There Is a Line and These Two Crossed It

The silly season is in full swing.   Stop believing (in fact, maybe stop reading) the political trash coming into your mailbox, inbox or showing up online. Television you already know not to trust, right?  Someone told me that political ads have invaded streaming services now, which is depressing.

It was Democratic senate candidate Debra Rodman’s television ad attacking Henrico County Senator Siobhan Dunnavant that sparking this post.  I was really put off by the opening, where Rodman expresses her respect for Dunnavant’s medical skills, and then claims the obstetrician has “forgotten” what it is like to be a patient. “Wow, that’s pretty nasty,” was my first thought.  It gets worse. 

As I was looking up the bill in question (more on that later), a news story popped up on the Richmond Times-Dispatch webpage and Rodman’s initial nod to Dr. Dunnavant’s profession was explained.  In an earlier direct mail hit, Rodman called Dr. Dunnavant a quack over support of that bill.  That is lawsuit material, an attack on the professional credibility of an individual and a slur against an entire professional group.  In honor of a World War II battle going on 75 years ago now, that was definitely a bridge too far.

The Blue Virginia piece highlighting Rodman’s television ad is strangely silent on the mail piece, decorated with a duck head.  When Blue Virginia won’t repeat something bad about a Republican, that’s noteworthy.

Outrage was mixed with an expectation that Rodman will pay a price at the polls for that printed libel, but it is par for the course in modern American politics.  Maybe she won’t.  And by the time this morning’s print edition arrived, the story on Rodman-Dunnavant was paired with an example of stupid rhetoric from a local Republican candidate.

Senator Amanda Chase of Chesterfield County, in a tougher race probably than she should be in that district, bragged she was “not afraid to shoot down gun groups.”  It was an online advertisement, showing her with her firearm at a gun range.  Being an online ad, it was easy to amend and might not have penetrated like a mail piece, but the follow up excuse blaming a third-party vendor falls flat.

Every candidate should be held accountable for every claim or silly comment in any mail piece, radio advertisement, robocall, online pronouncement or television spot.  Despite the law against coordination between candidates and those dark money outside groups, always assume the candidate who benefits was fully aware and fully approved.  Never accept “gee, I don’t know those people, didn’t approve that.”  Allow zero deniability.

The amount of money sloshing around already means that the final few weeks of this campaign will be the trashiest to date among Virginia legislative elections.  It is embarrassing to have cash on hand at the end and piles of direct mail or robocalls are a quick way to empty the bank account.  I’m not sure whether to blame the voters or the campaigns, but clearly now it is mainly mud at the end.  Brace yourselves.

Just what is this bill Rodman is attacking Dunnavant over?  Did it really, as she claims, “let insurance companies deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.” That ability to buy coverage is of course is one of the most popular features of the federal Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, which Democrats defend in pieces but often not in toto.

Senate Bill 844 from 2018 was one of several bills that the General Assembly Republicans have passed to allow lower cost, less comprehensive insurance packages for those who want or need another choice.  A whole series of them have been vetoed by Governor Ralph Northam.  This particular bill would have authorized short term (364 days or less) coverage exempt from the full package of mandatory benefits in the regulated market.

Anybody buying such a plan would be doing so by choice.  None of the group plans offered by employers or even the ACA-compliant individual marketplace would have changed.  All of them would still be required to take applicants with pre-existing conditions.  None of the GOP bills changed any of that.  But consumers looking for individual coverage would have an additional choice.

Will that work?  Don’t ask me.  It might lure people away from better coverage.  Blue Virginia’s piece provides more argument over the issue.  I know that what we have now is not working and people remain frustrated.  Many Democrats now are ready to go way beyond the ACA because of those frustrations.

What would be a fair statement about that bill?  The bill allowed insurance companies to offer alternative plans not compliant with the ACA, providing far less protection. But that makes the argument about government regulation versus consumer choice.  With Rodman’s phrasing, the viewer or reader is supposed to believe the bill changed the rules on all health coverage in Virginia.

The initial plan for this was a discussion on the issue, but the mail pieces hijacked that.  Providing only partial information and ignoring any explanation is how political advertising is done, but it still means you should doubt everything you see, read and hear from now on.

The best mail piece in my mind has the candidate’s name, their best head shot and family photos, the office being sought, some bio material, the date of the election and some nice puffy promises unlikely to be kept.  Make sure the name is in large print on both sides, so the voter at least gets that much information as the flyer is carried to the recycling bag.

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14 responses to “There Is a Line and These Two Crossed It”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    You seem to drift from campaign tactics and rules to policy on the health insurance thing.

    And I think you are advocating for something for insurance for those who do not have employer-provided than you’d not like at all if employer insurance could do the same thing – i.e. limit (cap) coverage to keep costs low.

    The pre-existing condition requirement means nothing if the insurance company can cap benefits. That’s the “alternative” … and would you be happy if your employer-provided insurance ALSO could change and cap benefits depending on what condition you have?

    The requirement for employer-provided insurance IS a government regulation – without that regulation – insurers could – and would negotiate to put caps in place just as they want to do with “alternative” market policies.

    So.. if you have employer-provided – it’s okay to offer these lower cost policies to folks that don’t have employer-provided but if they messed in the same way with your employer-provided there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    And this is the problem. Those that have government-protected insurance (which is what employer-provided is) – don’t care what happens to those who don’t have employer-provided. “Alternative” policies are just fine for others…

    So this is the game that the GOP is playing – and their opponents are going to bring it to them… make them accountable to voters for these double-standard insurance policies where those with employer-provided keep their protections and those without get tossed to the wolves. That’s the GOP “plan” and in a GIG economy – it’s patently wrong and a disservice to people who do work – hard – but their employer does not offer insurance and they have to buy it on the market.

