There are a distressingly large number of things in this life that may be politically relevant while also being substantively (near)meaningless. GruberGate 2.0 is one of those things. Jonathan Gruber (a health economist and former unofficial adviser during the Affordable Care Act development, who’s econometric work is an important part of how health care reform was done in Massachusetts) being candid about his views towards voters (“the stupidity of the American voters”) and the policy-making process of the ACA (“The bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes.”) has implications in exactly two ways: himself and the clickbait barons of the internet. I don’t know the extent to which this might ‘breath new life’ into the Republican opposition to the law, versus becoming one among many other bits of political ammunition, because I very much doubt that the absence of some Gruber videos would’ve resulted in a substantial difference.
That being said, and reiterating that this is not another GruberGate post, there is something along the lines of a takeaway of sorts for how progressives should be pitching their ideas to folks that don’t share their level of Beltway knowledge and/or ideology. Basically, don’t be Jon Gruber. The always-worth-reading Bill Gardner articulates this well, especially in his second emphasis:
The second lesson is about elitism. The political is personal and part of the American right’s case against progressives is that liberals are elitist snobs. The Gruber video is now Exhibit A in that case. Real egalitarians don’t excuse their inability to communicate by citing the “stupidity of the American voter” as a fact in evidence. Want to learn how to make a convincing case to your fellow citizens? Start by taking them seriously as equals.
I have an uncle who memorably told me once that he’s taught his son that when he is figuratively looking towards people he should face them directly, looking neither “up nor down.” That is, treat them as human beings, equally. Bill gets to this point succinctly and should be a lesson even for folks who are not elites in the Gruber sense or strictly egalitarian in their political motivations. Knowledge about the process for how the CBO scores federal spending is an opportunity cost that most Americans are (rightly) not willing to pay, and most of the rest of us are probably suckers for paying it anyway. That knowledge, or lack thereof, does not speak to the intelligence of the former (nor, heh, the latter) but to the different language-sets we utilize. Finding a way to translate, or bridge that divide, will always be a critical part of communicating effectively.
Yet at the very least it requires a modicum of basic respect for people unlike yourself, something Gruber clearly lacked in those instances, and is a lesson we should all take to heart.