Appealing to people’s patriotism?

APPEALING TO PEOPLE’S PATRIOTISM?…. President Obama’s weekly address was, not surprisingly, devoted to health care reform. And as we’ve come to expect, he spent a lot of time on defense.

The bulk of the address dealt with “debunking some of the more outrageous myths circulating on the internet, on cable TV, and repeated at some town halls.” The president called for “an honest debate, not one dominated by willful misrepresentations and outright distortions, spread by the very folks who would benefit the most by keeping things exactly as they are.”

While the public option was left out of last week’s address, Obama defended it today, though he stopped well short of saying it has to be a feature of the final bill.

But I also noticed that the president seemed to appeal to his audience’s sense of patriotism. “It has never been easy, moving this nation forward,” Obama said. “There are always those who oppose it, and those who use fear to block change. But what has always distinguished America is that when all the arguments have been heard, and all the concerns have been voiced, and the time comes to do what must be done, we rise above our differences, grasp each others’ hands, and march forward as one nation and one people, some of us Democrats, some of us Republicans, all of us Americans.

“This is our chance to march forward. I cannot promise you that the reforms we seek will be perfect or make a difference overnight. But I can promise you this: if we pass health insurance reform, we will look back many years from now and say, this was the moment we summoned what’s best in each of us to make life better for all of us. This was the moment when we built a health care system worthy of the nation and the people we love. This was the moment we earned our place alongside the greatest generations. And that is what our generation of Americans is called to do right now.”

That’s some nice rhetoric. In fact, I think it’s probably true. But I also think summoning “what’s best in each of us” is a lot more difficult than the White House anticipated. Playing on people’s fears and appealing to their worst instincts is awfully easy, and as it turns out, effective.