Friday, December 18, 2009

Finally, A Real Debate Over Health Care Reform

Just an observation many seem to be missing in the heat of the rushed Senate vote on #hcr.

Nobody is paying attention to the Republicans.

I'm not saying this to gloat or demean, only to remind.  The GOP has never had much to bring to this debate, and tea-baggers far less.

As the media meme has become the "infighting!!!" in the Democratic Party, America is finally getting a real debate about the bill(s), what they actually say and do, and reasons to support or oppose their passage.  After a spring of merely superficial hints at what legislation would contain, a late summer/fall of nothing but idiocy from screaming tea-baggers, and supporting intellectual dishonesty from GOP leaders, those who have no legitimate content to contribute have been pushed to the fringe where they belonged all along, and -- though still a result of the media's obsession with ratings and drama -- we're finally hearing some real information about the reform proposal trickle down to the average news consumer.

It's like the kids have been sent outside so the adults can have a conversation.

I'm not sure if the lesson here is for the GOP for offering so little intellectual substance to policy making, or the Democrats for continuously taking them seriously enough to even give them the time, but either way it's worth noting.

As for the debate itself, this is an interesting take on the divisions between online activists and policy wonk bloggers:

If bloggers belonging to a particular grouping are exposed to a common factor that is external to the group, they may become like each other, or indeed come to identify more strongly as a group (social identities are frequently imposed from outside). This may lead to important differences between groups. If one group of bloggers is ‘taken seriously’ by powerful actors in the political mainstream, while another group is ignored or treated with hostility by these actors, we might plausibly expect divergences in these groups’ attitudes to mainstream politics over time.

My best guess (and it is no more than a guess) is that #2 is a key causal factor in the current split. Very few bloggers in either of these groups familiar with the intricacies of the current health care proposals, but most of them believe it to be important. Given that (a) it is costly to acquire the relevant information (it is technically dense and complex), but (b) bloggers want to be on the right side of the argument, they are likely to turn to trusted sources in order to tell them ‘how’ to think about the proposals. All of us outsource important parts of our thinking to other people - we couldn’t function otherwise.But whom one considers to be a trusted source will often depend on which network you are embedded in. Hence, I suspect, the very stark differences between the netroots and the wonkosphere on the topic. Not that the persistent snubs from the Obama campaign helped the netroots’ attitude any either...
And this back and forth between Nate Silver and Markos, and Nate Silver and Firedoglake provides some of the best information about the current policy to date.


  1. I don't know, seems not at all complicated. Candidate Obama campaigned against the individual mandate and in favor of the public option. President Obama and the Democratic-controlled(?) Congress are trying to give us a health care "reform" bill that's the opposite of what was promised.

  2. The fact that the GOP is being ignored in the media has less to do with the quality of their ideas (or lack thereof) than it has to do with the fact that there is no more movement among GOP Senators - they are a known quantity now, unified in opposition with no real possibility of changing their minds. The only people being talked about are the candidates at the fulcrum, that would be Harry Reid as majority leader, Joe Leiberman when he appeared to be holding the whole bill up, and Ben Nelson as an undecided senator. None of the other Senators are mentioned with any frequency in the media either, is that because only those three have any good ideas?

    Those in the media don't care who has ideas or how good their ideas are nearly so much as they care how much influence a person has.

    As this bill steadily loses popular support is that because people know more about the details of the bill or despite them knowing more?

  3. Its losing popularity because the popular parts are getting removed, that's the Public option , and the community rating being butchered, the return of life time caps, etc.