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Better late than never

From the Hill, via Washington Monthly:

Say hello to “Medicare Part E” — as in, “Medicare for Everyone.”

House Democrats are looking at re-branding the public health insurance option as Medicare, an established government healthcare program that is better known than the public option.

The strategy could benefit Democrats struggling to bridge the gap between liberals in their party, who want the public option, and centrists, who are worried it would drive private insurers out of business.

While much of the public is foggy on what a public option actually is, people understand Medicare. It also would place the new public option within the rubric of a familiar system rather than something new and unknown.

What brilliant strategy! How could something so blindingly obvious have occurred to elected Democrats? It’s simply not in their nature. Couldn’t they have come up with something even more obtuse than “public option” to sell the plan? How about “non-insurance option”. That has a deadly ring to it.

I don’t want to beat my own drum, but no one else will, so it falls to me. I’ve been saying this for months. Consider this from a a few months back, when I was bemoaning Obama’s failure to effectively sell the public option:

This is what comes from fashioning your opening bid as something that you believe can be sold to an opposition that you should know will inevitably oppose anything you do. Had he started with single payer, he could have compromised down to a public option. How hard could it have been for him to realize that neither the Republicans nor the insurance companies would have gone with his opening offer, no matter how reasonable. How hard to see that advancing a confusing plan, just like Clinton did, gives our enemies a chance to confuse while making it impossible for your friends to explain. How much simpler would our job be if we were defending “Medicare for all”? That’s a program everyone understands, even the idiots attacking the public option while insisting that their Medicare be protected.

This doesn’t really prove anything about me. It does prove something about the PR blindness of the Democratic Party, which has consistently failed to sell its programs effectively. Partly because, like the battered spouse syndrome victims they are, they are deathly afraid of vigorously advocating for what passes as their beliefs. For thirty years the Beltway wisdom has been that government is not the answer, and they have now, despite all evidence to the contrary, come to believe that’s what the people out here really think. They now find themselves in the position of being dragged to where most of them want to be by a public that can no longer be fooled, for as Steve Benen points out, even given Obama’s failure to advocate for the public option, even given the media’s almost unanimous insistence that the “centrist position” is business as usual; even given the industry’s scare tactics, the public is increasingly warming to the idea:

As it turns out, reform advocates may not even bother with the rebranding effort, since the public option already enjoys broad national support, which seems to keep going up (though one wonders if the polls would be even better had “Part E” been the rhetorical norm from the beginning). So, don’t necessarily count on a big p.r. push on this, though we may start hearing the phrase far more often.

It would be a shame if they didn’t use it. Imagine where we’d be if the Democrats had actually taken control of the debate, rather than handing the entire issue to the tender mercies of Max Baucus and his insurance lobbyist friends. How easily could Baucus have opposed Medicare for all, like he opposed the public option?

Digby weighs in on this here.

One Comment

  1. Gramma wrote:

    I’ve been saying “Medicare for everyone” for months. Glad someone listened.

    Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

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