Democrats, who have struggled for more than two years to fend off Republican attacks on health care reform, got off to a faltering start at using their national convention to mount a strong defense of the signature legislative accomplishment of President Obama's first term.
It is not that the subject didn't come up. PolicyMic, an online news service aimed at youth, counted mentions of the Affordable Care Act in 18 speeches on the first night. But not one speaker took on the criticism of the law or tried to rebut the key Republican talking points that Democrats have failed to quash in the 896 days since a Congress split along party lines passed it.
Only one speaker — Stacy Lihn, the Arizona mother of a sick child — talked at any length about the law and was specific about benefits on Tuesday night. She credited the law with "saving my daughter's life." But her pitch was buried in the 8-9 p.m. hour, when few were watching. That was two hours later than the video where Ryan Case spoke emotionally about losing both his parents to health issues left untreated because they lacked insurance.
Other speakers were content to just cast health care reform as a first-term success, as if this was an accepted fact to all Americans, even though polls show the country badly split on the matter. Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine was the most succinct: "He said he'd pass health care reform, and he did." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was more combative, saying, "Some said he couldn't take on the insurance companies that were ripping us off. But President Obama made the tough and right call to save lives, save Medicare, and ensure no one goes broke just because they get sick."