I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of opinions on why sweeping health care reform has failed.  There are currently so many opinions about the issue, that the next step would seem to be a mathematical formula to explain intentions, selfishness, shortsightedness, etc…The reality is, to understand the apparent failure of health care reform, we need to look no further than VERY basic behaviors.  First, we need to understand that health care reform is complex, but the narrative shouldn’t be.  The narrative should tap into our basic needs and desires:

With this reform your kids will have better care.

With this reform you’ll save money.

With this reform we’ll have a stronger, more just society.

The Democrats, at all levels, failed to convey these simple points in a meaningful way to the American people.  As a result, their opponents framed the argument, telling people they’d lose coverage, we’d go bankrupt paying for it, and it would result in that evil from the ’50’s, socialism! If the Democrats recruit people who can speak to everyday Americans about how health care reform will ease their everyday burdens and help them live healthier lives, with more money in their pockets, they might be able to recapture the debate and re-frame the argument.

Second, we need to understand the important influence selfish interests, especially those related to maintaining status, play in this scenario.  Members of Congress and the Senate are beholden to money.  They have to raise obscene amounts of money, just to stay in the position of power and privilege they’ve worked so hard to achieve.  When, literally, thousands of lobbyists invade the halls of the Capitol, meeting with elected officials who are staring a re-election campaign in the face, with a new challenger who has the advantage of railing against establishment, it’s a recipe for disaster.  In no way am I saying that our leaders in Congress are victims. On the contrary, they perpetuate the system that leads to inaction, watered down efforts and ineffectiveness.  In reality, we all do.  Bold leadership is close to impossible when you’re worried about losing your job, or you feel you need the help of special interests with deep pockets to keep your job.  Think of the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland – always running, just to stay in one place.  That is the story of our democracy in Washington.  If the American people want our leaders to stand up for us, we have to support their actions when they do.

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