Framing The Health Care Law And Debate
When The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was first introduced and debated in Congress, polling on the individual parts saw an overwhelming majority of Americans approving. Well, with Democrats in charge of our framing, we all knew that wouldn't last.
Enter Frank Luntz and the Republican Dirty Framing Machine and we got Death Panels killing grandma and it was all over but the funeral.
Democrats screwed the pooch on this because in the 30+ years Luntz has been teaching Republicans how to talk, Democrats have refused to fight back with equally compelling language that illustrates our policies using our moral frames.
This may be a battle that is so long into the siege that it can no longer be won, but I'm not going to go down without fighting for what I believe is the best way to turn this conversation around and start winning back all those people who liked what was in the bill in the first place, but have been talked out of supporting the bill by the Fright Wing Party of America.
President Obama is a brilliant man. But like anyone else on this planet, he's also capable of being led astray. I don't know who advised him to try to "own" the pejorative "Obamacare," but they were dead wrong. Dead wrong. The president's little Twitter hashtag game completely backfired when Republicans started using it to continue their disparagement of it in the nastiest terms possible. "Obamacare" is no more embraced by those who would potentially support it if they understood it than it was last summer.
And there was nothing about that hashtag that would have made it look utterly stupid for someone to be objecting to!
That's why I'm proposing that we forget "Obamacare," and that we even abandon the here-to-fore "official" name, The Affordable Care Act. That's become a joke now, too. "Affordable care — yeah, right. My premiums went up 20 percent the minute the damn thing passed!"
But how ridiculous does it sound to oppose Patient Protection? Who (in their right mind) could be against that?
So I have a challenge for each and every one of you:
Fire up your Twitter accounts and start tweeting the hashtag #PatientProtectionAct, along with something it protects. Here's a list of my tweets using it — copy them and tweet them yourselves. And post your own here, too, so the rest of us can copy and tweet them, too.
(Tweets below the fold.)
The #PatientProtectionAct protects women from the onerous burden of paying out-of-pocket for preventive medicine & care
The #PatientProtectionAct protects you from losing your HOUSE in bankruptcy due to medical costs.
The #PatientProtectionAct protects us from worrying about what will happen if we lose our jobs!
The #PatientProtectionAct protects us from being cut off from coverage by lifetime caps.
The #PatientProtectionAct protects our hard-earned $$ by guaranteeing 80-85% of our premiums go towards CARE.
The #PatientProtectionAct protects us from being denied care while insurance CEOs rake in millions
The #PatientProtectionAct protects us from losing coverage while we're earning a degree & not an income.
The #PatientProtectionAct protects us from Freeloaders who make us pay high premiums so they can wait 'til they're sick 4 insurance
The #PatientProtectionAct protects us from being refused insurance because we had acne when we were a teenager.
The #PatientProtectionAct protects us from being dropped by our insurance when we get sick.
Tweet @DWSTweets Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.
Tweet the media.
Tweet the Senate.
Tweet the House.
If we make this go viral, maybe we can get Democratic party leaders and members to follow suit and the frame will become the primary way this legislation becomes known and talked about.
It's moral. It's Democratic. It's a winning frame.
Edited to add at 8:36AM PDT 03/30/2012:
With this new frame, we're attempting to re-engage those people who have always liked what was in this bill, but have been hearing how bad it is under a cacophony of tea party framing and have been negatively influenced.
Those people can be won back. They can. To dismiss them as a lost cause would be a grave error akin to saying that Democrats are incapable of framing our rhetoric so we may as well let the fright wing have this one.
As Professor Lakoff makes clear here:
Liberals tend to underestimate the importance of public discourse and its effect on the brains of our citizens. All thought is physical. You think with your brain. You have no alternative. Brain circuitry strengthens with repeated activation. And language, far from being neutral, activates complex brain circuitry that is rooted in conservative and liberal moral systems. Conservative language, even when argued against, activates and strengthens conservative brain circuitry. This is extremely important for so-called "independents," who actually have both conservative and liberal moral systems in their brains and can shift back and forth. The more they hear conservative language over the next eight months, the more their conservative brain circuitry will be strengthened.
This point is being missed by Democrats and by the media, and yet it is the most vital issue for our future in what is now being discussed. No matter who gets the Republican nomination for president, the Santorum Strategy will have succeeded unless Democrats dramatically change their communication strategy as soon as possible.
He's right. We must dramatically change our communication strategy. Whether you embrace the president's (in my opinion misguided) notion that "Obamacare" can be rehabilitated or not, the proof is in the pudding that it hasn't worked.
So why not try something new and see if it does? What does it hurt? And it might actually help.