Last Wednesday night President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress regarding his proposal to reform the nation’s health insurance system. The address and the Republican response to it, especially Rep. Joe Wright’s (R-S.C.) meltdown, clearly illustrated the deep divide between those looking for a better way and those who don’t have enough sense to get out of their own way.
Neither party has clothed itself in glory over the course of this debate. Not only have the Democrats and the Republicans failed to find a way to work together, but the House and Senate have increasingly found themselves on different tracks. Factions in both parties have sought to add elements to the proposals that have only added fuel to the fires of diversion and misrepresentation smoldering amidst an anxious and deeply divided body politic.
Meanwhile, the President has been criticized for being less than clear since the inauguration about what he expected from Congress on this issue. Having sought to avoid the criticism heaped on the Clinton Administration that its proposals were developed in isolation, President Obama’s team has outlined broad principles and worked behind the scenes to explore the options and develop the most workable alternatives.
A significant majority of the country agrees with the broad outline put forward by President. Now is the time for health insurance reform. We cannot afford to leave so many people without coverage. We cannot afford a health insurance system that puts profits before people.
The small but vocal minority of Americans who remain dead-set against anything the President proposes in the way of health insurance reform have shown their true colors. Like their new champion, Joe Wilson, they have resorted to emotional outbursts rather than rational appeals and seem content to personalize this debate. For them, it’s not about the common good, it’s about them and their idea of what’s best. For many of them, an unfettered market equals unfettered liberty. And personal gun ownership epitomizes the ideal of national defense and homeland security.
The thousands gathered in Washington, D.C. this weekend made it clear they are opposed to the idea of government in general and afraid of Mr. Obama in particular. While I would like to believe that they are acting out of fear of Mr. Obama’s policies, I find it ironic and troubling that the faces in the crowds are overwhelmingly white. Many of them wear their lack of education, fundamentalist evangelical religious beliefs, and unsustainable suburban and rural lifestyles as if they were badges of honor.
These rude and unruly masses claim to be the real America personified. The fact that the country is considerably more diverse ethnically, racially, religiously, socially, and economically, and for the most part much better behaved, than these anti-Obama crowds should make it plain which side is really out of touch.
This weekend’s protest, which featured addresses by once prominent neo-conservative Republican Congressional representatives, sought to align the movement’s ideals with those of the nation’s Founding Fathers. That so many armed and angry people would openly espouse support for the notion of a new revolution should concern us all, especially in light of the fact that openly armed individuals keep appearing at health care town hall meetings and Presidential engagements.
If these people truly love this country, they would find ways to express their concerns in more constructive ways that do not involve incivility, promote intimidation, or imply threats of violence. Such actions belie the true intentions of those who commit them, and suggest that they are more interested in the politics of destruction than constructive engagement, argumentation, and compromise for the common good.