Let me preface this by explaining my rationale for labeling opponents of health care reform “health care deniers”. I call them deniers, in much the same vein as global warming deniers and Holocaust deniers, and for the very same reason. These people deny that we have a health care problem. They deny this in the face of all facts. They choose blindness, they deny, to further their own self-interested agenda. And to add a second definition of denier–these people not only deny the problem, but in doing so they also seek to deny us a solution. Their denial is pathological, and it is toxic to having an intellectually honest debate about health care reform.*
So what has me thinking about birthers and health care deniers? This woman:
How crazy, hateful and transparently racist can one group of people get? Meet the birthers. Meet the voice of the opposition.
This is the current state of the conservative movement. This is their lowest common denominator. In the past couple elections we have seen an exodus of the Republican Party’s moderate elements, fleeing the extremism of the right, flocking into the Democratic camp where there is some sense that the adults are in control and they are still interested in solving problems. As this emigration has taken place, the conservative movement has condensed into what could be conceived of as a thick porridge of its most extreme elements. Instead of acknowledging that its ideas are out of touch with the reality of America in the 21st Century, and changing to come more in line with the center, it has doubled down on the crazy. It is a shocking strategy from the people who used to be viewed as bankrupt on policy, but brilliant when it came to playing politics.
But now this extremist fringe is all they have left. A recent poll even showed that a majority of Republicans won’t even acknowledge that Barack Obama is an American citizen, and thus their legitimate president (oddly, when broken down by geographic region, these “birthers” seem to be strongly concentrated in the South. Hmm…I can’t imagine why…). That crazy woman/attorney/dentist/real estate agent in the video above isn’t their fringe, she is their mainstream.
Really. Conservatives have gotten so crazy that even Ann Coulter, former reigning queen of right-wing extremism, thinks this newest wave is nuts. Sit on that for a moment. If that weren’t enough, it appears as though the conservative movement has become so fringe that it has resorted to importing crazy from other countries to fill the void! This is apparently their latest desperate gambit for support, recruit any right-wing lunatic from other countries (in this case the former Soviet Union) who is willing to go on TV and attack our president with insane conspiracy theories.
So wait, what does all this have to do with health care?
As it turns out, it has everything to do with health care. These birthers, these people who are so angry and full of hate, these people who have tried every dirty trick in the book to stay in power, only to have Americans finally and resoundingly reject them at the ballot box, will now say or do anything to lash out at their perceived enemies. And now, as always, their “enemy” is progress.
These are the same people who deny global warming, because doing something about global warming might cut into Big Oil’s (outrageous) profit margin. These are the same people who are now claiming, in all seriousness, that health care reform is President Obama’s insidious plan to murder your grandma. Really. To them creating a public health insurance CHOICE, similar to the popular, nearly half-century-old Medicare program, to compete with private health insurance monopolies is tantamount to plunging the United States into some nightmarish totalitarian dystopia where the government controls our whole existence and we are shuffled off into some retirement furnace or gas chamber upon hitting the age of 65. This, all coming from a health care plan that is conservative compared to Canada and every other “developed” Western nation.
These people are crazy, and they actually expect you to believe these crazy things (this is how stupid they think you are). This birther nonsense is crazy enough (read this if you really have to ask yourself why), but I would be inclined to believe in an insanely complex conspiracy spanning 50 years to elect a Kenyan as President of the United States LONG before I’d believe the President is out to kill my grandma, or is going to have government workers asking me how I want to die, or any of that fringe nonsense that nearly makes the birthers look sane by comparison.
But these people don’t care how insane they sound or how wrong they are. They will say and do anything, no matter how outrageous, to further their do-nothing agenda. It is all they have left (and perhaps we should be thankful they still have hyperbole, because after that runs out, all that is really left is right-wing violence).
So finally we see these extremist groups, operating as the same, using the same playbook to mount their rabid attacks on the President and members of Congress (or frankly anyone who will listen to them). The contents of this playbook are simple: Since you don’t have numbers, have volume. The right-wing strategy memos that these fringe groups are using to amplify their voices tell them to spread out in the front rows at town halls. They are to disrupt early and often. They are to heckle, stand up, shout, chant, boo, anything to “rattle” their member of Congress and prevent a rational and honest discussion of real world issues effecting all Americans (Rachel Maddow had a good segment on this last night).
This strategy can be seen in the now infamous birther hijacking of Rep. Mike Castle’s town hall in July:
They are now employing the exact same strategy in at town halls across the country to hijack discussions of health care reform. This recently happened to Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Sen. Arlen Specter, and many more. Rep. Doggett laid out their strategy nicely on Hardball last night:
Specifically Doggett highlighted how these birther lunatics are the same desperate group of fanatics who disrupt the town halls with paranoia and rantings about socialized health care and putting to senior citizens to death (as well as the same group who talks up secession from the United States)
MATTHEWS: … What is it in the water down in Texas that leads your Republicans colleagues to join the birther movement?
