Stupid and Wrong

While there are certainly people who oppose the general outlines and specific details of Obama’s healthcare plan sincerely…there’s also a definite vein of racism running through the discussion in its more vitriolic manifestations. Expanding on the proto-racist language and “code words” used against Obama during the presidential campaign, this new manifestation has almost certainly been made more acceptable by the “softening up” and brutalization of language that occurred during that campaign. It’s contemptible, and it does begin to verge on the kinds of behavior that might, were our economy worse than it is, lead to the rise of politically viable fascist and other extreme right wing movements. Yes, much of this bruhaha is orchestrated and whipped into a frenzy by canny (perhaps uncanny) political operatives, but regardless of source, regardless of sustainability, it’s scary, it’s stupid, and it’s wrong.


  1. Chris K. says

    Remember, though, that politic ideologies do not exist on a line with the left at one end and the right at the other. They exist on a circle with “the political center” existing diametrically opposed to “political extremism”. Never forget that Nazi’s were Socialists (ideologically left) and the Saudi’s are Theological Autocrats (ideologically right). Both disallow freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, Right to assembly, have extreme hatred against those not of their social, economic or racial background and both were kept in power by the will of the people. For being “opposites” ideologically, they share a striking number of similarities. That’s because the extreme left and the extreme right are very nearly the same thing.

  2. says

    About that pondering of “sustainability…” Hoo boy. I think what we’re witnessing is very sustainable. And it’s only getting started. Tip of the iceberg, man.

    I haven’t been paying close, serious, “grown-up” attention to politics for very long. I’m not THAT old. But I don’t think there has been an equivalent presidential “shock” to this country since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. [Let’s just table George W. for the moment; let’s pretend that never happened.] The intelligentsia (for lack of a better word) simply could not accept/believe that Reagan had actually been elected. Vitriol? My god. And now we’re witnessing the flip-side of that sense of “disbelief.” The people throwing ever-blunter barbs (veiled, they think) at Obama on what seems an hourly basis would endure years of torture—years—before admitting they contained a racist thought in their heads. But is the racism there? Oh, hell yes. Oh, boy. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Uglier, scarier, stupider, and wronger.

    Vigilance is called for. Real vigilance, the need to truly listen. Fun as it might be, I have to take down my Sarah Palin dartboard, I have to stop laughing at those clips of Bill O’Reilly. This is serious. This has already transcended traditional lines of political loyalty. Because the “shouting match” is here, and it’s going to get louder. Post racism? We’re not even close.

  3. xenophone says

    I’m not saying this claim is false, but can we get some sort of example to back it up?


    ” It’s contemptible, and it does begin to verge on the kinds of behavior that might, were our economy worse than it is, lead to the rise of politically viable fascist and other extreme right wing movements.” <——- This sentence appears to verge on suggesting that we should limit free speech because it may insight dangerous ideologies.

  4. Brendan MD says

    Well said, Mr. Vandermeer. It’s terrifying.

    And Chris, the Nazis weren’t socialists or ideologically left. The Nazi party promoted National Socialism, which encouraged all the people of a Nation (or race/culture) to place their Society higher than anything else. It tied into Hitler’s idea that the defining conflict in the world was the competition between Volk (race/culture/nation).The political spectrum can’t define that level of crazy.

  5. Hellbound Heart says

    …being an australian, it’s interesting reading the different perspectives of and on american politics…it’s certainly a strange beast, but sad to say, your country is not the only place that this kind of racist bullshit rears its ugly head… country hardly has a lily-white (no pun intended) reputation…..

    peace and love…….

  6. says

    I’ve been forced to follow right-wing extremist politics since, well, birth, so can testify that yes, a lot of what’s going on is tied to racial fears, and the Republicans’ refined ability to stoke those fears in the most responsive members of their core constituency. It’s all become a big mess of crazy, and there are links between the “birthers” (only white men are legitimate presidents), the “deathers” (black prez gonna use his African witchdoctoring to kill white people!), and the vitriolic anti-immigrant groups — this last connection demonstrated vividly by one of my fellow New Hampshirites yesterday, as reported here. Oh, and all that wonderful grandstanding around the Sotomayor nomination by Republican senators who don’t know what else to do when faced with a blandly moderate nominee than claim she’s a rabid racist who, unlike crusty white guys, is too influenced by her experiences. It would all be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous — if domestic terrorism weren’t a legitimate threat, if so many of these nuts didn’t have military experience and personal arsenals and a desperate sense of their own victimhood.

    But then, we’ve got a long history in the U.S. of lone wolves going bonkers and mobs attacking anything the hive mind identifies as alien, foreign, and evil, so we could just say this is all part of the fabric that makes this the greatest country in the history of greatest countries, goshdarnit! Yeeee haw!