    This all comes back on us. These folks get sick – go get medical care and get a 50K bill and get driven into bankruptcy and worse.

    One might think that those of us who do have employer-provided would see the inequity and argue for equity – instead of defending the reprehensible stuff the GOP is proposing.


    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Yes, Larry, tried to hit too many ducks in that one post. Anybody who can afford the better coverage can get it. Her bill didn’t change that. Not all can afford the better coverage, even with the taxpayer subsidy. Obamacare has solved very little of what it promised to fix. Ten percent of Virginians still uninsured as of 2018, as I reported earlier on this blog. Like most liberals you assume government always knows best….

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Obamacare if not crippled like it has been covered more…. and when you talk about Obamacare – it’s also the MedicAid Expansion…

        the problem is for the critics – what would you do different?

  2. I agree with Steve, campaign ads are disgraceful. I never believe a negative campaign ad from anyone in either party. I assume that, at best, they overlook nuance and context, at worst, they are outright fabrications. If you can’t honestly state your opponent’s argument, you’ve got no business criticizing it.

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Donald trump, not noted in your piece, has put the entire process if The Big Lie on ramjets. I don’t know about the pre existing conditions aspect you say the GOP bill maintains.!as far as a Dem calling a GOP medical doctor a “quack” welcome to the era of The Donald whom you GOPers always pretends doesn’t exist. The Post has rallied more than 10k public lies.

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Convenient moral thinking – you can libel any Republican you want and blame it on Trump! You can lie and blame it on Trump. As long as Trump exists (keep it up and he gets four more years) no Democrat can go too low….Started campaign work in mid 80s and people went over the line then, too. The line hasn’t moved. When people cross it, they should be called out hard. Glad the RTD did both stories.

  4. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    I loved the piece of mail I recently received from my delegate, Schuyler VanValkenburg ( love that name; I would vote for him based on his name alone!). In his ad, he (a freshman delegate in the minority) claimed credit for additional funding for schools, more school counselors, and a pay raise for teachers!

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      The Republican in your district is GayDonna Vandergriff, also quite a name. Some voters may get confused in the booth….Yes, he’s claiming he did it (all by himself?) while down in Colonial Heights his fellow Democrat is claiming Speaker Cox (retired teacher) opposed teacher pay. Cox had a bit more to do with the raises than any freshman.

      To work, attacks have to be credible. It is not credible that Cox is insensitive to teacher pay, nor is it credible that Dr. Dunnavant is insensitive to concerns over medical costs. Nasty usually backfires.

  5. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Larry, what the legislature has sought to do differently is to offer some additional individual options, and as I recall some additional ways for people to pool into groups to get group coverage (association health plans.) They have passed bills, not just stood on the sidelines complaining. The same issue is being used to attack R’s all over the state so perhaps we do need to explore it a bit more. Clearly the Democrats saw an opportunity to distort these bills into political weapons, so they all voted no and got the Governor to veto them. Politics over policy?

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    Unfortunately – the “line” that Steve talks about DOES move and worse than that – it’s different for different folks and colored by political philosophy.

    And then we use that imaginary line basically disavow those whose
    actual votes and policy positions we disagree with as a way to discredit rather than actually deal with the policy issue.

    The truth be known, many great leaders of the past were flawed as are contemporary leaders and when we support their political philosophies, we tend to excuse their flaws and when we disagree then it’s all about their flaws and especially so if we disagree with their policy positions.

    Trump has forever changed how we think about politics – right and wrong – and the use of raw power and authority to corrupt what we thought were the uniqueness of America with regard to governance. We now know that we can be like any other 3rd world country… by our choices at election.

  7. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Let’s just drive this home. Compare the whiny moral relativism and “it’s all Trump’s fault” dodge of Larry and Peter with my key paragraph. And this certainly applies across the board.

    Every candidate should be held accountable for every claim or silly comment in any mail piece, radio advertisement, robocall, online pronouncement or television spot. Despite the law against coordination between candidates and those dark money outside groups, always assume the candidate who benefits was fully aware and fully approved. Never accept “gee, I don’t know those people, didn’t approve that.” Allow zero deniability.

    We the voters can demand better from everyone.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      If I left the impression that all of this is Trump’s “fault”, I erred – my point was to show that as bad as politics has been already – it can be worse and if Trump has reset the benchmark – it well could “trickle down” to others.

      We already talk about Northam and Herring “exceeding their authority” right?

      AND I AGREE with Steve’s central premise of candidate accountability – but there are myriad other voices and surrogates for varrious issues.

      The latest – called “surprise medical billing” is a case in point. Another is “preexisting conditions” where seems to have different meanings to various candidates and voters depending on their political leanings. “Socialism” and the “Green New Deal”, Medicare for All, etc..

      Do people REALLY understand some of these issues beyond what they’ve heard from their favorite sources which often are promoting their version of the truth? How many times has the issue of Original Medicaid been conflated with the Medicaid expansion?

      For me – CLARITY of a position from a candidate is also as important as “accountability” because there are arguments about what they say they supported verses how they voted.

  8. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Btw. Don’t get the goose picture.

  9. […] a more expensive one-size-fits-all approach.   Well, isn’t that exactly what Democrats like Senate candidate Debra Rodman and other others are demanding in Virginia?  One size fits all?  In several districts they are […]

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