Supporters of health care reform are concerned that their cause, even as it nears passage, has already been irrevocably -- and largely negatively -- defined. On Monday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel acknowledged that "part of the problem" is that "the message is not getting through.
"Part of it has just been watching the legislative process [being] not very good," Emanuel said, in an appearance on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown."
He added that "we have to do a better job of explaining to the American people the principal things that they will get out of this. One, a patients' bill of rights, two, we will make sure seniors get their prescription drugs that they need covered, third, we are going to control costs so that we don't see the type of skyrocketing premium increases that we've seen over the last decade."
There have been more than a few grumbles among Democrats that the Obama White House has mishandled the public relations aspect of selling health care reform.
Part of that has been a byproduct of a political strategy that largely ceded the construction of legislation to Congress. Instead of having one product that it would go out and sell to the public, the administration pitched vague principles of reform, and watched as legislators built a product around them.
But the main gripe, at least for one high-ranking party strategist, is that the White House has yet to fully (or at least effectively) explain what health care reform means for individual people. "No one knows what they will get from this bill," the strategist said. "They have not done a good job communicating this thing."
The acknowledgment on Emanuel's behalf that the message has been obscured is a rather banal recognition of the increasingly poor polling numbers for health care reform. It's also a reminder to the rest of the party that -- even after legislation is passed -- the sales job has to continue. As Democratic pollster Mark Mellman told the Huffington Post last month:
"There is going to be a prolonged process here, even after the bill passes, of selling the bill. The naturally tendency of the legislative process is to move on. You pass legislation, breathe a sigh of relief, and move on to another bill and stop talking about that which is already done. That can't happen here."