09/05/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Memo to Marc Ambinder: The Right-Wing Is Not the Middle

Marc Ambinder is spending a lot of blogging energy defending his peeps at CBS for this news report giving the right-wing Birther mob credit for representing concerns about health care reform from the electoral middle. He writes:

A majority of the public supports reform in principle and, broadly, in practice, but they are also worried about more government control, about the costs of reform, and whether they'll see any benefit. These aren't dumb or unfounded worries. It's not surprising that the meetings tend to attract those who oppose reform, and these formats generically attract louder, less shy voices. No doubt: some of the loudest voices were prompted to attend the rallies because they hate Obama and want him to fail and because they were asked to do so by conservative groups. That doesn't make the protests illegitimate.

I don't consider Ambinder to be a right-wing shill. He's giving sincere analysis, as he always does. Just in this case, he's wrong.

His first sentence is basically correct. There is a mix of support for reform and concern how Washington will mess it up among the broad middle of the electorate.

But Ambinder's wording makes it seem like the middle shares right-wing hysteria about "government control," when they manifestly do not.

In the most recent CBS/NYT poll, a whopping 66% supported "the government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan -- something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get -- that would compete with private health insurance plans?" Clearly, it is the left and center which share the fundamental common ground, with 27 percent opposing constituting the right-wingers ranting about socialized medicine.

Now, the same poll asked a litany of questions raising various concerns "if the government CREATES a system of providing health care for all Americans" regarding cost and quality of care. Concerns were high.

But the poll also asked a litany of questions raising various concerns "if the government does NOT create a system of providing health care for all Americans" regarding cost and availability of coverage. Concerns were also high.

So yes, the middle -- being the middle -- has some internal conflicts. But those in the middle absolutely are not coming from the same anti-government, conspiracy theory fever swamp as the conservative extremists disrupting town halls.

In their wildest dreams, these right-wingers would succeed in persuading the middle to share their viewpoint. And they have every right to try.

Except for the fact that they often are trying to shut down open dialogue in these public town halls, their protests would be legitimate expressions of their view.

But it is not legitimate for the media to automatically conflate the right-wing's reflexive opposition to anything involving our government to the mix of concerns held by the plurality of self-described moderates, because moderates are significantly more comfortable with the prospect of government involvement.

Do liberals have some work to do to firm up the support of moderates? Yes, but that won't be accomplished by futilely trying to calm the implacable right-wing extreme.

It can largely be accomplished by convincing them that recent headlines -- claiming pending legislation won't curtail skyrocketing medical costs -- are wrong and based on faulty analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

Just yesterday, a group of prominent health care economists -- and CBO advisers! -- sided with the White House budget director over the CBO regarding potential savings from the proposal of an empowered independent cost-cutting commission run by doctors and health experts.

If the traditional media actually reported on such developments, that might reassure skittish moderates.

Or moderates might be calmed simply by seeing the inanity coming from the right-wing mob, and concluding, if you have to choose between President Obama and a bunch of screaming lunatics for who you trust on health care, you'll take your chances with the President.

Originally posted at