Felicia Muftic – The radicalization of politics
September 20, 2009
This summer we witnessed the radicalization of America…again. Fear and anger, a Congressman calling the President a liar, tea party demonstrators descending on Washington, lack of town hall civility: we saw it all. The right erupted.
It reminded me of the last radical shout down and demonstrations I experienced, only it did not come from the right; it came from the left.
The anti-war movement, violence at the 1968 Democratic convention is still very fresh in the minds of those from my generaton and the one following.
These radical movements have some elements in common and they both say much about aspects of the American character.
Both are time-honored exercises of the democratic process. Both are based on distrust of government and a disrespect for its authority and leaders. For many in the 1960’s, the government was viewed as the establishment – the umbrella over the Pentagon, the cops, their enemy. Now the President is compared to Hitler; a socialist; birthers refuse to honor Obama’s legitimacy.
Both are motivated by self-serving interest and a pinch of ideology. The radical right of 2009 fears change – loss of Medicare benefits in spite of assurances and evidence to the contrary – big government interference in their lives, and any addition to deficits or taxes in spite of assurances and legislation to the contrary.
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In the anti-war movement, a whole generation refused to be drafted to fight a war. They wanted freedom to lead lives unshackled by authority. They disrupted meetings in progress with shouts and chants then just as the radical right did this summer.
Both movements shaped the country’s future, but both failed or are failing to achieve their core purposes. The anti-war movement may have gotten us out of Vietnam, but it did not stop Reagan’s Star Wars or two President Bush invasions into the middle east. We continue to make war, not peace. It did succeed in one respect: Heaven help any administration that reinstates the draft.
Most concede the Democrats have enough votes to pass health care reform this year in a form similar to what Obama outlined before Congress. If so, the radical right has failed to stop the use of tax money to subsidize the eleven million who cannot afford to buy insurance or the establishment of a self-sustaining exchange or co-op to provide the remaining 27 million individuals and small businesses with the same low cost group insurance as those who are insured by large employers.
The radical righters can take some satisfaction that they have influenced the outcome of the health care reform. They forced the Obama administration to draft legislation edicting that federal money would not fund abortions or go to health care for illegal immigrants. The President promised to veto any legislation that added to the deficit now and in the future. None of these positions represented any change from Obama’s prior stated policies.
The summer turmoil did result in Obama shifting positions on tort reform and the public option. He has shown willingness to consider the public option as only a threat to force private insurers to lower administrative costs or a co-op alternative to provide competition and choice.
It is yet to be seen whether any of these concessions will result in even one Republican vote.
There are conservatives who sincerely want to solve health care problems, just not the way Obama proposes, though they have so far failed to provide realistic alternatives.
Buying insurance across state lines fails to recognize that the same oligopolies plaguing states with limited choice and high premiums dominate the national level and not all kinds of tort reform leads to reduced health care costs, as the 35 states have already adopted tort reform have found. Neither are silver bullets; neither extend accessibility to those who cannot afford premiums or protect consumers from unfair practices.
Then there are radicals who do not want health care reform of any kind and want to stop anything Obama proposes for partisan or ideological reasons or hatred of Obama for who he is.
So single-minded has the opposition become, even appealing to self interest does not persuade them. These Congressional Republicans do not mind premiums will cost 41% of a family’s take-home pay in the near future, that consumers are not protected from arbitrary coverage denials, that the inefficiencies in the administration of Medicare are driving our national debt to a future crisis, or that every insured family now pays an extra $1,000 a year for charity care of the uninsured. They do not mind insurance companies are gouging them with high administrative costs for outrageous executive salaries and commissions rewarding those who deny claims or arbitrarily deny or drop coverage.
Congressional Republicans have united with the radicals to just vote no, no matter what.
For more commentary on health care, visit the blog at http://www.skyhidailynews.com; For Ted Muftic’s comments on Wall Street reform and Jim Frasche’s recommendation for US policy toward Afghanistan, visit http://www.mufticforum.com
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