Perception is reality.
With an increasingly fractured news media and a 10-second soundbite world, people based their opinions and insights on very little actual information. It is what they heard. It is what they have been led to believe.
The Republicans have been very successful recently. Until Monday.
A recent poll found that 45% were opposed to Obamacare. The same poll found that 37% were opposed to the Affordable Care Act. If that doesn’t sum up the “perception is reality” theme, then what would? People were asked about the exact same law with a different name, and 8% blindly hated it.
Maybe it was due to their dislike of President Obama. Maybe it was due to the constant barbs leveled at Obamacare – not the Affordable Care Act – that swayed their mind. Regardless, the Republicans won the battle of public opinion over Obamacare.
Or so it would seem.
On Monday night, the Government shut down over the GOP’s insistence to delay Obamacare for a year. It ended up being the best PR the Affordable Care Act could have ever asked for.
Today, the much-discussed exchanges open up for Obamacare. This was precisely the moment the GOP should have circled for months as the date to bring the fight to the public. This was their opportunity to make their case against Obamacare with real, hard evidence.
It is nearly impossible that the Exchanges will open without a hitch – almost nothing operated at that wide of scale is 100% ready from hour 1, day 1. With a world watching, every mistake, every hiccup, every problem would have been magnified ten-fold in the eyes of a media – especially on the Conservative side – waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Even better for the GOP, there is a looming debt ceiling fight – or there was – in 2 weeks. If the launch of the Exchange failed and public opinion was swayed even further against the law, the GOP may have had the opening they were so desperately looking for.
Instead, the procedures of Obamacare are on the backburner. If anything, it presented Democrats with an opening to discuss the positives of the law without the intense scrutiny. The Today Show, this morning, did a quick, “5 Questions” piece on the law. Basically, it was to discuss the particulars of what the exchanges meant. It was a perfect pitch for what the law is meant to do – protect the uninsured. The women interview pointed out how much of the law, including the ban on excluding people with pre-existing conditions and children being able to say on their parents’ coverage until 26, has already been in effect.
Matt Lauer, almost incredulously, asked toward the end, “So what’s the problem?”
Today, not only on Today, the discussion is centered on the shutdown. It is focused on a dysfunctional government. In particular, it is shining the light on a dysfunctional party.
You could tell by the tenor of the party’s respective cable mouthpieces who had won the PR battle. On MSNBC leading up to midnight, the hosts were laughing and smirking. They could not believe this was happening.
On Fox News, it was far more serious. It was a tone of reverence and regret. They were quick to point out that furloughed employees “should” eventually get paid. That it wasn’t as bad as people thought. As a PR guy myself, I know the pain of trying to spin a loser. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. It’s ugly.
And on CNN, the tone was of a shock. Piers Morgan – why he was their go-to at midnight is a whole other story – was apoplectic that the Statute of Liberty would be closed.
Erin Burnett, around 11:45 p.m., interview Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., who promptly declared Obamacare as “one of the most insidious laws ever created by man.” Burnett had to stop him there, calling out the absurdity of that remark, but he pressed on.
When Burnett asked why the GOP was shutting down despite 66% of Americans being against, he responded that, “You can look at numbers different ways and if you ask the questions differently.”
Where was Rokita’s PR person? Is that really the GOP’s message? To discount the polls and speak in hyperbole?
I appreciate that the GOP wants to oppose Obamacare. But they opened themselves for ridicule. They let the Left write articles like this one.
I did a media training session yesterday and one thing that stood out, based on these events, was the notion of knowing your audience. When you do an interview, when you write a press release, when you send out an email, when you do anything – you have to know who that audience is.
The GOP knows its audience. It’s just the wrong audience.
They are playing to the far right – the Tea Party. They are playing to a group that will accept nothing less than complete and total opposition to Obamacare, even at the extreme means of shutting down the government or, heaven forbid, sending the economy into catastrophe mode.
I understand the need to placate the base that put you in office. But at some point, the GOP needs to think beyond that. I forget who, but one of the talking heads correctly stated that the GOP’s strategy may win Congressional elections, but it will never win Presidential elections.
After last night, the GOP comes out looking like the obstructionist party. Whether you personally believe that or not is irrelevant on a larger scale – that’s the public perception.
The Democrats won this PR battle from the moment it started because it couldn’t lose. The GOP picked a fight it couldn’t win.
If the GOP had passed the clean resolution last week, all we’d be talking about today is the healthcare exchanges and if they were working.
Instead, all we’re talking about is how the GOP shut down the Federal Government.
That is the definition of bad press. That is a story I am glad I don’t have to spin.
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