Todd Akin’s official response to the health care reform victory is, as one might expect, shrill in the extreme. He has managed to jam almost every GOP screaming point into a few short paragraphs. Since the event that occasioned this vitriolic outburst is the passage of what is actually very moderate legislation, it might be instructive to deconstruct his florid imagery in order to figure out what Republican rage is really all about:
“Today Americans are reacquainted with the danger of an arrogant all powerful government, a deadly enemy within, a clear and present danger in Washington.”
“Americans” in this context refers to Tea Partiers and corporations. “Arrogance” refers to the fact that the Democratic congress defied corporate initiated Tea Party tantrums and inept Republican legislative tactics in order to help the president fulfill one of the campaign promises that got him elected. “All powerful government” refers only to elected Democrats; when Republicans lie in order to force-march the country into deficit-busting wars, they are patriots. “A deadly enemy within” means that these same Democrats threaten a resurgent Republican hegemony, since they pose “a clear and present danger” to the GOP by revealing its sabre rattling to be nothing more than empty noise.
“In spite of nationwide opposition socialized medicine is being forced down our throats. That medicine is toxic to freedom. But freedom dies hard in America.”
Akin considers “nationwide opposition” to be the 43% of the respondents to a recent CNN poll that disapprove of the health care reform because it is “too liberal” – although, if truth be told, many of those probably only disapprove because they have bought into the Republican misinformation campaign, and will no doubt be pleasantly surprised to find that the passage of Health Care reform has not, in fact, killed Blaine Luetkemeyer’s father. Akin clearly does not consider worthy of consideration the other 52% who approve of the legislation, or who think it is not liberal enough.
“Socialized medicine” reflects the Republican tendency to characterize as socialism any effort to govern for the good of the people rather than corporations or cronies. Their use of the term reflects their inability to distinguish between (1) social welfare and social justice; and, (2) the goal of social justice (or social welfare) and the means used to achieve it; hence any legislation that has a stated goal of securing social welfare or social justice is, ipso facto, socialist, communist, or even facist (which explains those pictures of Obama as Hitler, as well as Glenn Beck’s fear of almost all Christians).
“Forced down our throats” (alternatively, the ubiquitous “crammed down our throats”) is Republican speak for the democratic process that has led to health care reform, including the decision to finally ignore Republican obstructionism. The goal of the phrase is to make relatively straightforward and commonplace legislative processes seem far more unpalatable than they really are.
“Freedom” is a fluid concept on the right. It usually means minimal or no taxes – often without cutting social services fringewingers themselves find useful, although there are a few more sophisticated souls who understand it in the Friedmanesque sense of untrammeled capitalism, the “nature red in tooth and claw” of the Social Darwinists revisited, this time from a macroeconomic rather than a biological perspective. In this sense, Akin is correct that “freedom dies hard in America.” The nasty, obstructionist mess that the GOP helped orchestrate during the past year bears witness to the fact that this type of ersatz “freedom” is indeed resilient, especially when liberally fertilized with money from health care industries that really, really love the freedom to run roughshod over the rest of us.*
“I do not believe that the majority of Americans will submit passively to the gold chains of socialism.” True patriots choose the bright light and fresh air of freedom where people can dare to dream- to succeed or fail.”
In this exhortation to action, Akin is calling for the Tea Party dupes to continue with their rabid displays in order to give him cover as he continues to work against their and our best interests. To create the emotional tenor that gets these babies revving their engines, he sets up an opposition in which health care reform is equated with passivity and slavery, while the advocates of unregulated market “freedom” and their corporate beneficiaries, the very folks responsible for our broken health care delivery system, are associated with words like “patriot,” “bright light,” “fresh air,” and the fulfillment of striving.
“I have confidence that freedom will rise from the ashes of socialism and that this nation under God will have a rebirth of liberty and a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
In this final trope Akin brings into play themes that will recur as Republicans attempt to use health care legislation as a lever to undo Democrats in the next election. In one grand, if rather derivative swoop, he dresses anti-health care forces in both Godly and constitutional garb. Sadly, substituting rhetoric for reasoned argument does not create a well-fitting garment, but rather one that will have to be discarded sooner or later.
Akin’s agitprop language is far from original. The words may differ slightly, “totalitarian” substituted for “socialistic,” for example, but most members of the Grand Old Party are expressing nearly identical sentiments. The Republican obstructionist message serves the same goal: getting the GOP back into power. Representative Jo Ann Emerson said it far more succinctly than Akin when she helped egg on the Tea Party thugs over the weekend, joining three other Gopers on a balcony waving signs reading “Kill” “The” “Bill.” What she was really saying, of course, is “I’ll do anything, no matter how depraved, to stay in Washington.”
*The text of this sentence has been edited slightly.