We have just witnessed an amazing development.
The grandiose health care bill the Senate passed with great fanfare on Christmas Eve has gone down to stunning defeat. Granted, the battle is not over. Intrade had the odds of passage as low as 20% on Saturday, but they are up to 37% today. (Somebody must know something!) Nancy Pelosi has a year to try to find the votes to pass it in the House. We hear talk of a “scaled down” version. Certainly the Democrats will not want to go into the fall elections empty-handed.
Still, only a week ago most Washington insiders thought ObamaCare was a done deal.
The White House spin is that they moved too slowly. The pundit spin is that people have been misled by negative messaging. Lanny Davis (in The Wall Street Journal) has the right response to all of this: “It’s the substance, stupid.” As I explained in The Wall Street Journal last summer, the average town hall protestor is better informed than the average member of Congress. As explained in my last Health Alert, the voters in Massachusetts probably understand the Senate bill better than Barack Obama understands it.
The most important things that happened occurred on Main Street, not inside the Beltway. And the National Center for Policy Analysis played a unique role — not duplicated by any other organization. For example, we have been sending out more than 3 million e-mails every week.
What a Difference a Day Makes
We combined four activities that have never been combined before: (1) traditional think tank work, (2) a one-of-its-kind blog, (3) talk radio and (4) new media communications.
At the think tank level, we work directly with some of the best health policy analysts in the country. We also report on everyone’s work (whether or not we fund it) through Daily Policy Digest and we organize and maintain links to these works at the NCPA Web site. (At 25,000 documents, I believe we are maintaining the largest public policy library in the world — only the Heartland Institute has anything comparable.)
For the past several years, the John Goodman Health Policy Blog has been one of the very few right-of-center health blogs on the Internet (we are getting about 9,000 visitors every day). It is here that research and ideas are vetted by health policy scholars from across the political spectrum.
Ideas that have been vetted at the blog become fodder for a weekly e-mail that potentially goes to 1.3 million people who signed our online petition opposing the nationalization of the health care system. The “open” rate on these mailings varies between 25% and 33%, which by industry standards is quite high. Many of these messages link to research reports or blog postings and other documents — including our Ten Step Plan for rational health reform. These mailings are often forwarded to other networks (Tea Party groups, etc.).
We make an effort to coordinate talk radio messages on health policy with our Internet mailings. (Ideally, we should all be saying the same thing.) During the petition signing phase of this campaign, we had 12 radio talk show hosts reaching a potential audience of 12 million listeners every week.
[Parenthetically, there has never been any need to “mislead” anyone. Only 10% — at most 20% — of the population shares the view of the world held by liberals. The left can never be successful on something like this in the clear light of day.]
Our partner in the talk radio/new media effort is Salem Radio Network. Right after Thanksgiving, Salem set up an Action Army portal on their Web site, allowing voters to e-mail their Congressional representatives. Right before Christmas, they added a toll-free way for voters to telephone their representatives.
So far, they have hosted almost 500,000 e-mail messages to Congress and more than 10,000 phone calls. This includes more than 25,000 e-mails from California voters to Barbara Boxer and another 25,000 to Dianne Feinstein. It includes 11,000 e-mails from Florida voters to each of their two senators and 8,000 to each of the Colorado senators.
This is an enormous amount of mail.
For the past 8 months, we have been engaged in Internet trench warfare — almost completely under the radar screen of the mainstream media. The White House has been sending out weekly health messages to as many as 19 million people. But unlike our messages, the president’s communications tend to be cheerleading messages — long on rhetoric, short on substance. And apparently less effective.
After we announced our goal of one million petition signers in opposition to nationalized health care, the White House announced they were going to get one million signatures in support of ObamaCare. Since we never heard another word about this effort, we assume they failed.
We have done our part on a shoestring budget. People on our side have collectively spent an estimated $100 million on old media (TV and newspaper) ads. We have spent a mere $1.5 million on talk radio and new media. We need both, but we probably skimped on the tools that provide the greatest marginal return.
For all of you who gave us encouragement and support, thank you. We continue to need both, and we are very grateful.