Australia, Schadenfreude & Conservatives

It has not yet been a week from the election and there has been a lot of schadenfreude from those who supported President Obama.  Personally I am comfortable with this–for now. If it is still thriving by US Thanksgiving weekend, though, I think it will be time to let it rest.  There is a fine line between celebrating and gloating.

This one has been making the rounds on the internet:

This IS hilarious, the facts about Australia are 100% accurate and–of course–gives American progressives another little jab at the other side. It fits so easily into a stereotype of the American right-wing: ignorant people with absolutely no knowledge or interest in the world beyond the USA’s borders.

I’ll say this, though, while it is a hoot and a half the author is a teenaged girl. A girl who may be parroting something she heard her parents claim (she has since deleted her Twitter account–probably after being soundly mocked by thousands of tweeters!).  I’ll smirk a bit (well, a lot) but let’s be fair, I reckon we ALL said things as teenagers that would make us cringe today.  Personally, I am still haunted by a heated discussion over the first Gulf War I once got into as an adolescent at the Rasmussen Library and am eternally thankfully there was no audio, video or social media to preserve it in perpetuity! I’d die of humiliation.

What’s interesting is Australia has popped up among those frustrated with Obama’s election quite frequently this last week. Most claims are probably about as meaningful as those knee-jerk reactions made by Americans about emigrating to Canada when their party-of-choice loses (and, please, can we give that a rest Democrats?). Yet, this go-around I seem to see “Australia” thrown around more than anyplace else. It’s fascinating.  It’s certainly not for any true knowledge of the Australian political system, health care, or any reality that the system Down Under would be a haven to USA Neoconservatism.  However, I bring it up because it proves a niggling feeling I have had for YEARS about a crucial PR error those who believed in health care reform have been making when offering up international alternatives.

Beginning with Nixoncare, through Hillarycare, to the 2010 debate over Obamacare, you would often hear about alternate single-payer systems throughout the world that were absolute paradise. I won’t argue their merits or deficiencies here but, strictly from a salesman’s spin, I think Michael Moore’s Sicko probably did more harm than good by using France as its example. Again, the French system is probably great–I don’t know enough to argue for or against it here–but France? Really? In a 2007 film? Immediately after the demonization of their (perceived) anti-Americanism and “Freedom Fries” hysteria?  Whatever its virtues France was a terrible sales pitch for Middle America: too foreign, too effete, and just too, well, French.

What about Britain’s NHS? Not a good example to persuade on-the-fence Americans either (remember, that’s who the health care debate was aimed at: not ultra-conservatives who even opposed Nixon’s sensible health care reform plan in 1974) since there is NO shortage of Brits ready and willing to relate horror-stories of the NHS.  Plus, there is the running US half-joking-but-kind-of-true idea that Sister Wendy is what NHS dentistry looks like.

For several years, now,  I’ve argued that a missed PR opportunity would have been to have used Australia as the example of a good single-payer model when trying to convince Americans to give some reform a try. Sure, it is not much different from Canada in essence but the Left has rang that Canadian bell so much that I suspect a lot of independents’ eyes glaze over and ears stop listening during a “Canada” name-drop the same way the others do when conservatives repeat “small business” like someone with Tourette’s.  It’s become trite. Also–again–“Latte Liberals” and Hollywood elites like Matt Damon or Cher threatening to move to Canada has become such a tired cliche it’s probably tainted the brand.

Back to Australia: your average American probably knows next-to-nothing about its health care system and this would have been a good thing during the Hillarycare fights in the 1990s, for instance.  Also, many Americans would concede that, say, Sweden’s system is perfectly great for Sweden.  Yet, they would counter, it could never work in a big, rough and tumble, pioneering nation like the good ole US of A. Europe’s just so different. Yet, Australia also has that big, multi-cultural, tamed-by-pioneers panache in US mythology.  I think a lot of Middle America would have been comfortable, and perhaps even respectfully listened to, an Australia comparison more so than France.

Personally, I’m happy the Affordable Care Act–or at least the best parts of it–are now likely to be an established part of the US system following President Obama’s re-election and polls are showing most Americans turning against the idea of scrapping it as more and more of it takes effect.  I did chuckle at poor Kristen and her ignorant tweet, but I also hope non-gloating Democrats maybe extract a kernel of wisdom there. In politics, just like in sales, the medium is the message.

*EDIT: a follower of my blog in Canada has informed me that after the 2004 election of President Bush the Canada Dept of Immigration website did receive 6 times the daily average number of hits. So not just hot air that time around?

Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in an early 1970s picture. “It’s Time” for universal health coverage. This was around the same time US president Richard Nixon proposed his health care reform plan which was defeated.

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