Republicans have now lost three successive elections to control the Senate and they’ve lost the last two presidential elections. Nonetheless, they fought tooth and nail to kill President Obama’s health care initiative. They lost that fight, but with the corporate wing of Democrats, they managed to bend it toward private interests.
So we should be clear on this: Obamacare, as it’s known, is deeply flawed. Big subsidies to the health insurance industry. A bonanza for lobbyists. No public option. And as The New York Times reported, “Millions of Poor Are Left Uncovered by Health Law,” largely because states controlled by Republicans refuse to expand Medicaid.
As far as our bought-and-paid-for legislative process goes, Obama’s initiative made it through the sausage factory. Yet even after both the House and Senate approved it, the president signed it and the Supreme Court upheld it, the Republicans keep insisting on calling the law a “bill,” thumbing their noses and refusing to accept that it is enacted legislation.
Watch Bill Moyers’ commentary on “the sabotage of democracy.”
Now they’re fighting to prevent it from being implemented. Here was their order of the day on Thursday from the popular right-wing blog RedState.com: “Congressmen, this is about shutting down Obamacare. Democrats keep talking about our refusal to compromise. They don’t realize our compromise is defunding Obamacare. We actually want to repeal it. This is it. Our endgame is to leave the whole thing shut down until the President defunds Obamacare. And if he does not defund Obamacare, we leave the whole thing shut down.”
Once upon a time, when I was a young man working on Capitol Hill, it was commonplace that when a bill became law, everybody was unhappy with it. But you didn’t bring down the government just because it wasn’t perfect. You argue and fight and vote and then, due process having been at least raggedly served, on to the next fight.
That was a long time ago. Long before the Tea Party minority, armed with huge sums of secret money from rich donors, sucked the last bit of soul from the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln. They became delusional. Then rabid. Like this, from Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa: “If Obamacare is ever implemented and enforced, we will never recover from it. It is an unconstitutional takings of God-given American liberty.”
That’s false, of course, just like those right-wing talking points that keep grinding through the propaganda mills of Fox News, such as this from reporter Ainsley Earhardt on “Fox and Friends”: “Thanks to Obamacare, doctors will be forced to ask patients about their sex life, even if it has nothing to do with the medical treatment that they are seeking at the time.”
There was also this, from Michelle Malkin on “Fox and Friends”: “That healthcare plan puts a discount on the lives of elderly people and would result in the redistribution of health away from the elderly and the infirm to other special favored interests and patients.”
Again, not true. Nor is this, from the multimillionaire fabulist Rush Limbaugh: “What we now have is the biggest tax increase in the history of the world. Obamacare is just a massive tax increase, that’s all it is.”
That’s just a tiny sample of the lies and misinformation perpetrated by the right with the song-and-dance compliance of its richly paid mouthpieces. Sarah Palin set the bar for truth at about ankle height with those fictitious “death panels” that she still insists will decide our rendezvous with the Grim Reaper: “Of course there are death panels in there, but the important thing to remember is that’s just one aspect of this atrocious, unaffordable, cumbersome, burdensome, evil policy of Obama’s and that is Obamacare.”
Despite what they say, Obamacare is only one of their targets. Before they will allow the government to reopen, they demand employers be enabled to deny birth control coverage to female employees. They demand Obama cave on the Keystone pipeline. They demand the watchdogs over corporate pollution be muzzled, and the big, bad regulators of Wall Street sent home. Their ransom list goes on and on. The debt ceiling is next. They would have the government default on its obligations and responsibilities.
When the president refused to buckle to their extortion, they threw their tantrum. Like the die-hards of the racist South a century and a half ago, who would destroy the Union before giving up their slaves, so would these people burn the place down, sink the ship of state and sow economic chaos to get their way. This says it all: They even shuttered the Statue of Liberty.
Watching all this from London, the noted commentator Martin Wolf, of the capitalist-friendly Financial Times, says “America flirts with self-destruction.”
The biggest flirt of all is Newt Gingrich. It was Newt Gingrich who 20 years ago spearheaded the right-wing’s virulent crusade against the norms of democratic government. As Speaker of the House he twice brought about shutdowns of the federal government once, believe it or not, because he felt snubbed after riding on Air Force One with President Clinton and had to leave by the back door.
It was also speaker Gingrich who was caught lying to congressional investigators looking into charges of his ethical wrongdoing. His colleagues voted overwhelmingly, 395 to 28, to reprimand him. Pressure from his own party then prompted him to resign.
Yet even after his flame out, even after his recent bizarre race for the presidency bankrolled with money from admiring oligarchs, even after new allegations about his secret fundraising for right-wing candidates, Gingrich remains the darling of a fawning amnesic media.
On CNN.com the other day he issued a call to arms to his fellow bomb-throwers: “Don’t cave on shutdown.”
At least let’s name this for what it is, sabotage of the democratic process. Secession by another means. And let’s be clear about where such reckless ambition leads. As surely as night must follow day, the alternative to democracy is worse.
This commentary originally appeared on BillMoyers.com.