporters and pundits declared Clinton to be a walking corpse after Jennifer Flowers, the draft dodging thing, the didn't inhale quote, the brutal NY primary, after Perot got in, several other times as well. They declared the 1993 Clinton budget dead at least a dozen times before we passed it, and the same thing happened with the 1994 crime bill. After the '94 elections, they declared Clinton gone, irrelevant, powerless, certain to be defeated many times before he smoked Gingrich in the '95 budget battle and went on to another electoral vote landslide in '96. They declared that it was a matter of days before his resignation after the Lewinsky scandal broke, and that he would be forced out of office for sure after the news about her dress came out. They declared Gore toast before he won the popular vote in the 2000 elections, and Kerry dead in the primaries before he won in Iowa. They said Hillary Clinton was the nominee for sure in the fall shortly before Obama won in Iowa. This year so far, they declared the stimulus in deep trouble, right before it was passed, and Obama's budget in a world of hurt shortly before it passed.

A strong comprehensive health reform bill (yes, with a public option) has passed four committees so far, and according to public statements by members and private vote counts a lot of us advocates have been doing, we are well within range of victory. House Progressives have the votes to defeat anything without the public option, and they are still standing firm. Strong health care reform, with a public option, is far from a done deal, but it is quite alive, thank you.

2. The town halls and August recess have been a disaster for health care

The yelling, Hitler comparisons, and people bringing semiautomatics to events made for great theater, but the reality on the ground was very different. In the local newspapers and monitoring by Congressional offices I am aware of, supporters of health reform out-numbered opponents at most places. The swing Congressional offices I have talked to received more calls, faxes, mail, and email from supporters than opponents. And I have yet to talk to any members of Congress, or even their staffers, even the more conservative ones, who have said to me that they have come out of the August recess wanting to give up on or even slow down on health care reform.

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