  7. Jeff VanderMeer says

    There’s nothing in what I said above that advocates limiting freedom of speech. What I am saying is that there are facts about Obama’s healthcare plan and then there are just plain crazy, irresponsible LIES that should have no place in the discourse. As Matt Peckham points out, and as I said, a reasonable person might object to the plan on a *factual* basis. But much of this is not coming from a factual place. (Another reality of the situation is that even a partial fix is a step forward, and will help our economy recover. I could see Obama trying to pass additional legislation to take care of any holes in this legislation.)

    It is not acceptable to sit back and say “well, that’s just freedom of speech” when the speech in question is just simply batshit crazy *wrong* on the facts.

    As for extremism–yes, extremism of any kind is bad. In the United States, though, right wing extremism has been much worse than left wing extremism. In some European countries I’m sure that situation is the opposite. So extremism is extremism, yes, but it flowers in different ways in different contexts. Here in the U.S. the number one internal self-inflicted threat to our stability is right wing extremism. Period.


  8. says

    of course the high point of the healthcare debate is the editorial page of Investor’s Business Daily (the degraded mutant cousin of the awful WSJ editorial page) arguing that “People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.”

  9. Jeff VanderMeer says

    Well, that and our inability to understand for so many years that global warming is a threat to our national security, our quality of life, and even our lifespans. Not to mention the non-selfish context that our bad habits affect the rest of the planet.

  10. says

    Actually the healthcare issue strikes me as one of the least racially-tinged of the right’s current paranoid freakouts. (By contrast to, say, the Sotomayor thing, which was pure fangs-bared racist ressentiment of the most obvious kind; or the birth certificate issue, of course, which barely even pretends to pretend not to be racism).

    Is there any reason to suppose they wouldn’t have exactly the same fantasies about “death panels” if, e.g., John Kerry were president? They’ve been stoking those nightmares for years — they were doing it back in the 60s re: Medicare (almost before Obama was born (in Kenya (to secret government clones of Stalin and Eva Braun))).

  11. says

    it’s wrong? like it was wrong when people were waging war of words against Bush? I see a distinct double standard in any discussion about these things

  12. Jeff VanderMeer says

    Sir Jorge: Bush was at a factual disadvantage. Which is to say, he generally didn’t believe in facts. When you don’t believe in facts, facts tend not to believe in you. More importantly, if you don’t use facts then any factual statement made about your un-factual policies becomes part of a “war of words” even though the universe only recognizes facts, ultimately, beyond our tiny little human existence on this backwater planet. I would like to see how long you survived as part of an expedition to another planet armed only with Bush’s concept of “facts”. About as long as you could suck “truthiness” into your lungs, probably.

  13. JJG says

    Ah politics…
    All I have to say is that when Republicans (and/or Democrats) start making up things about the health care bill (like that there are “death panels” or “communal standards” which are never once mentioned and then give the excuse that’s it’s a thousands pages long and no one can be sure what’s in it….) I draw the line. I follow George Washington’s example and believe that having two parties, or multiple will not be a good idea. They get hyped up over differences and can’t see past them to work together for the good of the country, the people, or the world.

    People suck in general. Hurray for politics coming to this. Not.

  14. says

    I’m actually feeling very forgiving on this topic of discourse because, for the life of me, I couldn’t *imagine* slogging through the amount of legal verbage necessary to begin to know where to start having an opinion.

    I do know the medical system is f-ed up. It would take someone with Palin-sized blinders not to realize that the system is f-ed up. Too many of my gainfully employed, intelligent, insurance-less friends in Texas wanted to recommend me to their Mexican dentists for me not to think something’s rotten in the state of healthcare.

    I wish someone would sit down some of the people that are fighting against change and explain how healthcare is a keystone issue. Sick kids mean they miss school. Dropout rates are heavily tied to attendance records. Undiagnosed illnesses do not get cheaper for medicaid when impoverished people decide to see if it’ll go away on its own. Sick people do not drive the economy forward.

    That’s about all I know about this, though, and all I’m willing to learn on this issue. I’m done engaging with any point of debate when the shouting starts. I merely write my representatives about my position, and walk away.

    I wrote my reps and sens suggesting they support Obama’s legislation. In this case, a step in any direction is better than what we have right now.

  15. Elizabeth says

    Hi bro,
    I only just heard about the birthers and deathers idiocy (Mark says these are “desperate measures of the defeated”!) when I went to see Janeane Garofalo’s standup at the Edinburgh Festival, and I recently read an article in a UK paper about the racial profiling incident being warped into “Obama’s racism against whites”. It’s all very depressing, but certainly people I’ve talked to about this in the UK are not buying these tear-downs (European approval of Obama is still high).

