What'll We Do About the Town Hall Screamers? Part 3: What'll We Do About Us?:
The push for health care reform needs to be presented as a civil rights movement.
That's the bottom line, but let's put it at the top here: in the arguments about public options and co-ops and whatever, the left, in Congress and elsewhere, has allowed the right to control the language of the debate. And instead of arguing morality and greater good, this has all been about economics. People don't understand economics. They don't get the idea of exchanges. It's complicated shit written by and for the people who do get it. The people in this country only think that some money they thought they had is being given to people who don't have it. So it had better be fuckin' worthwhile. Make it into the difference between being for a right and against a right. And that means taking all the risks that accompany the granting of a civil right.
At this point, we could continue to go over the myriad ways that the Obama administration and congressional Democrats have screwed this up like Jerry Lewis in a movie where he's asked to build a nuclear bomb. For instance, by leaving single payer off the table from the beginning, the left side of the discussion was already the center, so the proposals could only be made more and more conservative. It's not even worth dredging up how liberals in general have been unable to frame this debate for fifteen years, with Republicans (and dirty dog Democrats) putting the kibosh on it in 1994 and then us all going through the Bush nightmare. We can't do a damn thing to make up for it, and one day, we'll have time to look at it and learn from our mistakes.
God, the lies conservatives spout when it comes to the perceived evils of giving people rights. During a good chunk of the 20th century, we were told such convenient myths about desegregation like property values would decline if black people moved into a neighborhood (a lie created by real estate agents looking to artificially deflate and then re-inflate the worth of homes), not to mention the horrors of interracial sex (which one supposes came true for racists with the rise of Barack Obama), rampant black crime in whites' nice suburbs, and so very much more.
There's not a nickel's worth of difference between the mobs of white people shouting at black children walking into a newly-integrated school and the people standing up and shouting at members of Congress at town halls. And they have to be fought in much the same way, which means the government needs to ignore them.
What happens when it leaves the realm of economics is you can start throwing bullshit, emotional rhetorical devices around. 47 million? That's more than the number of African Americans. It's over ten times as many Native Americans, like five times the number of Asians. Would you want to deny health care to your IT guys? See, that's a bullshit argument but it offers perspective. Perfect for this atmosphere.
We've lost the chance to really organize and mobilize because we actually thought that, with Democrats in a super-duper majority and Obama saying that there had to be a public option, we were good. Sure, we wanted single payer, but, hey, this is a step on the road, you know? Without the public option, we're confused. Is it good to have a couple of new laws that protect people? Or is it too little? Which way do we step? Now, with little time left before this debate comes to an end, there's no way to appeal to reason anymore. It doesn't work. The death-panel-look-it's-socialism gang has demonstrated that clearly. We don't have to lie. But we need to take it out of political theory and sell it as something courageous: we who want health care for all are good, brave people. The ones who don't are cowardly and bad. Do you want to be courageous or afraid?
And, as with the civil rights movement, which eventually had a majority of Americans supporting it (although 1959 poll said that 53% of Americans thought that the Brown v. Board of Education decision was more trouble than it was worth), Obama and the Democrats are gonna have to do this just because it's the right thing to do and it just needs to be done. Sometimes leaders just need to lead. Eventually, when the world doesn't collapse and Granny isn't killed by euthanizing government goons and Sarah Palin's Down's syndrome kid is doing fine and no one is told they have to wait for years to get that wart removed, most people will shrug and go about their business, ready to bitch like teenage girls jealous that their classmate Madison never gets a pimple.
Mostly, though, there's only one real solution: Democrats have to have the guts to tell Republicans that they're no longer part of the process. They have not negotiated in good faith and they're not gonna vote for shit, no matter how watered down. It's gotta be "Fuck off, fuckers" and bar the door and pass what needs passing.
And if any of this even remotely happens, the Rude Pundit will be as shocked and delighted as if he just won an evening of group sex with the cast of Mad Men, which, conveniently enough for this whole post, takes place during the era when everyone did have to learn to just deal with it when it came to civil rights.
(Note: This is all in the realm of theory, with full knowledge that unlike, say, Mississippi in 1962, no one's getting killed [yet] over the health care debate.)