"Obamacare" supporter Margot Smith (L) of California pleads her case with legislation opponents Judy Burel (2nd R) and Janis Haddon, both of Georgia, at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 28, 2012.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Countering horror stories with success stories

The series of attack ads featuring “Obamacare victims” hasn’t gone especially well, at least as far as reality is concerned. For months, conservative groups and Republican politicians have pushed horror stories, highlighting the plight of those adversely affected by the Affordable Care Act, but in just about every instance, the stories fell apart under scrutiny.
For those who keep up with the news, it’s practically a national joke – if you see an anti-ACA ad, chances are, it’s misleading in some important ways.
But as new, dubious horror stories keep hitting the airwaves anyway, it’s only natural to ask the obvious follow-up question: where are the comparable ads featuring those who’ve benefited from the health care law?
Dave Weigel talked to Steve Spencer, who shot a video of an Arkansas woman who benefited from the ACA.
“There are compelling stories out there,” says Spencer, “but who can afford to air enough ads to balance the Koch brothers?”
The right’s operation is formidable. As Weigel described it, Americans for Prosperity, funded in large part by David and Charles Koch, and their Republican allies, find sob stories. Republicans then do their best to raise the so-called victims’ visibility – inviting them to the State of the Union, for example – while AFP runs commercials on television.
When fact-checkers, Democrats, and progressive groups note that the horror stories are wrong, Republicans and AFP respond by saying the left is “attacking” struggling families.
Why don’t we see the law’s supporters doing something similar? Because there is no comparable system in place.
Families USA has helped connect reporters with families that have benefited, but the group does not share information with political campaigns. And even if it did, there’s no money in place to start blanketing the airwaves with commercials showing the public how much good the Affordable Care Act is doing.
Paul Begala told Weigel, “There simply is no liberal Koch operation.”
So what happens now? That’s unclear. Some Democrats want to change the subject; others want to emphasize their desire to “fix” the ACA. Plenty of Democrats would love to see ads featuring beneficiaries, but they’ll need to find the compelling examples, vet them, and find the money to put the ads on the air.
It’s not nearly as easy as the setup the right currently enjoys.
For what it’s worth, though, the anecdotes should be readily available with a little effort. I remember the Obama campaign in 2012 put together a “Faces of Change” series of online videos, some of which were exceptionally effective at highlighting sympathetic families that will benefit from the ACA. This one was especially memorable. It’s not unrealistic to think there are comparable stories in literally every district in the United States.
Finding the resources to get messages like these on the air, however, is another story.