As month after month of the health care debate dragged on, everyday seemed to bring another poll proclaiming Americans' overwhelming opposition to the bill. Now that the legislation has passed and the fight over health care is (mostly) over, I think it important to look back on the path we've traveled over the last year and think critically about how we arrived where we are. How did the man responsible for "cramming this bill down our throats" get elected in the first place? I mean, he did tell us during the campaign that health care reform was his legislative priority, right? A careful look back will reveal that Americans have not always been as "opposed" to health care reform as recent polls would have us believe. In fact, in recent years polls showed that a majority of Americans supported such reform.
A majority of Americans were supportive of president's proposals as recently as September of last year, according to a Rasmussen tracking survey
. So what happened? Prominent members of the conservative minority gained the upper hand in the message war by twisting such admirable initiatives as mandated insurance reimbursement of end-of-life consultations into the ridiculous notion of government-run "death panels." The vehicle of delivery for such obscene comments was dangerously mainstream. In the case of the "death panels," a prominent propagator was the 2008 Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin. After resigning as Governor of Alaska, Palin turned to Facebook and Fox News to address her followers. In an August 2009 Facebook post
, the Governor refers to "death panels" that will choose who lives and who dies in America. Even office-holding Republicans got into the mix. Video of Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley
's (R-IA) commentary on the government "pulling the plug on grandma" circulated widely. Our very own Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN)
, trying to remain an attractive 2012 presidential candidate to Republicans across the nation, was careful not to put to much distant between himself and the "death panel" concept. O
The true shame in this rumor is that it rallies Americans who may well benefit from the passage of substantial health care reform to oppose the legislation. It is informative to listen to the actual experience of someone in this situation. Undoubtedly liberal MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann recently lost his father to a protracted illness, but he candidly shared his personal experiences with viewers of his weekday news opinion program. In a shockingly personal special comment
, Olbermann describes the his family's experience with end-of-life counseling and the relevant improvement that Americans would experience under the then-pending legislation, rebranding them instead as "life panels."
While the results of the 2010 mid-terms are still anybody's guess, I believe that Americans will continue to learn more about the actual contents of the health care and will be increasing favorable to those who worked to pass it. Already, a March 23rd USA Today/Gallup poll
shows that a plurality of Americans support the new health care bill. With 7 months remaining until the elections, I am confident that the true path of our year-long march toward health care reform will come to the fore and Americans will remember why they favored this approach in the first place.