The questions I posed in a post earlier this week generated some interesting discussion in the comments and on Twitter, which Paul Kelleher notes in his post at Bill Gardner’s place. Paul works himself around to a defense of wonkery. Who can argue with that? It’s worth a read. See also this RWJF summary of related work by Julia Lynch and Sarah Gollust.
The bottom line for me, personally, is that I am well aware that in the minds of many, many people Obama did indeed fail in whatever attempt at a moral argument for universal coverage he might have attempted. Yet, he did not fail me, but that is only because I had the luxury and motivation to pay close attention to what he said and what others said for him. However, if an argument penetrates only the uber-wonks who are obsessed with reading every blog post pertaining to health reform, then it is indeed tempting to conclude that it isn’t an argument well made or made forcefully enough.
The trouble is, it is not a simple argument. It could be a simple one if we had a different health system, one that doesn’t already benefit the majority of Americans through subsidized coverage. How does one overcome the strong status quo bias and vested interests, particularly in an aggressively partisan political debate?
I’m just not convinced the moral argument can succeed against those odds. Are we sure we’re witnessing a failure of effort or just a failure? Did Obama not shout loudly enough or was he shouting into a tornado-strength wind? Or, in seeing the tornado, did he rationally conclude that saving his voice for other arguments was the best he could do?