(Swans - April 19, 2010) The most disturbing aspects of the still-smoldering health care reform controversy are the revelations it provided about the combatants. The Democrats showed themselves to be tentative, contradictory, naïve, and overly-cautious, but the Republicans were downright villainous. In siding with the insurance companies that subsidize their efforts, they were revealed to be the hired hands of corporate exploiters who made no bones about the fact that they expect their billions in contributions to deliver the legislation they paid for. The positions taken by these companies are blatantly venal. If a man comes into a doctor's office with an arrow in his heart, they would argue that was a pre-existing condition and they weren't in the business of subsidizing archery. Their callousness combined with their temerity painted a picture of legislators who were simply the bond-slaves of an insurance cartel that had pledged unshakeable allegiance to greed.
Their offshoots, the Tea Party brigades, which fatuously denounced measures that would unquestionably have contributed to their well being, were unmistakably allied to the conservatism that defined the temperament of the Republican politicians. They privately scoffed at the naiveté of a president who, despite owning the means to pass much-needed health reform, opted instead to rely on the myth of non-partisanship. An impulse that is tantamount to GIs trying to convert Nazi hordes who were out to destroy them by quoting the subtler passages of the Geneva Convention.
This lack of ferocity on the part of the Democrats in the face of Republican obstructionism made both parties look like tyros; people who didn't recognize that politics are simply a verbal extension of warfare and that when one is faced with resolute evil, it is a greater evil to rationalize differences rather than beat their antagonists into submission.
The violence emanating from the Tea Party mobs were nourished, if not actually stage-managed, by the more extreme members of the Republican Party who would like to find a way of co-opting the lunatic fringe while playing down the raw edge of their lunacy. There is a natural affinity between the Tea Party patriots and the crustier members of the far right -- although the right are often ashamed of the lengths to which the "patriots" will go in furthering their cause. If we are lucky, they will gradually realize they are on the wrong side of history and begin to distance themselves from the rowdies, but if it means forfeiting a power base they will think long and hard before doing so. It is as if the more rational Republicans realize they might be riding for a fall but they cannot resist incorporating more foot soldiers into their dwindling ranks.
There is a widespread insolence being spawned in the country and its more frightening aspects come from the small towns in the south and midwest where subversion of government has a long history. It is the kind of subversion that recalls the bitterness that characterized the years of the Great Depression in which Americans were massively unemployed, hungry, and bitter towards Washington. An improvement in the economy will not necessarily improve matters because the threat is philosophical, not merely political. It is a groundswell against the violations and injustices of American democracy that go beyond partisan differences. It is a disgust with the brazen criminality of elected public officials and the gigantic disparity between corporate affluence and the grinding poverty of the entire nation and is rankled by the disparity between Wall Street bonuses being delivered in the face of that poverty and exacerbated by a gulf that now separates the unemployed from bankers, lobbyists, and the criminally enriched. It is a sense that some not-very-subtle kind of tyranny is being imposed on citizens who expected more from their government. And more dangerous than all, it is producing small-scale rebellions in parts of America that have never experienced that urge before.
All of these worrisome signs can be tackled if rational politicians, sensing the dangers, can restore something like national tranquility, but to do that they will have to revive honesty and fair play in America and the only way to do that is to acknowledge the evils that are rapidly dividing the nation.
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