August 10, 2009
Posted by: Andoni
What does trying to pass health care reform legislation have in common with trying to pass gay marriage in Vermont? Answer: in both cases there was/is a very vocal and energized opposition spewing lies about what passage would mean.
There is probably nothing one can say or do that would change the minds of the core people who find either gay marriage or health care reform repugnant. But there is something that can be done to immunize against those lies and help put a firewall in place between the liars and the public.
In Vermont one huge lie causing fear among the population was that if gay marriage passed, all churches would be required to perform them even if their core beliefs were against recognizing gay marriages. The solution to this problem was the inclusion in the bill of specific language saying that churches that did not recognize same sex marriages would not be required to perform them or recognize them. Although most of us who read this blog know that the First Amendment already protects churches on this, it was very helpful to be able to point to this specific provision to counter the arguments of the those lying to try to prevent gay marriage in Vermont. There is nothing wrong with putting in writing something that is already true.
The inclusion of this language in the Vermont bill swayed enough concerned and fearful minds, that it passed.
Similarly, opponents of health care reform are spewing lies about what is in the bill in order to excite people into opposing this legislation. If President Obama and Congressional leaders were smart, they could defuse a lot of the spreading fear by adding language to the bill that specifically addresses these concerns.
For instance, they can add a preamble saying that euthanasia is not part of this bill, there are no provisions for euthanasia and no one will be forced have euthanasia. After that, they can say the government will not nationalize the insurance companies, hospitals or your doctor's office.
I think you get the idea. Opponents of health care reform are stoking the flames of ignorant people by telling them things are in the bill that are not. Considering all the bills are over a thousand pages in length, no ordinary person can read them for himself to determine the truth or falsehood in the opposition's statements. But if all the falsehoods are addressed head on and on page one of the bill, proponents of health care reform will have something to point to, to counter the lies.
If I were advising President Obama, I would tell him to go on national television and say that he hears the public's concerns loud and clear, and that although what they fear is not in the bill, to prove it, he will ask Congress to add a preamble to all legislation guaranteeing that the points they fear are not part of the legislation. Then he can go through the points one by one and cite a web page for people to go visit to see the guarantees in writing. He could also say that he will not sign any bill that does not include these guaranteed protections in it.
President Obama needs to gain control over the health care reform discussion. By going on TV and saying he is asking Congress to specifically address these fears, I think he can do it. And he might even get credit for listening to the public.
If something is not true and you know it,you shouldn't be afraid to put it in writing. And when you do, you get a lot of credit for being an honest broker.