After last week’s passage of the American Healthcare Act I wrote a piece about the suicide of Paul Ryan’s conscience. Lest I be seen as overly partisan, I’d like to follow up with a few thoughts about Democrats, who, immediately after the Republicans passed this healthcare bill, replied with the following:
(And Yes, that is a very young, mustachioed Steny Hoyer leading the band)
That’s right: Republicans passed a cruel and damaging piece of legislation that will negatively impact millions of Americans, and in response Democrats rose to the occasion and — sang a song whose presumed purpose was to jeer Republicans who may not get re-elected as a result. And Democrats didn’t sing just any song, but one that should only be sung in high-school gymnasiums when the beloved hometown team defeats their dreaded rivals.
These are the people we elect to govern us.
I find the Democrats response quite revelatory, and not because Republicans were in the right with this bill — this thing really is quite malicious and serves the worst of humankind’s inclinations, and that cannot be repeated and emphasized enough. However, the response demonstrates Democrats’ true concern — which, rather than the welfare of their constituents, was clearly their own future electoral possibilities. Since that’s a statement worth repeating, let me repeat it — rather than the welfare of their constituents, huge numbers of whom will be negatively impacted should this legislation pass the Senate, Democrat’s primary concern was their own future electoral possibilities.
Instead of appealing to just, kind, wise and creative governance, and rather than reaching out to citizens and encouraging them to voice their opinions and push-back against this bill, Democrats razzed Republicans by celebrating the possibility that some of them won’t get re-elected. (Later in the day Democrats got on TV and stated such things, but sometimes the first and most immediate response is the most telling). It’s worth pointing out that the 24-million people will lose their health insurance if this bill is passed were not included in this smug little campfire sing-along. It’s also worth pausing to note that the only appropriate response to the passage of this bill should have been a fist to Paul Ryan’s smug face.
All of which brings us to this: in the main of American politics we basically have Democrats and Republicans, aka: Us and Them. Your Them might be my Us, and vice versa, but the ugly reality of this division is that in this past election 60% of us lived in “landslide counties,” where the county in question went to one candidate by 20-plus points.1 In other words, and in case you’ve been living in a cave these past several years, not only are we Us and Them in America today, we’re divisively, aggressively, angrily, bordering-on-exclusively, Us and Them.
In this healthcare scenario, my view is that the Democrats’ Us is preferable to the Republicans’ Them, though anyone with functioning human organs can quickly see that neither is really a stable solution. But that’s just one issue, and the more I compare the two the more Us appears terribly similar to Them. It’s kind of like the differences between Drip and Auto Drip on the grocery store coffee grinder — either setting you choose, you’re still getting Drip coffee.
We know that on the whole both Us and Them are indebted to and serve the interests of corporations and mega-donors; we know that on the whole both parties practice a form of neoliberal economics that favor the rich at the expense of the poor; we know that on the whole both lie, manipulate, cheat and serve their own self-interests. Etc. The list is long and the differences ones of shrinking degrees. All of which leaves me thinking something I’ve written about before: What to do when neither Us nor Them is satisfying? Where do we turn when neither party speaks to our needs and desires?
I’m not interested in expanding upon definite solutions presently. Suffice it to say that I believe my voice does overlap with an increasing number of us who can’t stand being represented by either of these bozos. That said, I still can’t help but wonder the following: If those who live in landslide county Us sat down for a beer with those who live in landslide county Them, might we not find that we have more shared humanity in common than we thought? Might we not find that our concerns and desires overlap a lot more than the current political climate makes room for? I’d wager that a lot of us would agree that neither Us nor Them is working very well. And who knows — with enough effort maybe we’d create a new We to lead us forward.
Likely we’d get better healthcare, and probably even better sing-alongs.
- http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21721391-musings-vanquished-republican-moderate-john-kasichs-lament [↩]