Thursday, January 6, 2011

Feel-Good Activism: The Healthcare Debate

WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 09:  Senate Minority Le...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeWith the GOP now holding a Majority in the House, you can rest assured that there are going to be countless attacks against any and all Obama legislation, and just as many (if not more) campaigns against so-called Republican reforms.

The first out of the gate, of course, is the drive to repeal "Obamacare" and it's anti Free Market approach to Health Care at the expense of profits. I'm not going to weigh in on which side is right. That invariably results in arguing the facts with someone of the opposite viewpoint, and with the political discourse in this country becoming more rabidly heated by the moment, I'd rather have a naked bowie knife duel to the death with Christopher Walken in a dumpster full of medical waste.

I would, however, like to give some humble advice: Think your arguments through. Example? There's a very well-intentioned movement right now called Repeal health care? Give up your own first! The goal is to get a petition signed urging GOP leaders to give up their own government-sponsored healthcare if they are so against socialized medicine of any kind. It's a cute little bumper-sticker wisdom campaign that, unfortunately, has no real teeth with which to bite.

First of all, petitions don't work, folks. Petitions are a great show of strength and solidarity, and that's about it. The only real upshot to a petition is that it allows a politician to ignore your cause in one big group, which is much easier than ignoring you individually. The assumption is also that anyone signing the petition wouldn't have voted for them anyway, so what do they care? Petitions are fun and feel good, but unless you're trying to get your favorite TV show back on the air (because advertisers pay more attention to what you want than politicians do), that's about all they accomplish.

But more importantly, make sure your argument makes some kind of sense, at least as far as the end result. The whole drive of this campaign is to ask Republicans in favor of repealing healthcare for those who can't afford it to give up their own free government-issued healthcare. Sounds good on the surface, no? Here's the problem with this little jab of logic: they can afford to. John Boehner alone (insert tanning joke here) is worth somewhere between three and seven million dollars, and he's at the low end of the average Capitol Hill employee spectrum. The people pushing to repeal affordable healthcare could not only afford to purchase the most expensive healthcare package available, they could easily do it without having to skimp on the grocery shopping or canceling their golf club membership. Threatening millionaires with economic hardship doesn't work. Think about it.

The funny thing about this movement is that the Republicans it is targeted at could actually call the bluff. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell could drop their government-sponsored healthcare and pay for their own medical insurance without batting an eye, claim to be willing to lead by example, and therefore imply that all of those hard-working families living paycheck to paycheck should do the same. This would quickly abolish this form of attack against them, and be seen by those in their camp as a sign of strength and principle.

But that's not the real funny part. The real funny part is that as easy and effective as it would be, they won't do it. The political climate has reached such a surreal level of obtuse bias that they don't even feel the need to pretend anymore. They don't feel the need to lead by example, uphold the principles they espouse, or even keep their promises. People have become so enamored with their political ideals that they have become completely blind to anything beyond sound bites and posturing. So they just do what they want. There's no motivation for them to do otherwise.

But by all means, enjoy collecting signatures for your petition. Odds are you'll be the only ones who read it.

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