Recently Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker claimed the overweening Republican problem to be messaging. According to Parker, the GOP needs to present a more positive, hopeful face to the country. She thinks their negativity permits Democrats to cast them – unfairly – as cruel and heartless villains who consequently can’t compete with a president who wins hearts and minds by tossing – ready for the conservative meme du jour, a riff on the old bread and circuses schtick – “coins and candy into the crowds.”
Unfortunately for Parker’s thesis, which largely centers on Obamacare, access to basic healthcare is a little more substantive than “coins and candy.” In fact it isn’t overstating the case to say it’s a matter of life and death. Healthcare reform is long overdue and although Obamacare, as a product of compromise reflecting diverse interests, is far from perfect, its problems are all eminently fixable. It’s a real and considerable achievement that will make all our lives a little better.
It is not the ineffective and naively liberal president they consistently invoke that bothers Republicans, but the calm, measured, do-something-for-the-99% president who is driving them bonkers. And the resulting GOP tantrum simply reveals what they really stand for – and the picture is, as Parker correctly discerns, not very pretty, but, Parker to the contrary, the problem is more essential than bad self-presentation. Based on their actual policy preferences and lack of concern for the real problems of the vast majority of Americans, nobody can deny Republicans are a seriously bloody-minded bunch.
Slate has published this interactive map prepared by Kantar media that tracks where money is being spent on Obamacare attack ads relative to the numbers of uninsured. Guess what? More uninsured, more ads. Here in Missouri, the let’s-kill-Obamacare folks are hammering the Springfield Market where 23.5% of the inhabitants are uninsured. It’s also one of the poorest areas in Missouri.
Then, of course, there’s the content of these ads. For the most part, they seem filled with distortions and outright falsehoods. What kind of people tell lies to make their points? Especially when those very people here in Missouri are refusing to take federal funds, our own tax dollars, to expand Medicaid coverage, all the while while bleating about the imagined evils of depending on a federal hand-out – but never one word about the evil situation where over 20% of their constituents lack access to good healthcare.
Perhaps Parker’s candy meme tells us more than she intended about who today’s Republicans really are. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson’s hilarious variation on the old bread and circuses business suggests that the GOP ought to be careful about which talking points they want to promulgate:
They [i.e. Democrats] are giving away candy, and it is tasty stuff,” he said. “We’ve got the drill and the Novocain to fix the cavity.
So a functioning safety net, good health care, quality education, strong infrastructure and a prosperous and growing middle class – all the concerns that animate progressives – are just like cavities? And the folks running around waving their metaphorical drills? Parker is at least partly right. Nobody wants sadists running government.