As a student of political communications and someone who hopes to work in Washington D.C. one day, I couldn’t help but pay attention to the recent fight over the Affordable Care Act and the ensuing government shutdown. One thing sprung to mind on Tuesday Oct. 1 when the government had shutdown and thousands were out of their jobs, does Washington have a communication problem?
Many people are responsible for the communication problems in our Nation’s Capital. Is the Obama administration at fault? They surely haven’t done an efficient job of communicating the details of the Affordable Care Act and how positive its effects can be. Jimmy Kimmel recently made a parody of the shutdown, asking people whether they supported the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Many of the individuals weren’t able to recognize that both are the exact same thing. This is evidence of the President’s loss in the framing war of his most prized piece of legislation. The Republican Party was successfully able to brand the Affordable Care Act as Obamacare and give it a negative connotation in the process.
However, the Obama administration isn’t the only side to blame. By ignoring key factors in the political sphere, some members of the Republican Party are also at fault. Sen. Ted Cruz, and others in the Republican Party, repeatedly supported a budget bill that looked relatively similar to the Democrats’ budget bill, except for the fact that it defunded Obamacare. Despite the fact that the majority of the public supports the Affordable Care Act and the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the act, Republicans repeatedly refuse to see that fact. They believe that they are working on behalf of the American people. Either they are choosing to be misleading in their communication, or they are inept at interpreting communication.
So who is really to blame? Could all of Washington benefit from a little PR help? Of course I’m not claiming to know how to do it better than the pros who are working in Washington, but I believe that some of them may have gotten so focused on being right that they’ve ignored what is right before their ears. When that happens, we all suffer.