DOGGETT: Well Chris, I’m not sure it’s the water. I think it is just a certain fanaticism that they cannot accept the fact that Barack Obama is our president, that he is working for change. It’s the same fanaticism I saw on Saturday of people talking about a government takeover of health care …
And that is precisely my point. We don’t have birthers and health care deniers, they are one in the same. They are the radical right-wing of the Republican party, that are becoming the mainstream of the Republican Party (if you have any doubt, look at how many Republican members of United States Congress have actually been willing to co-sponsor their birther bill, let alone how many would vote for it if it ever came to the floor), pushing these ridiculous conspiracy theories and outrageous lies about everything from health care to global warming. The “they are out to kill your grandma” meme didn’t materialize out of these crazy mobs, it was birthered right on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives by elected Republican members of Congress, and then fed to the mobs, who gobbled it up, committed it to memory, and went to work chanting and embellishing.
Birthers are the health care deniers. Birthers are the global warming deniers. Birthers are the lunatic fringe. Birthers are the voice of the opposition. Birthers are the “new” conservative movement. Republican leaders need to ask themselves, do you really want birthers to define your party? Do you want to forever be the party of “OMG they are totally going to kill your grandma!”? Or do you want to come back to the table and be honest about the challenges we face and the solutions we need?
And it is up to the rest of us to decide who we choose to believe on health care. Do you stand with common sense reforms to an obviously unsustainable and unjust health care system, or do you stand with the last bastion of the desperate health care deniers, embodied in the birthers, and fully bought, paid for and used up by the health insurance industry lobbyists running the show from behind the curtain?
For my money, I’ll take change.
It seems that this post managed to garner a little attention from the right-wingers. Well, I shouldn’t say this post, since I doubt they actually read it. More accurately, the first two sentences of my opening note, where I describe my use of the label “health care denier”, apparently caused a stir. Just so you don’t have to use your scroll wheel, this is what they reference:
Let me preface this by explaining my rationale for labeling opponents of health care reform “health care deniers”. I call them deniers, in much the same vein as global warming deniers and Holocaust deniers, and for the very same reason. These people deny that we have a health care problem. They deny this in the face of all facts. They choose blindness, they deny, to further their own self-interested agenda. And to add a second definition of denier–these people not only deny the problem, but in doing so they also seek to deny us a solution. Their denial is pathological, and it is toxic to having an intellectually honest debate about health care reform.
So because I use both global warming deniers and Holocaust deniers as examples of, well, deniers–specifically people who deny reality–my blog post was apparently about comparing anti-reformers to Holocaust deniers. Is that what I did? Is that what this post was about? Of course not.
It doesn’t take a child’s understanding to see that I was explaining the importance of the terminology, that these people recklessly deny indisputable facts, and nothing more. That is what a denier is. Period.
And in keeping with that premise, they cheerfully took my words out of context to suggest I was making some insidious comparison between their fringe protesters and Holocaust deniers. Give me a break. If there was a group of people who denied eating mass quantities of fast food leads to weight gain, I would have added them as an example of deniers as well. But that wouldn’t mean I was calling birthers fat.
Not to belabor the point, but let’s take one more example. Suppose I say an electron orbits a proton in much the same way as the Earth orbits the Sun. I would be comparing the relationships between two separate things (like comparing the relationship between different types of pathological deniers and the reality they ignore). Does that mean I am in any way implying that the proton and electron share any other characteristics with the Earth and the Sun? No. Would there be any implication that the proton is a fiery ball of hot gas or that the electron has oceans, fish and trees? No. Could one even draw the conclusion that I was suggesting that protons and electrons are round, just like the Earth and the Sun? No. In fact, would I be making any other statement other than that the orbital relationship between electron and proton is the same as between the Earth and the Sun? No, of course not. And when I compare the (nonexistent) relationship between one group of fanatics and the truth on one subject to the (nonexistent) relationship between another group of fanatics and the truth on a completely different subject, can it be said that I’m in any way ascribing any characteristics of one group of fanatics to the other? Am I saying the electron is similar to the Earth? No. (If you are having problems figuring this out, save yourself the trouble of ever taking a standardized exam testing logic, especially anything with questions that go “this is to that, as this is to ___”.)
But hey, don’t let me (or reality) stop these people from distorting my words. Who am I to deprive them of their frothing at the mouth playtime?
Trust me though, for future reference, if I want to make a comparison, you’ll know it. I’ll be crystal clear on the point. You won’t have to guess what I’m getting at, and you won’t have to stretch my words to connect the dots.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (Va.), president of the freshman Democratic class, warned that right-wing groups are taking things to “a dangerous level” by manufacturing anger based on false information.
“When you look at the fervor of some of these people who are all being whipped up by the right-wing talking heads on Fox, to me, you’re crossing a line,” Connolly said. “They’re inciting people to riot with just total distortions of facts. They think we’re going to euthanize Grandma and the government is going to take over.”
One Democratic leadership aide summed it up more succinctly: “These people are crazy.”
Connolly said he spoke to at least one freshman Democrat who was physically assaulted at a local event. In another instance, he said, a constituent upset about government interference in Medicare had to be reminded that Medicare is a government program.