Monday debate: Communicating about health care

Now that there’s a comprehensive health care bill on the way to President Obama’s desk to sign, it might be useful to consider how both progressive and conservative communication strategies fared over the past year of debate.  We’ve heard of “tea parties” and “death panels,” watched “town hall meetings” and “televised presidential forums”.  What can we learn from the communication failures and successes?  (Were there any of the latter?)

Today many of my online sources have pointed me to David Frum’s CNN online column where he ends with this provocative idea:

The vitriolic talking heads on conservative talk radio and shock TV have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination.When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say — but what is equally true — is that he also wants Republicans to fail.

If Republicans succeed — if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office — Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less and hear fewer ads for Sleep Number beds.

So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished.

For the cause they purport to represent, however, the “Waterloo” threatened by GOP Sen. Jim DeMint last year regarding Obama and health care has finally arrived all right: Only it turns out to be our own.