Monday, August 10, 2009

The Not So Loyal Opposition

There is a long standing tradition among representative democracies called "the loyal opposition". It's the idea that the minority can oppose the actions of the ruling party without opposing the constitution of the political system. The shouting, sign carrying, conservative, malcontents dominating the town hall meetings aren't just being rude. They are being disloyal. Their actions do serious injury to our system of government. The government that the Republicans on the right proudly hail, when convenient.

If President Obama was a fascist (as he is portrayed on signs at these rallies) comparable to Hitler or a socialist like Hugo Chavez here's what he'd do. He would introduce a health care plan and declare it the law by executive order. He would then outlaw private insurance companies, also by executive order.

What the president in fact did was set a deadline for reform legislation to come from the peoples representatives. Congress then got busy drafting several bills from various committees that might become law. Then the representatives meant to spend their summer brakes discussing the bills with and getting input from their constituents about what they would like to see included in a final congressional bill. What could be more democratic than that? Instead of constructive input these members of congress were met by unruly mobs (most of whom have health care by the way). Disloyal citizens began throwing around terms they didn't even understand. They invoked everything from Hitler to the Louisiana Purchase to plead the case for the financially unsustainable status quo. My favorite was the irate man in South Carolina who didn't want the government messing with his Medicare. Good grief!

I understand why people are skeptical of reform. But disengaging from constructive communication is not American. Demonizing the opposition is not how democracies flourish. Manufacturing and spreading insidious lies about the government and characterizing the government as the enemy of the people is not only disloyal, but is an affront to those soldiers who live daily in the shadow of death to serve and protect that government.

The problem isn't health care. The anger and utter disdain of government advanced in these town hall meetings comes from the simple fact that Barack Obama is president. In the best instances it's just sour grapes because Republicans lost the election; and in the worst intances it's just good old fashion racism. The country has progressed so far and so fast from the way many Americans always thought it would be, that they think the government they no longer recognize must be against them. That is not true. This is still a government of and by the people.

The last line of The Pledge of Allegiance says "...with liberty and justice for all." I happen to believe that liberty and justice also means access to quality and affordable health care. There are millions of uninsured Americans who would actively seek out life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, if only they were well enough. If you disagree lets debate it. If you disagree about how to provide health care we can debate that too. But these mean spirted shouting matches do not serve the Republic. Neither does the notion that government is our enemy.

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