[politics] Conservatives and healthcare

I’ve been thinking a lot about the current healthcare brangle here in the U.S. You can’t really call it a “debate”, since there’s precious little rationality emitting from the conservative end of the spectrum. That in and of itself is very revealing — if this were a clash of principles, or a clash of competing solutions, we wouldn’t be seeing town hall shoutdowns, bizarre distortions such as the “death panel” meme, and flat out idiocy such as the Investor’s Business Daily editorial sanctimoniously informing us that Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have survived under the British National Health System.

These are not the tactics of a faction with a coherent viewpoint, let alone a leg stand on. Conservatives appear to favor the current system, where 40 million people are not covered at all and most of the rest of us are one lay-off notice away from risk of medical bankruptcy, over any possible attempt at change. Otherwise they’d be engaged in the process, either collaboratively or competitively.

That many of the town hall shouters against government healthcare are likely either Medicare or VA beneficiaries is an irony which seems lost on everyone. That the United States already has the third highest public expenditures for healthcare in the world (ie, tax dollars, specifically) is a fact which seems lost on everyone. That our healthcare outcomes put us near the bottom of the top 40 nations ranked is a fact which seems lost on everyone.

The system is broken. Badly. Without good insurance, I’d be bankrupt or dead right now, thanks to my ongoing cancer adventures. I am one layoff notice away from that fate. And I’m one of the lucky ones.

But conservatives would rather shoot down any chance of liberal-progressive success that admit the current system is broken, let alone attempt to fix it.

I’ll go back to what I’ve said about conservatism before. As a movement, and through its political standard bearer, the Republican party, conservatism has failed on its own terms. These are people who say, in their party platform, that they believe in:

An optimistic patriotism, driven by a passion for freedom. Devotion to the inherent dignity and rights of every person. Faith in the virtues of self-reliance, civic commitment, and concern for one another. Distrust of government’s interference in people’s lives. Dedication to a rule of law that both protects and preserves liberty.

This devotion to freedom, dignity and rights expresses itself as a howling drive for forced pregnancy, government control of consensual private behavior, destruction of educational quality in the name of religious dogma, wholesale abrogation of constitutional rights, domestic spying, perpetual imprisonment, and deficit spending practices that would shame a 1970s era Congressional Democrat. To name a few.

Conservatives can’t even get their own narrative straight, how can they respond to a competing narrative?

Through lies and hysteria. Hence the current healthcare brangle. The most bizarre manifestation of which is the so called “death panels.” Considering that it’s a time-honored conservative impulse to deny benefits and privileges to people who cannot afford them on their own, assigning to liberal-progressives this putative desire to “put granny down” is the worst form of projection. I suppose a lot of conservatives believe that liberal-progressives will shunt old people aside, simply because they recognize their own willingness to shunt children, the poor, and immigrants aside, and can’t imagine that liberal-progressives might rise above that tendency. Given the long-standing conservative disgust at liberal “giveaways”, it’s a very strange charge indeed. Not to mention counterfactual.

As I said this morning on Twitter, Conservatism is the morbid fear that someone, somewhere, is enjoying an undeserved privilege at your expense.

Except healthcare isn’t an undeserved privilege. Not in a society of our means. I think conservatives should fight for lower taxes and smaller government and individual liberties. (We’ll ignore the Bush Administration for the sake of that.) That fight benefits us all, or can do so. But fighting to keep people sick and dying without recourse? That’s not a passion for freedom, and that’s not devotion to the inherent dignity and rights of every person. That’s just a sickness born of fear.

Live up to your own words, people.

8 thoughts on “[politics] Conservatives and healthcare

  1. t says:

    well said.

  2. Kai Jones says:

    These are not the tactics of a faction with a coherent viewpoint,

    What I see is not “a faction.” I see a bunch of individuals with varied philosophies, not all of them conservatives, who are unhappy with the process. Many don’t want change, probably because the system is working well for them and change will involve a loss (by which I mean a loss of agency, not of specific personal benefit); many want change but not this one done this way, imposed from the top with secret pharma deals and town halls where dissent is no longer considered patriotic (I remember when it was totally cool to shout down a speaker because the shouters were Democratic Party and the speakers were Republicans, but apparently hypocrisy is alive and well).

    The people protesting the President’s plan are not a monolith, any more than all women are a monolith or all disabled people are a monolith. They don’t all have the same opinion, they don’t all want the same things, they’re not even all protesting the same things.

