Scare tactics to defeat health care reform were used in the early 1920s when opponents spread the message that public health insurance was a plot by the Nazis to take over the US. They were used again to defeat Harry Truman’s attempt at health overhaul in the late 40s with the notion that nationalized medicine would lead to nation-wide Communism. And now health care reform opponents are doing exactly what they did in the Clinton years: trying to convince Americans that such reform will harm them, not help them. They are focusing especially on senior citizens, whom they allege will lose their health care in the proposed plan (suddenly conservatives are champions of medicare, apparently), or worse: face a "death panel" that will determine their continued existence.
Unfortunately, it seems to be working. Many Americans are riled up, but many of those who are most ardent about their opposition speak only in vague terms about "socialism," "Communism," and "big government," but seem not to understand any details of the proposed health care legislation. In short, instilling fear into people has not only worked for conservatives; it has created an army of largely uninformed, loud, and well-publicized opponents (thanks for giving it such excellent coverage, media).
The Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the world know exactly what they are doing. They know they are manipulating people and offering, at best, half-truths about topics on which they are thought by their listeners to be experts. They know a public option has nothing to do with Communism, and that seniors will not lose their insurance under any of the currently proposed bills. But they don't want to see health care reform, because they want to keep taxes and government spending low (regardless of potential benefits and projected savings), and want Democrats to fail. And their strategy is working all too beautifully.
Similarly, the big utilities, gas and oil companies, and manufacturers who would have to change their dirty ways (to some extent) if a climate change bill were passed are winning the messaging fight on that front. They are using all the resources at their disposal to scare Americans with talk of overwhelming hikes in gasoline and energy prices, all the while trying to play down the now well-understood science of anthropogenic climate change:
"The whole question of man-made climate change is really, really iffy," said limited-government activist Kelly Havens, speaking to a cheering, sign-waving crowd of about 200 at the recreational vehicle hall of fame. "I mean, what was man doing when Indiana's glaciers were melting? We weren't even here!"
Lawmakers know better. They know what is in the health bill, and they know the facts about climate change (well, maybe not Jim Inhofe). Those who were against reform from the start are beholden to special interests, and those who are swayed by uninformed and beguiled constituents are simply not concerned enough with the well being of Americans to want to help their constituents to resist fear and understand facts. It boggles my mind that changes that will serve to better Americans are often so hard to come by in this country.