Between last week and this week, the answer would seem like Democrats, and the White House in particular, were starting to lose any hope of passing healthcare reform legislation that included a public option. Cable TV news stations have been showing endless coverage of the Right’s disruptive tactics at congressional townhall meetings as Members of Congress returned to their districts to engage constituents on healthcare reform options for the August recess.
However, the notion that there is this massive and universal backlash against healthcare reform is hardly true. Of course it is a contentious debate, but the reality is that three of the House committees charged with creating healthcare reform legislation have seemed to reach written legislation, respectively. And in the Senate, one of two committees charged with concocting healthcare reform legislation have concluded.
The Right is making a lot of noise and usually extreme elements get covered in the media. But, like with the Tea Party movement meant to thwart President Obama’s stimulus package, the healthcare disruptions will end up being a minor distraction. I believe Americans do think the unruly and overly-aggressive tactics will be dismissed eventually as trying to stifle debate, while unconstructively trying to kill needed healthcare reforms.
The White House communications team responded this week with a page out of President Obama’s campaign playbook. If you recall, lots of rumors by the Right tried to damage Obama’s reputation – ideas like he is a Muslim or that he was not an American citizen. Obama responded with a sort of myth & fact website complete with text and video. It helped not only correct the record and debunk rumors, but it also gave activists a tool to make the case to their networks.
Now, through whitehouse.gov/realitycheck, the White House is refocusing its efforts to speak directly to people – hoping traditional media and bloggers/facebookers/tweets direct people to the site. It’s a great online communications effort. The website is well-designed, which is actually hard to do on this issue because there is so much information and disinformation regarding this debate, that people can easily be overwhelmed. But, the White House’s site lets video do most of the talking, which is an effective medium for getting the message across. It also has an FAQ page, a Q&A on consumer protections and a page for users to submit questions. I will try submitting something and see if I get a response.
The one critique I have is on video shareability. The site features all these great testimonials on healthcare from experts on the President’s team, but there is no place to grab a link and place in on my blog or website. That’s could be a very effective tool in spreading the White House’s message that can be utilized.
My prediction – the media focus on healthcare reform opposition will dissipate and rationality about passing healthcare reform will return.