Friday, July 31, 2009

Rhetoric and Persuasion

From the Washington Post:
President Obama has framed the health-care debate in Washington as a campaign against insurance companies whose irresponsible actions, he repeatedly says, must be reined in to control costs and improve patient care. In North Carolina this week, he told an audience that the existing system "works well for the insurance industry, but it doesn't always work well for you."

The message is no accident, as the president's chief pollster made clear in a rare public speech last month. Joel Benenson told the Economic Club of Canada that extensive polling revealed to the White House what many there had guessed: People hate insurance companies.

"Take the public plan, for example," Benenson said. "Initial reaction to it wasn't as positive as it is now. . . . But we figured out that people like the idea of competition versus the insurance company, and that's why you get a number like 72 percent supporting it."
Tangentially, I read lots of writers, like Ruth Marcus, who say the Wyden/ Bennett proposal would be their first choice for health care reform and immediately afterward say that there's no chance anything like it would ever be adopted. This is no doubt true but framing it as something unattainable doesn't do much to improve the bill's chances. I guess they use such statements to indicate that they "get" the political reality and all that, but analysts have a higher calling than just talking about what's politically viable at any one point in time. So, what kind of the rhetoric would push the Wyden/Bennett bill off the back burner?

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