The passions out there are somewhat mystifying to me. Here is what we are debating: should we demand that insurance companies provide policies to anyone regardless of pre-existing conditions? Should we help the working poor buy that insurance with subsidies? Are competitive exchanges for health insurance a good or bad thing? Would a public option or a co-op help bring down healthcare costs? Does it make sense for the government to study the effectiveness of various treatments as a guide for doctors? These are all worth debating - and if you break it down into these questions, a majority would back them. Obama's proposals were very, very well illuminated in the campaign; there's nothing here that we weren't told to expect; in fact, he seems over-eager to placate moderates and keep some Republicans within the healthcare reform tent.
But the vicious anger from the far right, which is to say what is currently the right, seems totally out of proportion to these reforms. Where does that come from? It comes from the same place as the tea-party protests. It's partisan, of course - most Republicans, including Glenn Reynolds, ignored the deficit under Bush, blamed Obama for it within minutes of his election, and never refer to the impact of the recession on deficits. But it is also surely cultural - an expression of the rage some in white America feel at the new social make-up of their country. I just sat through a PJTV segment on Sarah Palin, in which the host blithely referred to the heartland as "real America."
If that is what you really believe - that people in cities or suburbs, that minorities, that gays, that blacks and Hispanics are not part of "real America" - then of course, you are angry. You believe a fake America has taken over. You cannot understand this. So you start believing that we have a fascist/communist dictatorship, that there was some fraud allowing a non-citizen to become president, that the government is about to "take over" all healthcare provision ... and on and on. And no one is left in the GOP to challenge this, to calm it down, to present practical alternatives to the obvious crushing problems the country and the private sector have in paying for increasingly costly healthcare.
To me, this is a triumph of ideology. And conservatism is now an abstract anti-government ideology, fueled by cultural, racial and sexual resentment. This is a recipe for more violence, and more marginalization.
(Photo: an infant protests Hitler at a Nancy Pelosi town hall meeting.)
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