The Wall Street Journal today reported:
President Barack Obama, trying to regain control of the health-care debate, will likely shift his pitch in September, White House and Democratic officials said, as he faces pressure from supporters to talk more about the moral imperative to provide health insurance to all Americans…
A Democratic strategist said, “If you are going to sell something as big and monumental and transformative as health care, you cannot get small with it. You’ve got to be larger. You’ve got to call on the better angels out there.”
If what they mean by this is emphasizing the moral obligation to help the uninsured, I feel like that will be a spiritual winner and political loser. I wish it weren’t so, but I can’t think of a single piece of domestic policy legislation passed in the last 40 years premised on the idea that we have an obligation to help others. When progressives have succeeded it was by marrying the interests of the poor with those of the middle class. That’s how Roosevelt sold Social Security.
It’s not that I think Obama should ignore the moral dimension. But I think that politically speaking the moral values most likely to resonate are the universal ones — that the current system isn’t fair, to people who have insurance and those who don’t. As I wrote earlier, if you’re looking for Biblical concepts, emphasize justice, not love.