Senator Ted Kennedy, the “Lion of the Senate” who chose to devote his life to public service instead of running for President after 1980, has had the selflessness to die at what appears to be a most convenient moment for the healthcare reform movement.
I’m not trying to be a cynic here. I’ll miss Senator Kennedy’s voice in the Senate almost as much as I miss Senator Wellstone’s. But given that the media spotlight has abruptly swung away from the failings of healthcare reform to the death of Senator Kennedy, this is his parting gift to Barack Obama after already transferring Camelot’s legacy to the President’s shoulders. For the next month at least, the media will be consumed with Senator Kennedy’s death, his legacy, his replacement in the Senate, and ultimately, his state of health. Since Senator Kennedy was such a linchpin in the push to reform healthcare, his death will inevitably become a rallying cry for the left.
I can only quote the venerable Gandalf when I say, “All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us.”
And what should we do? It’s obvious that the White House has had no clear and present communications strategy for healthcare reform. President Obama campaigned on “Change” but we can’t rally around healthcare reform when the language used to describe it is beyond the comprehension of everyone who voted for change in the first place. Single payer systems, universal coverage, nonprofit healthcare co-ops, Medicare/Medicaid reform, insurance expansion and competition, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It all goes away the second some right-wing nutjob screams “Socialist Death Panels!” at a town hall meeting.
So, while we have some time, may I humbly suggest that the White House and President Obama spend it wisely. Find a healthcare reform message that reaches your core supporters (and I’ll give you a hint, they’re the same folks who turned out in droves to elect you and/or voted for the first time ever), listen to community organizations and not insurance companies for reform options, simplify the debate on our terms so that the town-hall disrupters don’t win with inane slogans and pictures, and most of all, stop getting so focused on how healthcare reform looks to the right-wing critics and start focusing on how it feels for the rest of us. And the rest of us are pretty sick and tired (if not bankrupt as well) from the corporate-dominated system that currently exists.