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August 10, 2009

Is the Right’s Rage Really About Health Care?


After watching the health care debate last week, the question is, “What is the American Right debating?” Judging from their specific answers on the topic, it does not appear that they are primarily interested in fixing health care. In fact, it appears that a considerable number of them just simply don’t believe there’s anything wrong with health care at all. It appears that what they are yelling and shouting about is something other than health care reform.


If you had a hard time making out their specific complaint, it’s because the Right has taken the time-tested path by which you can safely substitute volume for ideas. If you can punch through the yelling and shouting, however, it appears that their complaints have a great deal more to do with the government than they do about health care.


Oh, there was an idea or two tumbled around, mostly involving the usual demagoguery – if there is a problem with health care, it’s all the fault of poor people and lawyers. But none of these come anywhere within a nuclear bomb’s blast radius of promising to fix the broken health care system. Mostly it’s about punishing poor people and lawyers for being, you know, poor people and lawyers.


There is a lot of speculation about whether these protests were organized by corporate interests or some kind of spontaneous reaction from conservatives angry about the growth of government (most of them refuse to call themselves conservatives anymore, in the same way that self-loathing liberals refuse to call themselves liberals). In truth, there is probably a good deal to both arguments: The protests as an idea were organized and sponsored by corporate interests, and probably most of the people who attended them cared less about the corporations and more about what they perceive as growing socialism. It’s a common-law marriage of convenience – both sides have moved in with each other without officially exchanging vows.


Yet the question remains: Is the nation’s broken health care system a bigger threat here than the growing specter of socialism? I guess you’ll have to leave that to individuals, most of whom can be expected to not be so wed to ideology that they’d willingly continue to go without health insurance or willingly continue to have difficulty balancing premiums for what used to be a perk of the job with paying the mortgage (and occasionally buying food).


Americans have long prided themselves on being a pragmatic people, capable of great transformation when the moment called for it. Many of the same self-professed patriots who think they fit that mold are today angry that the president may yet discover that the moment today calls for something other than employer-based health. If they think he’s a pinko red yellow Commie for suggesting it, he’s got a lot of support from health care providers. Most of them agree that health care is broken and needs to be fixed with something a good deal more comprehensive.


That’s supposed to be the important thing, here, isn’t it? Health care. Whether we cling to the myth that the United States was forged in the crucible of rugged individualism, or whether we acknowledge that this nation has long dallied with things that today would get shouted off the stage as being akin to Nazi communism (the Nazi symbolism making an appearance at rallies nationwide last week) is supposed to be secondary to whether we can figure out how to provide quality health care to everyone at costs that are manageable.


That is a position of nuance. It is not a position that is forwarded with great success by yelling and shouting and disrupting public events. That, unfortunately, has become the standard way the Right has come to address any issue. That begs the question: Are they shouting to influence the health care debate, or are they merely shouting to be heard?


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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