Regardless of the centrality of the “town hall” to the American mythos, the continuing “debate” on health care has borne more of a resemblance to Athens, and the chaos of pure democracy, than anything in the American past. The American rhetorical tradition is more in the mold of statesmen calmly making their case, like the “Federalist Papers” or Paine’s “Common Sense.” And so yesterday, the American President took to the New York Times to explain the need for, and limited reach of, his healthcare plan.
[O]ver the past few weeks, much of the media attention has been focused on the loudest voices. What we haven’t heard are the voices of the millions upon millions of Americans who quietly struggle every day with a system that often works better for the health-insurance companies than it does for them. [. . .]
This is what reform is about. If you don’t have health insurance, you will finally have quality, affordable options once we pass reform. If you have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care you need. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. You will not be waiting in any lines. This is not about putting the government in charge of your health insurance. I don’t believe anyone should be in charge of your health care decisions but you and your doctor — not government bureaucrats, not insurance companies.
This is the much-needed reboot the healthcare debate has been begging for, a refocus on the real problem of under-insurance, with more than a few subtle slaps at the more deceitful of his opponents.
But let’s make sure that we talk with one another, and not over one another. We are bound to disagree, but let’s disagree over issues that are real, and not wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that anyone has actually proposed. This is a complicated and critical issue, and it deserves a serious debate.
The question is whether anyone will read it, or care. You have to admire a President who respects his country enough to expect citizens to put down their megaphones to read a newspaper. Sadly, the past few weeks hardly justify his optimism.
Always remember that democracy in America is, as the Founders themselves said, an experiment — the greatest experiment in human history, designed to prove that a great people can build a great nation and, together, rule it wisely, to secure “the blessings of liberty” to all. For two hundred years we’ve bucked the odds and defied history itself. But if we can no longer set aside fear, shut out dishonesty, and focus for one second on a serious problem, that experiment may be approaching its end.