Thursday, March 25, 2010

Same Old Song and Dance

I think maybe it’s time to grow up. It’s time to bring in some adult supervision. The petty school age shenanigans going on in Washington are exactly what drove the Republicans from power in the last two elections… and what drove the Democrats from power before that. It goes beyond the handful of less than discreet elected officials caught in their indiscretions – on both sides of the aisle. That sort of behavior is to be expected from a small minority of any population and congress is no exception. But the juvenile antics of a sore loser gets to be tiring and the only place left to rebel is at the ballot box. I think we are fed up. I know I am.

Lets start with some misconceptions first: The passage of the healthcare reform package was perfectly legal and perfectly American. We have a democratic republic – that means that the “people” don’t decide which laws are passed and which are not, our representatives do. We decide who they are. And if I am not mistaken, they (enough of them to be successful) promised to do just that - and they passed a law that addresses our healthcare system. There is absolutely nothing un-American about anything in the process. If anything, it was ultra-American; too much like it’s always done… with all the unnecessary complexity that comes with two parties that cannot play nice together. Healthcare reform was a major campaign pledge, and this time it was a promise that was actually kept.

But there’s more. Because the Republicans have lost the argument with any appeal to credibility (ethos) and the reasoning used is politically biased at best (logos), they have resorted to the only appeal they have left – an appeal to our emotions (pathos). This stuff is 2,500 years old and every bit as valid today as it was in Aristotle’s time. And arguably the most powerful appeal to emotion rests in what is arguably the most powerful emotion – hate. So now we have the mischaracterizations: Obama is a socialist? A communist? Godless? A Muslim? Not born in the United States? I left the racial epithets out, but there's more than a little of that, too. And, of course, he is out to get us… to control every minutia of our lives – and it starts with an attempt to fix a system that is famously, notoriously and seriously broken. True, it remains to be seen how effective the plan will be, but if it is only marginally successful, it will be a success. Healthcare is already “socialized.” We all pay for those who cannot afford their own care and we do it in the most expensive way – at the emergency room. Death panels? Please.

The most radical are intentionally (and effectively) propagating fear, and that invariably turns to hate. And the less radical are cosigning it. In a comment regarding threats and acts of violence against supporters of the healthcare reform package, House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the acts are “unacceptable.” Really? Unacceptable? How about reprehensible? How about illegal? How about, dare I say, un-American? And Sara Palin has the Democrats' districts that she views as vulnerable in the mid-term elections marked on a map with gun sight cross hairs, urging her followers to “take aim.” Real big-girl talk.

What blows my mind is not so much what passes for day-in and day-out behavior for so many of our elected public servants (and not just because it’s the Republicans who are taking their ball and going home this time - it’s a not very long walk down memory lane to where the Democrats were acting like rotten kids, too), it’s that so many people have bought into the outrageous hyperbole, either by acquiescence or by actually jumping on board the bandwagon. Some actually seem to enjoy it. Many are currently receiving “socialized” (meaning we pay for it) government aid – healthcare and otherwise – while they are arguing against the same for others. The hypocrisy is palpable. Our government is operating just as it is supposed to and it has for a very long time – in good times and in bad, regardless of the party in power. This is still the greatest, most prosperous and freest nation on Earth and no single president has the power to destroy it.

Just ask Nixon.

5 comments:

g said...

Well put Michael!

Tim said...

Michael,

I respectfully disagree; I don't have time to counter-argue every point, but I'll make these:

On process, the rules were bent and the inducements offered for votes were at an unprecedented level because public support for the effort was less than its opposition. A minority really wanted the bill and had to exploit every tool in the book to get to the bill passed. Never before in American history as any bill remotely significant as this bill ever passed Congress with no votes from the minority party and with bi-partisan opposition. You can look it up.

On the bill itself, I'll not drop on you a multi-page deconstruction of why it is doomed to fail on its own terms, but rather simply state the fact it is structurally underfunded by 40% (ten years of taxes and fees and six years of benefits in its 1st 10 years, with no self-triggering fix in the language) AND it is a massive increase in America's entitlement programs, all of which are actuarilly unsound and rapidly approaching insolvency. In short, it is grossly irresponsible.

As for tactics, I think an objective review of the opposition would show that only a narrow minority have been engaged in the ugly behaviors you cite. Please do not forget that a majority of American oppose the health care reform bill just enacted (CNN and CBS have two such polls – there are others you can find as well); had this majority engaged in the tactics you denounce, I daresay our politics would be much, much uglier than they are right now. Regardless, the voters have the last say, and I suspect you’ll be surprised at the political cost the Democrats pay for this come November.

Anyway, while you may want this because you think it is right, or want the "win" because you are partisan, in the end, if you were to know, and then honestly acknowledge the extreme risks (leaving aside the manifest flaws in the bill itself) the bill creates, I would say to you you'd find the Republican and other opposition to the bill quite understandable. That is, if you were fairminded about this (which I'm NOT accussing you of NOT being). This isn’t going to work out like supporters hope. It cannot.

Michael Althouse said...

@Tim,

I actually agree with much of your opposition regarding the bill itself - I am not happy with what was produced and to a large extent I believe it was pushed through for the sake of getting anything passed. But I disagree regarding how this particular bill was pushed through, although I will concede that you are far more versed on the ins and outs of government than I. From an outsider's viewpoint - one that is as informed as I (or probably most) have time for, it IS the same old song and dance. This wheeling and dealing is nothing new. It might have been taken to new highs in lows, but it's not new. My main problem is regarding the partisan bickering on both sides of the aisle - we didn't send them into war, we sent then into service - and it does not appear that we are getting our money's worth. I'm pretty disgusted by the personal attacks and the war cries - the tears and the screaming. I would really, really like Washington to grow up.

Dulce said...

Oh
I am not in politics, but i understand... SO much i think about the fear Americans have of change. Here in Europe health care works like that otherwise the poor ones would not have any medical attention..Which does not necessarily mean it works perfcetly well. It does in Sweeden, where taxes are so high... but all the public servces are EXCELLENT...
So what is wrong about being democratic?
What is wrong about being socialist, if it benefits the people, both the rich and the poor?
And that 'rich' and 'poor' concepts are so intensely differenciated in your country... So does it mean being free is being able to step on the weakest head in favour of my wealth?
I should not say this... but we are free to give our opinion... thank GOd and all the free countries in the world...

In other words. I agree with you MICHAEL
;)

Tim said...

Michael,

I agree with you on that. I suppose we would have different takes on why it has devolved to the point it has, but without getting too deep into the weeds, let me suggest that as the size, power and expense of the federal government grows over the typical American's life, these battles will get worse rather than better, if only because there will be more to argue over (although I think that's a simplistic, albeit still true explantion).

All the best,

Tim