Drama has not been found wanting lately. In perhaps the most explosive week of Barack Obama’s presidency, there has been no shortage of misinformation, hyperbole, bickering and celebrating surrounding the passage of H.R. 3590.
What a great time to be a Democrat. What a terrible time to be a Republican. For the people in between…wait, what in-between? If you’re not for the bill, you’re against it, and vice versa. Nuance has been placed on the back burner for the sake of one side offsetting the other. And neutral opinions? You’d be better off finding a baseball star over the past 10 years who hasn’t used steroids.
Perhaps that’s an issue, but that’s not the major point. What is it, you ask? Allow me to answer that with a question. When is the last time you left your house without knowing where you were going? If you’re like me, then your answer would then beg another question: Why would you support a 2,400 page bill not knowing what was in it, other than what the president and political parties tell you?
Groupthink is abound, and not only on Erykah Badu’s twitter page.
This isn’t about Obama. This is not about Democrats. This isn’t even about health care, per se. This is about hypocrisy and standards. There were a million arguments regarding the bill over the past year and most of them in the media centered on one side attacking the other. Common sense went out the window, as liberals would become defensive as conservatives become offensive.
This isn’t new. Recently, it was open season on George W. Bush. And rightfully so. From his dubious War on Terror to the Patriot Act to his indifference to the plight of New Orleans to his lack of regulatory oversight of the financial sector (though Democratic Senators Chris Dodd and Barney Franks deserve the lion’s share of the blame regarding the housing crisis) to his involvement with heinous torturing acts to the Halliburton-Dick Cheney connection, it’s safe to say that Bush won’t be receiving any presidential superlatives anytime…ever.
And suitably, his detractors honed on those things. If one were to apply this type of scrutiny to America’s first black president, then all kinds of stipulations must be filtered through before the message is considered:
- If a Republican scrutinizes Obama, then it’s understandable because he/she a Republican.
- If an African American scrutinizes Obama, then that African American is Michael Steele. Or a general hater who is the proverbial crab-in-the-bucket.
- If a white person scrutinizes Obama, then it’s because, well, you know where this is going.
This kind of broad stroke thinking is counterproductive, yet, it isn’t uncommon.
The nature of the same critique that Obama receives is the same as Bush received, with one interesting wrinkle: Bush’s critique came mostly from the minority power structure, while Obama’s come from the majority.
Obama extended Bush’s Patriot Act, which allows the government to impinge on privacy (such as the rights to a spy-free phone call) on ordinary citizens to catch terrorists. He has also welcomed lobbyists into his White House, directly breaching a campaign promise. And if you closed your eyes while Obama gave his speech on sending an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan, it sounded just like the same speech Bush gave for invading Iraq. Only with better phonics.
Where was the criticism from the 97 percent of black folks who voted for him? Those who voted for Dubya (the second time at least) supported him in much the same fashion as those who voted for Obama. Those who didn’t support Bush bashed him in the same manner than those who don’t support Obama.
Well, almost the same. We saw the froth coming from the Tea Party toward Congressman John Lewis and Senator Frank. Cries of a pending socialist takeover. Backward-thinking regressives – some of whom happen to be our lawmakers – who feel that the best way to liberty is by spitting, vandalizing and shouting “baby-killer.” To say that this venom is strictly about politics is furiously delusional.
What does this have to do with the drama surrounding health care? Everything. Emotions and reactionary stances are ruling the discussions surrounding political processes. Consider the recent stories that have come out after the bill was signed:
- This plan mirrors the Republican model in more ways than previously reported
- Children can be denied based on pre-existing conditions
- Insurance companies are set to receive a huge revenue boon
- So are lobbyists
- Business expenses will increase because of the mandate to provide insurance for employees, prompting questions of future hiring and employee benefits. And if you’ve been blessed enough to not have to know this, we are still in a recession.
- States can opt of the mandate, a provision that somehow escaped journalists and the politicians who spent months debating on this bill.
Add the fact that the bill contained a student loan overhaul (lawmakers hope the savings from this will help defray the costs of health care) and there’s no telling what else will come seeping out of this bill. A few years ago, the same supporters of the current health care bill lambasted George W. Bush and the Republicans as they increased the limits of executive power and influence. Obama holds the highest seat and government power is growing, but supporters do not seem to consider that the past two presidents may be more alike than different.
Support the bill or support it not. But understand this: If politicians and journalists, who by trade are required to know this bill and convey its implications, aren’t sure of what’s in it, then what chance does anyone else have of fully grasping it? When it comes to politics, there is one game to be won, and that is the one up-manship of political parties.
And politically speaking, the Democrats scored the victory, even if it may be temporary. Our grandchildren will be reading about this bill in much the same way we read about the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act. If history is any indicator – and it is a pretty good indicator – then the ripple effects of this bill won’t be known for a while.
The auditing and cheerleading isn’t over. The real game just started. Yet, that’s not where the chatter is. There’s no fierce urgency into finding out what’s in this bill and what it will give, or cost, us. There is fear, excessive celebrating and in some corners, utter apathy.
Thomas Jefferson once said “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Right now, fear is rampant on both sides.
Can fear and logic coexist? Fear and illogic certainly can, and the peoples’ reaction to the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is providing a profound case study.