Fighting Health Care and the Politics of Fear

What is happening with health care? Why does it seem that if we don't go along with the White House's agenda we're heading into the abyss?  This is the same thing that happened with bank bailouts and is still happening with global warming.

This is what I would call a crisis marketing tactic, a CMT. With CMT, the momentum for change is created by suggesting that the alternative to change -- even radical change -- is simply too dire to contemplate.  The government bailout -- whether ultimately good or bad -- used CMT.  This has now become the standard for Washington's radical, anti-market agenda.

With the stimulus and the bailouts, you could at least argue that there was a psychological need to show that government was doing something, but health care is completely different.  All solutions or reform have to be long-term -- they're not psychological; they are systemic. And what about the role of the private sector in a solution?

The real marketing response for the opposition to this CMT agenda can't simply be negative; it has to be nuanced.  The GOP, moderate Democrats and anyone else who has doubts about this health care plan can't simply say "no"; since it is obvious health care does need repair. They have to acknowledge something has to be done.

But first to counter the fear, they have to use fear.

The opposition has to communicate the idea that we might just be heading off a cliff here.

They have to show vividly that doing the wrong thing could be even more disastrous for America: visions of people dying while they await basic medical treatments and hospitals turned into third-world disaster zones under the weight of government bureaucracy. They need to underscore that the action on health care being driven by CMT might be far worse than inaction. It is the best -- possibly the only way -- to sap momentum out of a CMT.

But offering an alternative nightmare scenario, while a necessary first step, is not enough.  The next step in responding to the CMT is to offer reasonable alternatives for fixing health care (this has got to involve reducing costs and tap optimistically into the idea that our nation is a problem-solving one and can tackle this challenge too).

This is about pushing back against the other side's momentum and insisting that the whole country had better take a deep breath. It's not the end of the world. This is about creating an environment in which health care might heal itself through smart government, unhysterical leadership and free market forces. After all, you don't want to saddle our country's future with a medical system built from a crisis marketing tactic. No one wants government by crisis.

John Tantillo is a marketing and branding expert and president of the Marketing Department of America. (Link below)


John Tantillo is branding editor for Fridge Magazine, the magazine for small business owners and entrepreneurs. He is the author of "People Buy Brands, Not Companies."