Health Insurance Reform and Name-Calling
One of the hallmarks of the opposition to health insurance reform over the last few months has been its lack of substance. The absence of fact from their arguments has made it seem that pundits and fans of Fox news and right wing talk radio oppose health care reform regardless of the facts, simply because it would be a victory for Obama and the Democrats. All you hear are lots of made up stories about stuff that isn’t in any of the bills proposed, accompanied by empty name-calling. Obama and the Democrats are socialists, communists (?), nazis (?!?), etc. etc.
Now some who support reform are taking up the same tactics, calling those who oppose it racists. I don’t doubt that race is a factor in some people’s opposition to health insurance reform. And it’s important to keep an eye out for incitement to violence designed to appeal to racial hostility and fear, and to do what we can to put a stop to it. That’s why I support the boycott of Lou Dobbs‘ and Glenn Beck‘s advertisers. (They can spew all the incendiary garbage they want, I guess, but I’m not going to pay for it.)
The thing is, when it comes to the discussion of reforming health care, opponents’ racial fears are completely beside the point. I understand the impulse to call people names. The hope is that by calling people racists, we can demonize the opposition the same way they’ve demonized us. Name-calling seems to work for them, they’re getting lots of attention for their antics, so why not try to grab some of that attention by calling them names, too? There’s definitely something appealing about fighting fire with fire.
But it’s not worth it, because it makes us stupid and gets us nowhere in terms of the actual discussion of health care reform. Either reform opponents’ ideas have merit, or they don’t. And they really, really don’t. That’s because the opposition is not about ideas, it’s an opposition largely manufactured by those who benefit from the system as it is, designed to prevent the dissemination of ideas that could really change the system for the better. It’s about fear, and anger, and winning a fight, regardless of the consequences for people’s health or their economic well-being.
The last thing we want to do is make our argument about fear and anger, too. Those kinds of tactics can win support in the short term, but they only isolate you in the long term. Witness the shrinking Republican party. Besides, the hard-core opponents of reform are a very small group. There’s a much larger group of possibly persuadable opponents, who have heard these hysterical rants and are afraid that there could be something terrible lurking within health insurance reform bills. These people will not be won over by being called racists.