The Potemkin Pro-Obamacare Village

The Potemkin Pro-Obamacare Village

The Potemkin Pro-Obamacare Village

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 26 2012 2:18 PM

The Potemkin Pro-Obamacare Village

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"Did you get to see the jazz band?”

People kept asking if I was here, out the Supreme Court, when the jazz band played. The answer was a regretful “no.” The band played right before I got here, to see what the Obamacare Circus had to offer. (As of last week, according to the Obama-Biden 2012 campaign, it’s okay to say “Obamacare.” Good thing, too, because the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Circus” sounds dull, like some kind of time-share seminar.)

The jazz band was just part of the rolling salvation show put on by the supporters of the PPACA. Yes, they exist. They don't understand why nobody quotes them. They are the United Methodist Church,* AFSCME, the SEIU, College Democrats, and the umbrella groups that have tried to popularize the mostly-disliked law. Protect Your Care. Know Your Care. Health Care for America Now. The Center for American Progress Action Fund. And Doctors for America, whose members walked the ground in front of the court wearing white medical coats. These are medical professionrs who give speeches, on their own time, arguing that the law is working.

"It's daunting," said Christopher Lillis, an MD from Fredericksburg, Md. "There's a lot of misinformation out there."

The goal for Monday: Outnumber the misinformers. In a weekend memo to reporters, Protect Your Care's hyperactive press guru Eddie Vale explained what might happen.

One of the biggest things you're going to see is a CLEAR CONTRAST between supporters of, and opponents of ObamaCare.  If it is anything like they've done in the past you're going to see lots of hatred and anger coming from the Tea Party. Loud yelling and hostility. Hitler & communist signs.  This is going to be glaringly different from our side who will be having a joyful celebration of ObamaCare that is providing health care to tens of millions of Americans.  We will be singing, there will be bands, church choirs, and people telling their personal stories of how their lives have literally been saved by ObamaCare.

They provided the show. After the jazz band was done, volunteers toted two speakers up and down the sidewalk, blasting gospel songs and Stevie Wonder hits. Methodists with "People of Faith for Health Care" signs were in every camera shot.

The missing ingredient: Tea Partiers. Only a few dozen of them showed up. Big guns, sure: Jenny Beth Martin, who's now the sole national chair of Tea Party Patriots, and Luke Livingston, the documentary filmmaker who's produced several movement films. When I ran into him, he'd just filmed a short argument between Tea Partiers and ACA-backers. "This is an earned media sauna!" he said.

But the left was doing most of the earning. Protesters walked around waving signs and fielding questions about what was in the law. "It can be frustrating," said Neeta Datt, a graphic designer, "because some people will always refuse to believe what they hear. The health care bill works; it doesn't work. There's a God, there is no God."

Most Tea Partiers were friendly to the press. One surly man from the Alexandria Tea Party would only say "no questions" and hand out a printed statement. The rest of the activists were constantly in conversation with domestic and foreign reporters; at one point I saw both of the people holding up a Gadsden flag being interviewed by different outlets. Media-friendly, but nothing like the pro-ACA forces, who had set up a spacious filing center at the United Methodist building across the street. When you walked in, you saw balloons celebrating the ACA's second anniversary.

(Photo of the media filing center by David Weigel)

*Rare disclosure: This is my church.

David Weigel is a reporter for the Washington Post.