So here we are days away from the big vote on health care reform. In the lead up, I don’t think that I have seen people more polarized, agitated and even aggressive about a topic since the Vietnam War. I got to wondering why this is. Why are so many people getting red-faced over this? Why have I heard so many outright lies about what will (or won’t) happen if health care reform comes to pass?
Then something came to me. If health care reform passes and begins to work, and if it is then bolstered over the coming months and years and people begin to recognize that they and their neighbors are better off than they would have been without it, this will be the first nail in the coffin of Reaganism. Whatever else you might say about the late president, one thing is for sure: He took the dissatisfaction and mistrust that people had following Vietnam and Watergate, and instead of saying “That was an aberration, we can do better”, he instead fed peoples’ fears and preached that government can do no right, government is always the problem, and therefore less government is always a good thing. This argument elevated Reagan to a level just shy of deity in the eyes of some, and is firmly cemented as unshakable ideology and dogma in the political right wing. (Whether or not said politicians actually apply the ideology in a consistent manner is another question entirely).
Here’s the rub. There are few things scarier than having someone directly challenge your ideology. There is the initial shock that anyone could be so bold, rude even. After the initial shock, it will probably elicit a fight response. It doesn’t matter if a cogent, logical, rational defense of the challenge can be given; a direct attack at a core belief almost always causes people to dig in their heels, grit their teeth, and prepare for battle. Rational analysis be damned. Once invested, the tendency is to protect the investment, not admit to the possibility that it was a poor choice.
I think deep down, the leaders of the right wing realize that if successful and real health care reform comes to pass, their mantra will be broken. Who will believe them on any other issue if the citizenry discovers that the government can, in fact, do good things for people, in direct contrast to their continuing diatribe? How severe would this undercut them? Their power would evaporate like water in a desert.
The vote appears close, and even if it passes, some parts will take a few years before they come into play. And there remains work to be done to make it better. I guess we shall see. Oh, and I should mention that my Congressman, a “Blue Dog Democrat”, decided to vote against it as of yesterday.