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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.
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
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
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