The GOP is going over the top in its anti-universal-health-care jihad, with Sarah Palin asserting that
my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care.
Everyone can see that this is nonsense. Everyone can see, moreover, the rank hypocrisy of asserting that the GOP stands up for “the most precious members of our society, our children and our seniors.” They have opposed every means of defending those children and those seniors for nearly half a century. They opposed Medicare under LBJ, and they opposed S-CHIP at the end of Bush’s tenure. They have opposed every practical measure for helping these “precious” people. It’s time for them to give up the charade.
But back to Palin’s insanity. I could be crazy, but I can’t see us losing to this kind of “argument.” I just can’t see the history books in 30 years telling us that we lost the health-care battle under Obama because the public was scared into believing that the president would send them to a “death panel.” We’re past the era when the spectre of “Communism” could scare the American people. I think better of my fellow-citizens than that.
When the history books write about this era, it might turn out that we lost for other reasons. Or maybe we didn’t lose outright, but we lost because the Senate is a decrepit institution that gives undue weight to small, conservative states; that institution may produce a health bill that tries to placate conservatives and ends up helping too few Americans. I just can’t see, though, that we’d lose to outright GOP paranoia. For all its flaws, my country has moved past that.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, we may have feared for a time that we’d lose because Barack Obama is black. Lots of people talked about the “Bradley effect” — that people say they’ll vote for a black man, then don’t do so when they’re face to face with a ballot. It didn’t amount to anything; the right man won. I can’t say that I’m always so sure about my fellow-Americans, of course: I’m sure all of us — on either side of the political spectrum — think periodically that everyone we know is smart, but that everyone else is a knuckle-dragging mouth-breather. But I have faith that the country as a whole is generally moving in the right direction. The direction we’re moving in just won’t allow Palin’s brand of hate speech to get any traction.
They’re desperate, and they know they’ve lost the debate. If they thought they could win the debate, they’d be arguing honestly. They’d be telling us that while they really do wish every American were insured, they don’t believe that government is the way to guarantee universal coverage. Instead they need to scrape the bottom of the barrel and scare old people into thinking that we’ll euthanize them. This is a party that’s throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks.
What we’re seeing is the end of the 2008 campaign all over again. Back then it was the GOP stirring up rage and hatred among its base, to the point that McCain had to reassure one of his supporters that Obama is not an Arab.
It’s natural to fear now that we’ll lose to the fanatics, because they’re passionate and we’re not mobilizing hard enough against them, just as it was natural to fear then that the racists would tip the presidential campaign. When you’re caught up in the heat of the moment, it’s hard to see the big picture; it’s hard for me, right now, to pull myself up out of 24-hour coverage of the debate. But ask yourself: do you really think this is a country where barbarians like Palin could swing the debate? I don’t. If it is such a country, may god have mercy on us.
Steven Pearlstein put it really well the other day:
Health reform is a test of whether this country can function once again as a civil society — whether we can trust ourselves to embrace the big, important changes that require everyone to give up something in order to make everyone better off. Republican leaders are eager to see us fail that test. We need to show them that no matter how many lies they tell or how many scare tactics they concoct, Americans will come together and get this done.
If health reform is to be anyone’s Waterloo, let it be theirs.