Democrats can appeal to emotion too if they choose to
Read and learn Democrats: if you want to defend Obamacare --- government social insurance in general --- this is how you do it:
The excitement at the Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast is usually over how high the bids will go when a ham is auctioned. But this year, it came when Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear made an emotional case for the Affordable Care Act as a chance to change his state's long history of poor health.
It was not what anyone expected—least of all Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, who sat stone-faced onstage with Beshear as he unloaded on them without using names.
Thus did the 50th annual ham breakfast at the state fair become a showcase for national divisions and passions, with some 1,600 diners as witnesses.
The mayor of Louisville, Democrat Greg Fischer, set a light mood with a brag-fest about his city's food and restaurant scene and the nearby farmers who have helped make Louisville "the national leader" in the local food movement, "on all the right lists" from Zagat to Southern Living.
But within moments the breakfast crowd found themselves watching a heated Obamacare debate—the kind that normally goes on in Washington, not at Kentucky agricultural events.
Beshear was the homespun populist, appealing to people's instincts to want the best for their friends, relatives, and neighbors. The senators, surprised by the full-bore politics, struck back at the expense of the health law and its impact on business. Those were familiar arguments made by the many vocal opponents of the law, strengthened this week here by UPS's announcement that it was eliminating coverage for spouses who could be expected to get or buy coverage Jan. 1 under ACA.
Beshear's advocacy, by contrast, was striking in its intensity and in how personally he approached the issue, picking up on the idea that many people who don't have health insurance are embarrassed by that and don't talk about it.
The governor compared health insurance to "the safety net of crop insurance" and said farmers need both. He said 640,000 Kentuckians—15 percent of the state—don't have health insurance and "trust me, you know many of those 640,000 people. You're friends with them. You're probably related to them. Some may be your sons and daughters. You go to church with them. Shop with them. Help them harvest their fields. Sit in the stands with them as you watch your kids play football or basketball or ride a horse in competition. Heck, you may even be one of them."
Beshear went on to say that "it's no fun" hoping and praying you don't get sick, or choosing whether to pay for food or medicine. He also said Kentucky is at or near the top of the charts on bad-health indicators, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer deaths, and preventable hospitalizations. He said all that affects everything from productivity and school attendance to health costs and the state's image.
"We've ranked that bad for a long, long time," he said. "The Affordable Care Act is our historic opportunity to address this weakness and to change the course of the future of the commonwealth. We're going to make insurance available for the very first time in our history to every single citizen of the commonwealth of Kentucky."
About half the audience burst into applause at that point while the other half sat on their hands. But he wasn't done. He cited a study that showed the law would inject about $15.6 billion into the Kentucky economy over eight years, create 17,000 new jobs, and generate $802 million for the state budget.
"It's amazing to me how people who are pouring time and money and energy into trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act sure haven't put that kind of energy into trying to improve the health of Kentuckians. And think of the decades that they have had to make some kind of difference," Beshear finished pointedly.
McConnell and Paul whined about how this meet n greet wasn't supposed to be about health care and then Mitch complained about UPS firing a bunch of people and Rand spouted some mumbo jumbo about the Federal Reserve. I'm sure their most hardcore followers were very impressed.
But there are whole lot of Kentuckians I'm going to assume are decent human beings who don't care as much about "bending the cost curve" or rewarding "the producers" as they do about their family, friends and neighbors going without health care. And I'd imagine some of them are even smart enough to know that they themselves are only one job loss away from losing their own health insurance. They know this. It's political leaders' jobs to acknowledge this publicly in terms that make it clear this is a moral issue --- and invite people to share their values.
McConnell and Paul and their ilk have to make abstract arguments about how high taxes affect rich people and so you can't get a job or that the Fed's monetary policy is too loose and we need to go back to the gold standard, all of which is cold and distant. Their emotional appeals have to be uttered by the noise machine (or Steve King) because they are based on resentment and racial hatred and that's not something a politician can just come right out and do anymore.
It's one of the Democrats' advantages in national politics that their politicians can speak openly in emotional language that resonates and the Republicans have to leave their emotional appeals to Rush Limbaugh. It's just odd that they don't use it more often.