05/21/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Twitter, Morning Joe, and the Health Care Conversation

joe scarborough

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Relying on a story from the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, Joe Scarborough called Obama the most polarizing President of our times on Twitter Friday. Because I have an empty life, most of which is frittered away on Twitter (I'm being sarcastic) I followed the conversation over the weekend, and it certainly depressed me.

People on Twitter who are on the "left" called Scarborough a racist, and accused him of supporting such activities as waterboarding and of 'inciting rage." He answered many of them back, citing facts and information, trying to call for fairness. He didn't get down to the fighting words, either. He tried to have a "conversation."

I am not a Republican, nor am I a conservative. My business buddies in Arizona have often accused me of socialist leanings when I talk about the universal right of Americans to health care.

But I listen to "Morning Joe" as often as I can wake myself at 3AM, which is when it airs in Arizona and California, and as much as I don't always agree with Joe, I find he's at least open to Obama's presidency and willing to praise Obama for what he does well. And if you read the article from the Pew Center, it does lead off with how much gap there is in Obama's approval ratings between Republicans and Democrats -- 61%. Many Republicans I know think Obama is making us into Europe and going to take away our right to defend ourselves and hand the country over to Hugo Chavez in exchange for a book.

As Joe is finding out, it's getting harder and harder, even in the world of Facebook, Twitter, and Friendfeed, with all the tools available to us, for people who disagree to have a "conversation." Is there no place for independent thought? Respectful arguments?

Saturday afternoon I went to a supposed Town Hall presented by the Progressive Democrats of Arizona, the Health Care Now organization, and a couple of other democratic organizations.

The meeting, which was supposed to present details on a half dozen competing health care plans, devolved into a tirade on the single payer system and a harangue about why to support the single payer alternative making its way through the House of Representatives "before it's too late."

I don't really know how I feel about single payer plans. I am on Medicare, and it seems to work extremely well. But that's because I can afford one of the highest priced supplements, not a Medicare Advantage plan, and not just plain vanilla. Everyone should be on Medicare, and everyone should pay for it.

Before Medicare, I had what everyone in the US who is either self-employed or a small business person has, a catastrophic plan with a very high deductible -- made higher every year as the premiums kept escalating.

I certainly don't want "rationing," in the way single payer plans often present it: denying people treatment after a certain age, making them wait for tests until they're sicker. But I don't delude myself that mandating health insurance will make everyone buy it. In Arizona, auto insurance is mandatory, and 50% of vehicles are uninsured.

Anyway, I got disgusted during the "Town Hall" at people supposedly on "my side" and walked out. I couldn't learn anything, and I found their enthusiasm for their own blind point of view embarrassing. What's more, they argued with one another, using phrases like "we can't say that -- the Sean Hannitys will be all over us." They weren't arguing the merits of anything, but just about how best to present their own point of view so it could slide by the Right. How is that Progressive? It's re-gressive.

I find myself wishing they would have a substantive conversation about the best way to provide universal affordable access to care on "Morning Joe." Between Joe and Mika, they could elevate the dialogue and present the competing issues. They could talk about personal responsibility, outcomes management, education and prevention, changing the incentives, and using technology wisely. Oh, and also about our litigious society and what it has done to the way doctors practice and driven up the costs of care with CYA testing. They could have politicians and policy wonks come to the table. They could advance the discussion.

Because whether Joe Scarborough knows it or not, he's heading toward becoming an Independent, just like I did.

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