Posted by: mutantpoodle | August 8, 2009

Scared White People

It has been a depressing week. The failure of political discourse has hit its nadir with the unbridled fury of people who have been lied to by people who should – indeed, do – know better. So we get “town meetings” hijacked by people uninterested in airing concerns, but intent on preventing any speech but their own – the Sarah Palinization of the First Amendment.

Many on the left are focusing on the corporate coordination of these disruptions, and tagging them as an “astroturf” as opposed to grassroots events. And while that’s true – there are strategy memos drafted by right wing lobbying organizations that are being followed to the letter – that sort of misses the point. There are people who are incredibly fearful, which makes them angry, which makes them more than willing to follow directions which tell them to effectively shut down a democratic forum. They make frequent Nazi comparisons (thanks, in part, to their hero, Rush Limbaugh), and have suggested that Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, who just announced he has prostate cancer, euthanize himself. North Carolina representive Brad Miller received a death threat, and the SEIU received a call telling them they’re going to “come up against the Second Amendment” if they don’t stop trying to “repress people’s First Amendment rights.”

Why?

The answer, of course, is they’re afraid of things that aren’t in the bill – things they’ve been convinced by Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Dick Morris, Sean Hannity, and, yes, some members of Congress exist – and they’re going to do whatever it takes to prevent things from happening that were never going to happen in the first place.

Yesterday, the Queen Bee of Crazy, Sarah Palin, suggested that an Obama “Death Panel” could decide whether her son Trig would live or die.

In an additional irony, many of the Town Hall protesters are seniors demanding that the government stay away from their health care. One guy was a senior AND a veteran – so he not only has single payer through Medicare, but VA care as well. His entire medical experience comes courtesy of the U.S. Government.

With weaponry, this is referred to as asymmetrical warfare.

Obama and the Democrats are, for the most part, talking about the irrationality of the US health care system; how it is nowhere near the best in the world as far as outcomes are concerned, but is far an away the most expensive, how for-profit insurance companies act unethically (and sometimes illegally) to deny coverage to people, and how our health care cost structure will bankrupt us if we don’t do something about it. They are armed with thousands of anecdotes which illustrate all those points.

The GOP says Obama wants to kill your grandmother and replace your doctor with a government accountant. Oh, and TRIAL LAWYERS!

Bill Maher, never susceptible to gauzy reveries about the greatness of America, suggests that notwithstanding a smart President, the country is, on balance, stupid.

I don’t know if that matters. What matters is there is a small group – less than 1/5 of the country – who don’t believe Barack Obama is a legitimate President, that he secretly hates white people, and that health reform is his first chance to get his I Hate Whitey revenge. So when irresponsible hucksters in the GOP and Right Wing Media say that Obama wants to kill their grandparents, it fits with those folks paranoid world view.

Tina Dupuy, to whom I have linked before, suggested in a tweet that “townhall baggers are the same assholes who threw rocks at little rock hs kids in the ’50s.” I was thinking they’re more like the anti-busing protesters, but the idea is the same. In each case, there was in incredible, largely irrational fear, about a change thsat they were convinced would hurt them (or, in the case of busing, their children).

[More recently, Andrew Sullivan referred to the Tea Parties as “Tea Tantrums”, and I quoted him, suggesting that whatever was the opposite of rising to the occasion, that’s what teabaggers were doing. That feeling is eerily familiar.]

I have more sympathy for the anti-busing folks, if only because, in some cases, their children had to go to far-away schools.

The Soiling of Old Glory

The Soiling of Old Glory

But check out this picture from that time, and tell me that it doesn’t encapsulate the emotion of this moment, too.

The heat from that time has cooled over 30 years, and for all its flaws, the success of busing can be partially measured in the color of our 43rd President.

So much of what has been proposed as part of health care reform seems to me so non-controversial as to be boring. Should some version of what is currently floating around pass, nothing will change for several years (the earliest effective dates are well over a year away), and after that, nothing will change for nearly everyone, except those who have been unable to get insurance for some ginned up reason or another.

My point is, no matter how passionate they are now, should some sort of reform pass, those trying to shut down Town Hall Meetings will, in six months, fall into two categories.

  • The crazies who will always believe that Obama wants their guns and is about to turn America into an Islamic theocracy
  • People who will wonder what the fuss was about.

I’m under no illusions – the first group will far outnumber the second. But over the years, the second group will grow. And this will, in retrospect, seem like such a silly diversion.

Which means this: if you are a Democratic congresscritter, remember that come 2010, no one will have been euthanized, or separated from their doctor, or brought up before a death panel. Nor will any of those prospects be on the horizon.

On the other hand, insurance companies will be barred from denying insurance based on pre-existing conditions, and will (theoretically) be unable to excise you from their rolls if you have the temerity to get sick. Millions of people who would otherwise be unable to access health insurance will have that chance.

So look ahead, and do the right thing. “Always in motion is the future,” said Yoda. Vote for reform, and the future is moving in your direction.

Vote against it because you think this manipulated rump of American society consists of swing voters, and I will consider you a coward of the first order, unworthy of your salary and oath. And I won’t be the only one.

Don’t be a coward.

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