This is going to be rather brief. George Lakoff, who can be somewhat obscure at times, has hit it out of the park with a cogent analysis of how the Obama Administration completely screwed up both the messaging and the substance of Health Care Reform.
Within Fair Use rules I'll quote directly from the essay, but I strongly urge you to read the entire piece here on Truthout.
Follow me over the fold for some big ideas about how this disaster might be saved ...
Most would agree with Lakoff when he leads off with ...
Barack Obama ran the best-organized and best-framed presidential campaign in history. How is it possible that the same people who did so well in the campaign have done so badly on health care?
First of all, the folks running the WH and legislative strategy (e.g. Rahm Emmanuel, Peter Orszag, etc.) are not the same folks who ran the campaign. Be that as it may there are still plenty of people who were on the campaign and should have seen this one coming a mile away ...
The answer is simple and unfortunate: The president put both the conceptual framing and the messaging for his health care plan in the hands of policy wonks. This led to twin disasters.
The idea that the messaging a plan to tackle the single largest segment of the American economy ($2.5T / 16% of GDP) and the one thing that impacts 300M Americans (their health) personally would be left in the hands of "policy wonks" is disturbing in the extreme ...
The Policy-List Disaster
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Howard Dean was right when he said that you can't get health care reform without a public alternative to the insurance companies. Institutions matter. The list of what needs reform makes sense under one conceptual umbrella. It is a public alternative that unifies the long list of needed reforms: coverage for the uninsured, cost control, no preconditions, no denial of care, keeping care when you change jobs or get sick, equal treatment for women, exorbitant deductibles, no lifetime caps, and on and on. It's a long list. But one idea, properly articulated, takes care of the list: An American Plan guarantees affordable care for all Americans. Simple. But not for policy wonks.
Lakoff has hit the nail on the head with his observation that we can't look at health or health care through lens of reductionism. The simple idea that the WHOLE IS GREATER THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS is at the crux of the issue. Human health, which is of course connected to community health, which is linked to ecosystem health, which falls within the global bioshpere is only understood as part of a complex system with emergent properties
This is something very hard for legislators, hill staffers, and WH policy wonks to understand ...
In classical logic, Leibniz's Law takes an entity as being just a collection of properties. As if you were no more than eyes, legs, arms, and so on, taken separately. Without a public institution turning a unifying idea into a powerful reality, health care becomes just a collection of reforms to be attacked, undermined and gotten around year after year.
... and leads to an over reliance on the idea that everything can be boiled down (reduced) to a list of policy proposals and facts ...
Policy Speak is the principle behind the president's new Reality Check web site. To my knowledge, the Reality Check web site, has not had a reality check. That is, the administration has not hired a first-class cognitive psychologist to take subjects who have been convinced by right-wing myths and lies, have them read the Reality Check web site, and see if the Reality Check web site has changed their minds a couple of days or a week later. I have my doubts, but do the test.
Lakoff reinforces just how silly this kind of approach is by making the oft-repeated, but frequently ignored, argument that the view of "human reason and language behind Policy Speak is just false."
So now the question is what to do. In this Lakoff has some simple prescriptions including a new narrative ... "Insurance company plans have failed to care for our people. They profit from denying care. Americans care about one another. An American plan is both the moral and practical alternative to provide care for our people."
And here is the money shot, a new name ...
The American Plan.
Health care is a patriotic issue. It is what your countrymen are engaged in because Americans care about each other. The right wing understands this well. It's got conservative veterans at town hall meeting shouting things like, "I fought for this country in Vietnam and I'll fight for it here." Progressives should be stressing the patriotic nature of having our nation guaranteeing care for our people.
He also stresses that we can use some very activating words and ideas ...
A Health Care Emergency.
Coverage Is Not Care.
Insurance Companies Deny You Care.
Insurance Company Profit-Based Plans.
Doctors Care; Insurance Companies Don't.
Insurance Company Bureaucrats.
Insurance Companies Ration Care.
Insurance Companies Are Inefficient and Wasteful.
Insurance Companies Govern Your Lives.
Let's hope it not too late for Health Care but we need to learn and use this kind of language as we turn our attention to the looming battles (cap-and-trade, education, etc.) on the horizon.
It's always better late than never.