The Flawed Media Narrative of the Healthcare Debate When ignoring constituents is 'pragmatic'

Through all the twists and turns of the healthcare reform debate, one thing has remained constant: Progressive ideas with majority popular support are falsely portrayed as radical, ideological fantasies, while those who oppose them are praised as pragmatic and reasonable.

This trend began when Washington insiders excluded the idea of a single-payer public health insurance program at the beginning of the reform process (Extra!, 6/09). It culminated when the Senate finally passed a bill that, as a result of a few obstructionist senators and the acquiescence of Democratic leaders, was stripped of its most progressive remaining reforms—including the “public option,” a government-run plan that would be offered as an alternative to private insurance (Extra!, 10/09).

The public option had the support of 72 percent of the public (CBS News, 6/19/09) and would save the country billions, according to the Congressional Budget Office (Washington Post, 9/25/09). But when Obama stood by as the provision was dropped from the Senate bill, in an unambiguous victory for health insurance companies (Politico, 12/7/09), the New York Times (12/17/09) had a strange take on the rift it caused between outraged progressive Democrats and Obama: “Now ideology—an uprising on the Democratic left—is smacking the pragmatic president in the face.”

“Pragmatic” is a curious way to describe letting the public option die; how practical is it to make a bill more expensive and less popular? But this framing has been commonplace throughout the debate (FAIR blog,11/11/09).

Read the rest at Extra!