Reforming healthcare is not a black-or-white issue, much as commentators in the US would have us believe. Indeed both sides of the debate in America have been making basic footfall errors, the liberal/left not quite as often as the conservative right.
“Racist” claims from both sides do not help, of course. The left-wing need to be careful of their own form of racism, not helped by appearing to project onto America’s black population what they should feel now their nation’s President looks and talks like they do. In her column for the Guardian, Bonnie Greer says;
We on the left need to change. Change our tired, ideologically driven responses to events. Change our moth-eaten rhetoric. Change our demands on what people of colour, women, disabled people, gays and lesbians ought to be when they attain positions of power
Left-wing commentators have to concede that Obama has yet to present a single Health Reform Bill. Additionally he did not persuade many doubters – if any – to his cause following his joint-house speech. However what Obama does have is time, and clear objectives, and the will among his many supporters to push over the stubborn wall of “for the sake of it” opposition. And there’s the clear, stark fact of so many millions without access to affordable healthcare in the “land of the free”.
Over amongst the conservatives, there is a shallow puddle of argument and a bankrupt account of alternative options. Painting a picture of Obama pushing a socialist square peg into a capitalist round hole is to create a work of scaremongering fiction. Sarah Palin, the failed Republican vice-presidential candidate, was roundly ridiculed for suggesting healthcare reform would mean “death panels” for the elderly. She remains one of the most often suggested lead candidates for President in 2012. When this list for the GOP includes Rick Santorum and Rudy Giuliani – discredited names from the past both – the sheer uphill struggle of the right is made all the more clear.
Obama needs to deliver on his promises, some things he has done already, but there’s a lot to do. Expectation is massive, not all of it fair. Some of it comes from the over-eager support from the left attempting to turn him into some symbol for “overnight success”. Those on the right trying to paint the White House as a life-threatening cult are not succeeding – how few people know of the Twitter craze of ending messages with “impeachobama” could be counted on one hand? – with only one thing seemingly going in their favour. As long as populist media networks speak with a unified cynicism against Obama doubts will remain.
Like the British Conservatives post-1997 the American right cannot quite understand why they are out of power or why the man at the top is getting an “easy ride”. It has taken the UK right years to get to grips with the changing country. Clearly the American right have a similar journey of their own before coming up with an opposition with clarity and credibility.