Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Miscellany from the Capitol City

I just attended the National Association for Home Care & Hospice Annual March on Washington. For those of you from obscure places like Buraydah, Saudi Arabia and Flekkefjord, Norway, this is me pictured with Senator Scott Brown (R-MA).  If you're from those places, see if you can guess which one is the U.S. Senator.  Hint: he's not wearing the goofy red name badge.

These days were dedicated to meeting with our delegation and advocating on behalf of home care and hospice, not really about drinking coffee and sitting in hotel ballrooms listening to experts talk about strategies for growing volumes or optimizing reimbursements for services, though there was some of that too.  Here, in no particular order, are some thoughts from the past four days.

  • There was a great deal of discussion about how partisan a society we've become.  My suspicion has been that we've always been a fairly partisan society, though the experts here have concluded that it's worse now than ever.  I wonder if majority parties always feel as though partisanship is "worse now than ever."
  • Paul Begala (Democratic strategist, Clinton advisor, CNN analyst) said that: "Demonizing Obama will fail, just as demonizing Reagan did."  Begala noted that liberals have tried for decades now to discredit Ronald Reagan but "it's just not sticking."  He predicts a similar fate for those who criticize the current President.
  • More from Begala:
    • Obama is "fundamentally a moderate" and "a pragmatist" despite his opponents' attempts to paint him as an extreme left winger.
    • Some free advice for Republicans: Move to the center and don't be defined by the Glenn Becks and Sarah Palins.  He predicts the emergence of a new centrist from the Republican party who will gain control of the party.  Without this, it will remain adrift.
    • Fox News is "killing" CNN, resulting in a major emphasis at the network to be "balanced".
    • When he teaches his Georgetown law students, he tells them to: "read something beyond your comfort zone."  Jeb Bush was once asked what he reads from the opposing side and he was able to quickly name publications, writers, and websites from the left.  Begala said: "I'll put my money on Jeb."
  • David Plouffe, Democratic strategist and President Obama's 2008 Presidential Campaign manager, addressed the group.  Here are the high points:
    • Demographic trends strongly favor the Democratic party, including the growth in Latino and African American populations as well as the fact that younger voters are increasingly involved and increasingly voting.  All those factors bode well for future elections for Democrats.
    • Partisan politics have become about self-interest, not about what's best for the U.S.  Some Republicans are "reaching across" and favoring Democratic initiatives.  They will be demonized in upcoming elections and specifically targeted by the Tea Party Movement.  
    • Communication is all about mobile devices now as we increasingly get all of our information from them.  The Obama campaign was the first in history to capitalize on this phenomenon.  Don't mistake the growing number of twenty and thirty year olds who have entered the workforce with computer skills as the sole driving force here; increasingly, people in their sixties and seventies are going on-line, often times for many hours per day.
    • FDR's Fireside Chats routinely secured an 80% radio audience.  Today's biggest presidential addresses garner a tiny fraction of that audience, partly because our focus today is not singularly on a world war... and also because we obtain our information about presidential addresses via television, re-broadcasts on hulu and youtube, via twitter feeds, on-line forums, etc.  The key here is that increasingly we are getting our information via second- and third-hand sources.  In the past, we needed to worry about securing communication channels.  Now, we worry about that and making sure we have secured the help of opinion leaders as well.
    • Video is king.  Websites need to have video and lots of it.  It gives people a reason to go back to the site and for those in the health and not-for-profit sectors, telling your story via video feeds is "the future."
  • Some of the traditional and (over-) generalized assumptions that Democrats support health care issues and Republicans oppose it were turned upside down.  Some of the loudest applause went to champions such as Susan Collins (R-ME) and John Thune (R-SD).  There was one interesting moment when Chuck Grassley (R-IA) gave a stirring anti-health reform speech, setting the tone for what will be a highly contentious implementation process.
  • Senator John Kerry (D-MA), long a champion of home care, spoke of his own recent health issues and need for home care, citing a deep appreciation for the role home care plays in keeping individuals out of the hospital.
  • Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), still in his start-up phase, will hopefully also become a champion.  More to come on this point...
  • There was a rousing protest outside the hotel this morning (who needs an alarm clock when there's booming Vietnamese language chanting from a series of loudspeakers that can do the job?) against Nguyen Tan Dung (don't quote me on that) who was apparently staying in the hotel.  The protestors did not wish good things upon Mr. Tan Dung and his family.

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