Monday, March 22, 2010

Lessons Learned

Like everyone else, I have a lot of thoughts about the healthcare bill’s passage. I’ve made no secret of my dislike for the bill, calling it a “crap sandwich” on numerous occasions and observing that without a public element, it is indeed the very definition of fascism.

But regardless, it has passed, and it is what it is. I’m not popping champagne corks or high-fiving my fellow liberals. I’m glad that we have a good start toward curbing insurance company abuses, that finally the people have a little more leverage against a for-profit system that makes millions of dollars off of denying people access to what is supposed to be the best healthcare system in the world.

I do think this marks a good opportunity for both Republicans and Democrats to learn a few lessons. I’ll start with the Republicans, who were shameless in their lies and fearmongering about death panels and socialism, egging on their unhinged base to the point where we had Congressmen hung in effigy, a Parkinson’s patient taunted, a Civil Rights icon called “nigger” and a gay Congressman called “faggot.” You guys really humiliated yourselves in your race to the bottom, and don’t think the vast majority of Americans who don’t waltz around in tri-corner hats didn’t see your shenanigans and find them repulsive.

It wasn’t just protestors who seemed dangerously unhooked from reality, but Republicans in Congress. I caught just a little bit of the debate over the weekend, enough to see Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn lament that “freedom has died a little bit today,” which is really rich coming from someone who:
• Voted NO on requiring FISA warrants for wiretaps in US, but not abroad. (Mar 2008)
• Voted YES on removing need for FISA warrant for wiretapping abroad. (Aug 2007)
• Voted YES on allowing electronic surveillance without a warrant. (Sep 2006)
• Voted YES on continuing intelligence gathering without civil oversight. (Apr 2006)
• Voted YES on making the PATRIOT Act permanent. (Dec 2005)

So, ya know, don’t talk to me about the death of freedom when you want the government to eavesdrop on peoples’ phone conversations without a warrant. You’re living in your own little world, lady, where “freedom” is defined on some pretty bizarro terms, and I sure don’t want to go there with you.

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum has this to say to the Republicans:

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.
Frum called the healthcare bill’s passage a “huge win for the conservative entertainment industry” because Limbaugh gets to keep his angry listeners and he gets to keep them angry by telling them lies about Democrats wanting to abort your babies and haul grandma off to a death panel. This is good for Limbaugh’s ratings and his advertisers, but it’s not good for the Republican Party either.

Frum is absolutely right. The entertainment wing of the Republican Party -- Limabugh, Hannity, Glenn Beck and, yes, Sarah Palin -- can only succeed when their listeners are enraged and uninformed. They operate in an alternate reality created by talk radio and FOX News. They parade around with signs referring to themselves (with no irony whatsoever) as the “Silent Majority,” and use “I am the mob” hashtags on Twitter.

Unfortunately, their alternate reality doesn’t make room for a few hard truths, which Frum points out: that Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, and the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than when Clinton was president. And also the fact that polls have been back and forth on the healthcare bill, but those showing high negatives included people like me, dirty fucking hippies who wanted socialized medicine and are pissed we aren’t getting it. And that individual components of the healthcare bill, like an end to pre-existing conditions, are actually popular .

You folks created a fantasy world, so don’t come crying to me when the cold light of reality crashes your tea party.

And to Democrats I have to say, you guys blew it big time, even as you celebrate your historic victory. How in the hell did you let the opposition present a massive expansion of our private, for-profit health insurance system as socialism? Hello? How many times did we hear Republican politicians and pundits repeat, robotically, the scripted talking point about a “massive government takeover of healthcare.” I mean look, John Boehner is still doing it. How many times did we hear that fallacy and the Chuck Todds, Jake Tappers, Joe Scarboroughs, Chris Matthews’ etc. never once said: hey wait a minute, that’s not true.

How many times are the Democrats going to let their message get away from them before they figure out how to deal with this? How long before they figure out that the so-called “liberal media” is not your friend and they won’t correct the record and report facts, they operate solely on the level of opinion?

Get on message, people. I don’t expect Democrats to be robots and read off a script like the Republicans do, we aren’t that disciplined or that brain-dead, but for crying out loud, there is no way in hell an expansion of a private, for-profit business is anything close to “government run healthcare.” When you hear that kind of BS about future legislation, please in God’s name, call them on it!

Anyway, that’s enough ranting for now. I’m glad the sideshow is over ... for now.