The Glenn Beck Effect

As we continue to fight for strong health care reform, I’ve identified a trend that I am calling the “Glenn Beck Effect”. To understand this trend, I need to summarize a bit of what we are hearing and sharing with people in communities across the country. Across the board, people feel strongly that we need to control health care costs, that insurance industry lobbyists shouldn’t determine what kind of reform we get, and that politicians need to be accountable to us and not to the health insurance companies. The overwhelming majority of people know that the status quo is not working for us. We shouldn’t have to worry that everything we’ve saved could be swept away and destroyed by medical debt. We’re concerned about having a needed treatment denied by our insurance companies…many of us because of hard personal experience. The health care reforms we are advocating are tailor-made to address these problems, and most people see that and respond to it. It is usually really easy to make the connection between the real problems we’re dealing with and the reforms we need.

Overwhelmingly, people really understand and support health care reform when someone bothers to explain it clearly. However, there’s a certain sort of conversation where people lose sight of how to fix the problems we’re all dealing with. It is not incredibly widespread, but it happens often enough that you notice it. These are often good conversations with good people. They absolutely understand the problems, and are often dealing with them too. But then they hesitate when we explain the reform plan that the President is advocating. People will say “Oh, wait, this is Obama’s plan? I hate him.” And then: “You should really watch Glenn Beck.” Not Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly. Glenn Beck. That’s the Glenn Beck effect. It is what happens when good people facing hard problems stop trying to solve their problems, and are overcome by hatred and fear instead.

That’s the bad news. But like I said, we often have really good conversations with the Beckites. They get the problems. They’re living through the problems like the rest of us. And the solutions, like making sure insurance companies can’t pull away our coverage at the last minute, also make sense to them. The good news is that when someone bothers to engage with them, they are smart and receptive. The issue is that no one in the corporate media is bothering to tell them what’s really going on, how the special interests are really taking advantage of us. And so Glenn Beck fills the void with nonsense, instead of the solutions we need.

Just last week, Jenn Hoeflich, one of our Virginia organizers, was invited inside by a couple whose door she’d knocked on. They were very angry with politicians and insurance companies, and they completely understood the need to control costs and keep our politicians from being bought out. They liked the idea of the public option when Jenn explained it would help keep costs down. Then the woman balked, and asked The Question. “Wait, is this Obama’s health care plan?”

When Jenn explained that she was supportive of that type of reform, the woman said, “No, we’re not writing a letter. That guy needs to be shot. You need to watch …”

Jenn knew what was coming before the name Glenn Beck left the woman’s lips. But she didn’t give up. She continued to talk to the couple, learned that that the man of the house was on Medicare, which had covered expenses related to the loss of an eye, a kidney, and his cancer. The woman of the house had VA benefits through her husband. Jenn explained that those are government-run health care programs that they already like, that corporate health care is so expensive because people are just trying to make money off of us when we’re sick—and that Glenn Beck can get away with lying on the air because it makes money.

That couple ended up writing good letters to their representatives, supporting health care reform.

We can’t turn every single Glenn Beck viewer around to support a public option. But we’ve learned not to give up, because the answer isn’t complex. When people find out how the special interests are really trying to stop health care reform, it becomes very clear who is on our side. And that Glenn Beck, in spite of his convincing act, isn’t.

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