    Conservatism is the morbid fear that someone, somewhere, is enjoying an undeserved privilege at your expense.

    Pretty to think so. Maybe if you added “without your consent” to the end of it.

    It’s much easier to ridicule than to actually attempt to understand and empathize with their viewpoint, and then with that understanding, persuade them that they’re wrong for good reasons. Which they are, of course–expanding health care/health coverage can only do everyone good in the long run, as (at the very least) it minimizes the chances of a class war.

    I suppose a lot of conservatives believe that liberal-progressives will shunt old people aside, simply because they recognize their own willingness to shunt children, the poor, and immigrants aside,

    My perception is that conservatives think those decisions are best left up to families (they believe–wrongly, in my opinion–families will make decisions based on the emotional pull of familial affection, the respect due one’s parents, etc.) instead of random strangers who don’t know Grandma as an individual and are presumed to make rational, non-emotional decisions.

    And hey, when you call for conservatives to fight for smaller government and individual liberties but condemn them if the government is going to get smaller in any of your pet projects (health care), you’ve set conditions that contradict each other and are therefore mutually exclusive. I don’t think that’s playing fair, but then, I don’t think you get to define conservatism for the people who call themselves conservatives any more than I get to define Christianity to Christians. (Interesting conversations at my grandmother’s funeral Friday with her fellowship of Jehovah’s Witnesses–I brought my machzor and silently read prayers in Hebrew while they were doing their shtick.)

    1. Jay says:

      I’m taking conservatives at their own words, from their public voices. One note:

      I remember when it was totally cool to shout down a speaker because the shouters were
      Democratic Party and the speakers were Republicans, but apparently hypocrisy is alive and well

      When would that be? During the Bush administration, attendance at public political meetings was rigidly controlled through “free speech” zones and widely used (and often false) powers of arrest, to be sure the president and his proxies didn’t encounter visible dissent.

  3. t says:

    And note – not once did we see a person with a gun strapped to his leg attend a Bush “talk” holding a banner that called for the death said person.

    If that had happened – he would have been locked up quicker than you can say crazy. He would not have been interviewed on FOX news as a hero.

  4. Jay,

    I think it comes down to conservativism — which, as a doctrine or movement, is more fractured now than it’s been in 30 years — having a deep distrust for the ‘social’ side of government. Ergo, anything which takes tax dollars and spends them on people programs, instead of hardware or infrastructure or defense.

    Liberalism — which is seeing a bit of a revival right now, though also not absolutely coherent — is just the opposite. Liberalism has a very strong belief in the moral correctness of using tax dollars on people programs, while often seeing military and hardware spending as wasteful, if not wrong.

    I am not sure there can be a mode of “talking” one side around to the other, or vice versa.

    1. Jay says:

      I am not sure there can be a mode of “talking” one side around to the other, or vice versa.

      Especially when one side isn’t talking, only yelling at the top of their lungs, alternated with bald faced lying (see Grassley’s recent very quiet retraction of his very public “pulling the plug on grandma” comments; or any discussion involving the term “death panels”).

  5. Now, to be fair, the Lib side was yelling pretty darned loudly — and often not at all coherently — back a few years ago. I am not sure the extremes of either Right or Left can claim to have been especially rational over the last decade.

    I think what bothers me is the Team Sport mentality. Lots of Americans treat politics like it’s a team sport: if Team A is for it, and I am on Team B, I must automatically oppose it. I won’t even look at what it is. I will oppose it out of hand, because I am on my team and I am a team player.

    This is why I have never carried a card for either of the major political parties. I cannot carry their cards: I know I will likely oppose both of them at different times, depending on the issues.

    1. Jay says:

      See, you’re falling for the equivalency game. There’s never been a period in my political lifetime where liberal-progressives organized system, nationwide disruption of political meetings, per the current town hall shoutdowns. Incoherent protests don’t hold a candle to the current highly organized push.

      Essentially the extremes of Left are irrational but largely irrelevant to the Democratic party or the mainstream of American politics. The extremes of Right are just as irrational, but they are setting the GOP agenda, and reaching millions daily on cable news and talk radio.

      Not at all equivalent.

      FWIW, I’ve always been an independent, for the same reasons as you. I registered Democratic last fall for the first time to vote for Obama in the Oregon primaries. But in my experience the Reagan/post-Reagan GOP has been so tainted by religious and cultural extremism that they’ve rarely offered anything I want.

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