12 August 2009

My Letter to President Obama on Health Care today

Dear President Obama,

I am writing to strongly urge you to become much more proactive in the program to achieve serious and meaningful health care reform. This was a keystone of your campaign to become president, and will, if successful, become a major element of your legacy. But there are well-organized and surprisingly effective forces on the right arrayed against this effort, and I fear that they are having much more effect than their relatively small numbers — in terms of public support — would indicate. I refer, of course, to the right-wing interest group funded “Astroturf shoutdowns” which are drawing far more media attention than is justified. I also have serious concerns that your legislative program is not effective enough in making clear to members of Congress that the bill must include a meaningful public program.

Part of the problem is framing the issue and communicating with the public. I understand you have read and been influenced to some extent by George Lakoff, who has discussed the importance of not accepting the right-wing framing. We must avoid terms like “public option” and “single payer” and use words like “fair health care for all” and “meaningful competition.” I urge you to use the bully pulpit, as often as necessary, with your very considerable communication skills at their fullest, to explain to the American people exactly what is at stake. Ask for their support. Ask them to demand support for your bill. And communicate to Congressional leaders exactly what the bill must contain.

Rahm Emmanuel is way off base condemning progressives for resisting attempts by so-called “Blue Dogs” to sell out to the Republicans. We need to make it clear that this is a critical issue, and we will pass this bill without Republican support if necessary— which it will be. Reconciliation should remain an option. But first, you need to stand firm. You need to be willing to say to the American people that the time is now, this opportunity cannot be allowed to slip away, and you will not sign a bill that does not contain meaningful reform, including a robust and effective public plan to ensure affordable health care for all.

Please, Mr. President. This is a crucial issue. It’s the reason many of us contributed more of our hard-earned money and time than we could comfortably afford to elect you. You simply cannot let us down on this.

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