A Radical Suggestion3 min read National/International Politics
I just sent the following to the Obama White House:
Dear President Obama,
I’d like to offer a perhaps radical suggestion for remaking the health-care town hall discussions. The town hall meetings you’ve held thus far are a start. But they’ve not substantially moved the debate, and I suspect in their current form they’re unlikely to. Perhaps it’s time for some new thinking?
Schedule some more town hall discussions. Give away tickets through the White House as you have been. But hold 20-30 seats open, front-and-center. Upon arrival for the town hall, you’ll no doubt be greeted by angry protesters. Stop your motorcade and greet the protesters, especially those opposed to your plans. Using a bullhorn if necessary, tell the protesters that you want to have a frank and open discussion about health care with them. Explain to them that you have 30 seats in the front row of the hall for those among them who are willing to put down the signs and have an honest debate. Welcome them to the debate, show the country that you believe in openness.
Once in the hall, focus on a discussion with these people. Ask them for their fears, ask them why they’re angry. Confront them with the basic facts of health care in this country and ask them for solutions. Ask them what they would have you do. And explain to them why it is you’re pushing for reform. You know the facts, you know WHY this reform is so desperately needed. This debate can be won on the facts, which is why the opposition is spending most of their time shouting hatred and slurs. If they debate you on the facts you’ll win, and if they resort to shouting in your town hall I believe the American people will begin to see that there is nothing but anger on the opposite side.
Mr. President, you’ve done this! In your time as a community organizer you’ve gone into church basements to face fear and anger and you’ve responded with calm words of reason. As a college professor you’ve stood in classrooms and debated the finer points of Constitutional law with some of the brightest students in this country. You traveled this country during your campaign and you spoke to all comers, like Joe the Plumber, with honesty and respect, hearing their side and explaining your side. Now is the time for this kind of debate, this kind of bravery.
There are no doubt many, many reasons not to take this approach. The single best reason to try it is that it CAN change the debate, it CAN move people. It is exactly the kind of administration that your supporters hoped for in supporting you. We need you to win this debate!