Fear: The Key to Health Care Reform

A fundamental truth in politics that gets used in most every winning election is the most basic human trigger: Fear.

President Obama won in 2008 by using fear. Not anger, but fear. The fear of more of the same, the fear of the economy, war, erosion of American values. Senator McCain fit neatly into the fear box of more of the same. McCain couldn't fight out of it in 2008, just as he is having trouble fighting out of it now, with JD Hayworth challenging him from the opposite side on the same issues.

Republicans have won the health care debate for over a year now using fear. Fear of rising costs, fear of a government takeover, fear of federally funded abortions, fear of big brother, fear of loss of liberty. They are winning not because of the merit of the arguments, but because fear works.

President Obama and House and Senate leadership need to use fear. They tried being nice. Trick me once, shame on you, trick me twice...

Obama said he wants a bill voted on by Easter recess. He drew a line in the sand. Now he needs to inject fear. Fear into fellow Democrats of the political cost of inaction, and fear into Americans over the cost of doing nothing.

What kind of fear? The basic kind. It isn't pretty to scare Americans into wanting health care rights, but it is the last and only resort. Fear of what? Personal bankruptcy, losing your job and not having health care, illness, poverty, a worsening safety net, not enough money to retire, and death.

The niceties should now be over: they have gone on for a year. Bipartisan cajoling is done. It is Democrats who need to lead or risk being permanently defined for lacking the ability to govern. Democrats in power should be scared. When they are scared enough by the prospects for 2010 and the need to follow through on the health care reform they promised, they will turn that fear outward. That requires a consistent, concise message. The message? Forget politics and hand-holding. Without health care reform, you could die.