Being the brilliant public speaker that he is, it is unforgivable that Obama has been so tepid in responding to the avalanche of negativity on Obamacare.
A few weeks ago, I wrote criticizing Barak Obama for not using the Bully Pulpit more. Being the brilliant public speaker that he is, it is unforgivable that Obama has been so tepid in responding to the avalanche of negativity on Obamacare. He risks losing whatever chance the Democrats had of taking back the House of Representatives, and, in some scenarios, even losing the Senate. Democratic Congressional candidates are unsurprisingly running away from Obamacare, and Republicans meanwhile repeat the Obamacare this, Obamacare that mantra every chance they get believing, in light of polls, that this is the path to controlling both houses of Congress. Unchallenged, these negative attacks on Obamacare have further eroded public support for the legislation. Of course the dot gov fiasco hasn’t helped, but polls showed strongly negative public support for The Affordable Health Care Act even before the on-line registration mess. Meanwhile, from the White House no organized campaign of talking points for elected Democrats to meet the Republican challenge head on have emerged, no regular “talks” from the oval office championing The Affordable Health Care’s successes with homiletic stories, no assuaging of fears about draconian premiums threatened by Republicans in their fear campaign. And no widely heard admissions to specific problems and immediate legislative action to rectify those. As a result public opinion polls report increasingly negative reactions to Obamacare. And the Democratic Party is clearly identified with this legislation.
To some extent, the President, in effect, hung his party’s Congressmen and women out to dry in 2010, by and large ignoring most of the House races, and remaining fairly silent as support for Obamacare eroded, with the resulting loss of The House of Representatives. Things have not improved. It’s so bad now that, in many of the Congressional districts, Democrats are seeing possible visits by The President negatively. They don’t like being deefined by Obamacare and are not championing it or even reassuring constituents, simply trying to distance themselves from it. Republicans’ charges essentially are going unanswered. And still The President hasn’t seized The Bully Pulpit, as Teddy Roosevelt so famously called the power of the Presidential Office to sway public opinion. Today this power includes: President talks, news conferences, television addresses to the American People, etc..
Why has he chosen largely to ignore this power that he has by virtue of occupying the Oval Office? It certainly isn’t because of poor speaking skills? On prepared speeches, I would grade him second only to Franklin Roosevelt. Yes, even above JFK, whose memorable lines are the meat of scholars and journalists on an almost regular basis. Why then has Obama’s support of this one piece of legislation associated with his name been so tepid, reduced almost exclusively to local talks to friendly audiences? I don’t have the answer and I’m not sure he does either. Clearly he doesn’t feel as comfortable in regular talks to the American people as he does in delivering prepared speeches. No does he like, or show particular skills in dealing with the legislative branches as say someone with prior executive-legislative experience, such as a former Governor might. Perhaps it is because he never served in the House of Representatives and was only in the Senate for one term. Perhaps he is overly cautious as the first President of color. Perhaps it is just his personality. Whatever the reasons, it’s time for a new policy. He should institute a regular weekly “talk to the country” about the state of our country, and cut the Republican sniping at Obamacare right off. He can still affect the public perception of Obamacare as something that will help them rather than something to fear which has been behind much of the erosion of support for the legislation. The White House should organize and institute talking points to be repeated over and over by elected Democrats at every media opportunity. It’s late in the game to be beginning this kind of campaign; but failing to do so quickly may turn it into too late.
Martin, The Pragmatic Liberal-writing on pragmaticliberalism.com