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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Will Summit Help Pass HCR?

After watching a couple of hours of the health care reform summit today, I’d have to call it a big step towards enacting a credible bill. There were no major Democratic gaffes and the Republicans were unable to make a very persuasive case against the bill. Indeed, their incessant repetiton of the “my district hates this bill” put-down must have sounded a little scripted and unconvincing to viewers who were trying to make up their mind about the legislation, based on the best evidence presented by both parties.
President Obama looked large and in charge, calling everyone by their first names, while they all had to answer him as “Mr. President,” as he responded to most of the comments made by the Republicans and generally had the last word. This was a highly creative and effective use of the bully pulpit, which amplified the president’s image as a manager and a thoughtful leader who is sincerely trying to work some of the opposition’s ideas into the legislation. Again and again, he appealed to the Republicans to identify areas of agreement, which many Democrats noted, while few Republicans responded positively. President Obama’s performance will probably lend some cred to the public’s perception of the bill.
It was President Obama’s show. But other Dems acquitted themselves well enough. The Republicans did their best to appear as level-headed conservatives, not unduly influenced by tea party theatrics, and most pulled it off. Even the exchanges about resorting to budget reconciliation were impressively devoid of shrill demagoguery.
The civility of the exchanges is more a net plus for Dems because, as Chris Bowers notes in his OpenLeft post, “The largely positive impact of a boring health care summit,”

…makes charges of “communism” or “obstruction” seem a lot less credible. It looks like well informed people are discussing substantive legislation, rather than throwing bombs at each other…All in all, the summit is a huge net positive for the possibility of passing health reform this year. Democrats were losing the rhetorical battle on this bill, and a boring summit largely helps them.

A commenter called ‘workingclassdemocrat’ responds to Bowers, echoing,

I think summit deflated the fierceness of the GOP attacks. If nothing else, there haven’t been many “death panel” moments. That alone means the discussion is closer to reality. I think the time taken for this discussion and the buildup to it have allowed many on the left to reflect upon the benefit of choosing between this bill or nothing. Given the pressure of the media, the health industry, and the lack of pressure by the White House, something near to the Senate Bill is probably the reality.

The hysterical rhetoric about ‘socialism’ and Democratic reforms leading to economic disaster will probably sound a little less credible to open-minded voters, who the Republicans hope to win in November. No one can now say their views didn’t get a fair hearing, and the President addressed all of the critiques with calm, respectful authority. Hard to see any downside for the Dems.

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