A compelling sales pitch might not cut it

A COMPELLING SALES PITCH MIGHT NOT CUT IT…. We learned on Monday that the Senate health care reform bill will include a public option. We learned on Tuesday that a contingent within the Senate Democratic caucus may not be willing to stomach public-private competition, even for a small segment of the population.

The Hill reports that some reform advocates think they can change skeptics’ minds.

Though public option supporters have not secured commitments from the 60 senators they need to even begin debating the healthcare reform bill on the Senate floor, they are just a few votes shy and believe their reticent colleagues can be brought around with reassurances that the proposal on the table already meets their demands.

“I’ve spent a lot of time talking to the moderate members about what a level-playing field public option is and I think as they learn about it, they become more and more relieved,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a prominent supporter of the public option. […]

“As the members learn the details of what’s in it, they’re going to see that it is a true attempt to be a level playing field, not some covert way of getting single-payer, which as you know is what the right-wing drumbeat has been, and they’re going to be very comfortable with it,” Schumer said.

Richard Kirsch, the national campaign manager of Health Care for America Now, added, “A lot of things that people are objecting to, isn’t necessarily what’s being proposed in the Senate.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) added, “Once the actual text of the bill is out, I think we’ll be able to successfully make the case to Sen. Lieberman that there is not a subsidy here and that it is not an entitlement.”

This sure does sound great, doesn’t it? All we have to do is sit Nelson, Lieberman, Lincoln, and Landrieu (let’s call them N3L) down, explain to them what the policy is, what it would do, and why their specific concerns have already been addressed. Once they get all the facts, the argument goes, everything will work out fine.

Maybe, maybe not. This approach is predicated on the assumption that the N3L quartet are simply confused. The only thing stopping them from reaching the right conclusion is uncertainty driven by a misunderstanding.

But I’m not convinced N3L is comprised of dumb senators — these four have been around for a long while; they’ve been part of the health care debate for years; and they’ve had ample time to learn the basics. The problem isn’t a lack of information; it’s a lack of will. After watching Joe Lieberman change his mind a half-dozen times on why he opposes the idea, one starts to wonder if he’ll really be swayed by reason.

Some of these center-right skeptics are excessively concerned about shielding insurance companies from competition; some are worried about public misperceptions; and some just aren’t committed to reform. But as much as I’d love to believe a presentation of facts and reason will turn them around, it’s likely to take a lot more than a compelling sales pitch.