Barack Obama Health care Politics The Opinionsphere

“Fixing” The National Conversation

Obama with correspondence

[digg-reddit-me]Ezra Klein gives his dispiriting prognosis of the health care reform debate:

[E]ven if…the media has made some admirable efforts to combat specific lies, they — we — have allowed lies and chaos to emerge as the subject of the health-care reform debate.

He writes this while pointing out that more than half of polled Americans believe that the plans at issue now would amount to a “government takeover of health care” and would give coverage to illegals – despite the fact that both are untrue. Large percentages of Americans likewise believe that it would lead to government-financed abortions and the government “pulling the plug on grandma.”

What this suggests is that our national conversation truly is broken – that once you go negative enough, and negative consistently – you will have won. This obviously creates rather perverse incentives and leads to a system in which only changes that can be passed quickly – and without opposition from entrenched forces – will be effected. It would be a system in which only those regulations and reforms and changes that have concentrated benefits for a minority and disperse costs on the majority will pass. That’s basically the system we have now – as people from most ideologies can recognize.

But there are a few glimmers of hope. Barack Obama was the object of such a campaign of lies – but he still won a majority. And it must be true that the same tactics used repeatedly have a diminished effect.

I would argue though that the best way to “fix” the national conversation at this point would be for the Democrats to pass a health care bill with every demagogued position, make sure it would benefit a large majority of Americans in clear ways, make the implementation transparent, and let the lies meet the truth of the legislation passed. Once our politics takes this into account – that lies can be proven false by action and transparency – this particular tactic will no longer be effective.

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