Thursday, July 23, 2009

Serious Medicine Is Not "Bloodless"

Politico, the must-read publication for DC insiders, offers a daily feature called "Arena," in which various pundits and observers offer brief opinions on the issue of the day. Today, in response to Politico's question, "Did the president advance his cause last night?" Mary Frances Berry, professor of American Social Thought and History at the University of Pennsylvania, a former chair of the US Civil Rights Commission, offered this crisp but devastating assessment of the Obama plan:

The best evidence that President Obama did not advance the cause of health care reform in his press conference is the not unexpected announcement today that the Senate will not pass a bill before the August recess. He failed to excite the American people to insist on immediate action. Perhaps, the President's almost bloodless approach to the issues in the press conference was because he already knew the delay was at hand. Now the opponents of reform have time on their side.

Note her words: "the President's almost bloodless approach to the issues." And that's the problem for Barack Obama, and for liberal, but not far left, health-care crusaders. As noted here at Serious Medicine, "health care policy" is a term deliberately designed to be bloodless; it's a term that engenders emotion among few, other than some self-selected experts.

By contrast, the true essence of health and medicine is literally the opposite of "bloodless." Health and medicine is all about blood, and tissue, and flesh--about ife itself. That's why ordinary people care about health and medicine; because health and medicine are about them, and their families. By contrast, ordinary Americans tend to think of "health care policy" as a bore.

No wonder Obama can't get his health care plan through--because not many people are really in favor of it. On (not up, as of Thursday, but will be up soon) David Corn of Mother Jones wondered aloud to me why the Obamans haven't mobilized the vaunted 13-million-member grassroots network--you know, the folks on Facebook and all who helped elect him last year. Why can't those millions be put to work on behalf of Obamacare? My response to David: Because people don't care passionately about "health care policy," except, perhaps for "the public option," aka "single payer," which does animate the lefty crowd. But single payer is probably too far to the left for Congress to pass; so the Obamans are trying to mobilize on behalf of a plan that is merely liberal, as opposed to far left. (I have never met Ms. Berry, but I suspect that she is for a single-payer plan.)

If Obama wanted to get a plan through with popular enthusiasm, it would have to be much different plan than either Obamacare or single-payer--it would have to be a plan with real appeal. It would have to be Serious Medicine. That is, a plan for dealing with the terrible diseases that Americans fear and loathe and want to go to war against. That's blood-and-guts stuff, and people love it. But that's not what Obama is offering. His plan is "bloodless," and it shows.

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