    And despite all of the grumbling about the NHS here, it is appreciated. I think it’s brilliant compared to healthcare in the States – governments have an obligation to provide infrustructure and social programmes that support ALL citizens, otherwise they are failing fundamentally (if they are really based on democratic ideals). Obama is only just in office and he’s not a miracle worker – he has to contend with the political and economic system as it is – but I see that his ideas are basically sound and, given time, would lead to positive change. And you’re so right that conservatives a la Bush are truth-twisters (or deniers – climate change, racial profiling, not to mention there are still debates in certain US states about whether evolutionary theory is legitimate and should be taught in schools?!).

    I hope the frenzy dies down and Obama can get on with it. Glad you posted this and I agree with you!
    Love, sis

  16. says

    Speaking as a Canadian – we have healthcare for all citizens. It is not perfect. But wow, watching you guys implode all over this makes me appreciate it all the more.

    It’s health care for all. Why is this even an issue of argument? Boggles my mind, almost as much as the fact that the current Canadian government would love to abolish healthcare up here, and only the checks and balances keep that from happening.

  17. says

    See, that’s what I keep getting to when I parse the phrase, “We want our country back,” which I’ve heard spoken and shouted in the various townhall meetings. I keep wondering where someone took their country, I look around and it’s still here.

  18. Paul says

    As a member of the right, I just gotta say I think you lefties are as wacko as you obviously think that we are. It is enlightening when one is exposed to the other side’s “extreme’s” view points.

    I don’t have any problem recognizing when our side starts over emphasising certain issues to the detrement of the Democratic plans. Do they sometimes blow issues out issues out of perspective? Yes. Do the Democrats ever do that? Yes. It is one of the tools the minority party uses to force its issues. It is a pain in the butt when the other party starts doing it to issues you care about. But it is not ONLY used by the minority party.

    The Dems are using it to push their agenda as well. Evil CEOs, they make gobs of money :( (Don’t mention all the other people who make gobs of money like atheletes or Actors. Aren’t they evil and greedy too?) Corporations are bad because they only care about the bottom line. Forget about how many people they employ and how their stock make up the retirements for untold numbers of nameless people. Now its the Insurance companies that are EVIL. Focus on the abuses by the Insurance Companies don’t relate it to the success stories they produce though, that might give the people a clearer perspective and hurt “our cause”. Its ALL the insurance companies raising the prices on everyone!!! If only we had a benevolent DMV worker, in shiny white armor, standing between us and the Evil Insurance companies life would be VERY different and the grass would all be much greener.
    The poop flies on both sides.
    Every Health Care system on the planet has problems, but none of them produce the quality of care that ours does. It is easy to think that if you just spread that care out over the population that everyone would get that same great quality of care, but there is always a give and take. We, opposing the Democrat’s plans, are worried about the consequences of the current plans. As it stands the social systems we have in place today are not fiscally viable. They cost too much and with the declining tax base due to the retirement of the baby boomers, it is going to get worse. WE CANNOT afford to pay for more free health care and if we have to it should not be forced down everyone’s throat without significant review. Would you have wanted our side to do that to you with such an important issue? It is not like President Obama wrote the bill the House and Senate are working on. He can say “My Plan will do……” all he wants but if it says something else in the bill then what? All change is not good.

    Why doesn’t the President and Congress FOCUS on ways to lower the price of the existing Medical plans to help pay for the existing Health Services instead of rebuilding a new one that could seriously hurt the existing one. Add in some personal responsibility incentives to keep bills down. Add in incentives for the Market to cover the uninsured. That is the stuff only they can do. They don’t have the capacity to buy our way out of this problem, only the market does.

    Right Wing Paul

  19. Jeff VanderMeer says


    I’m not an extremist. I’m generally a moderate, who has been known to vote for a moderate Repub or two.

    I’m pretty much willing to bet you haven’t read the proposed health bill. Because if you had you’d realize the cost to our economy of doing nothing.


  20. says

    Every Health Care system on the planet has problems, but none of them produce the quality of care that ours does.

    This simply isn’t true. Every comparative study I’m aware of shows the US achieving generally average-to-poor results compared to other first world nations, and spending much more per capita for those results.

    See, e.g.,–Mirror-on-the-Wall–An-International-Update-on-the-Comparative-Performance-of-American-Healt.aspx

  21. Paul says


    Glad to hear your not an extremest either.

    Come on, I haven’t read the bill so now I am saying do nothing? Opposing the current plans put forth by the Democrats does not equal “do nothing”. My point about not adding new entitlements to the current and future budget woes obviously has to apply to the sky rocketing cost of health care. We can’t do nothing. But that does not mean that anything is better, because it isn’t.

    The costs have got to come down and only the government can manipulate those kinds things. It is not a detailed control but they can provide incentives for the industry to move in certain directions and work on ways to solve things that effects the overhead of the doctors and hospitals like a ceiling on lawsuit amounts (torte ?).

    I know I don’t have all the answers but I see a plan that will cost huge amounts to enact. We can’t pay for it. We can’t pay for what we have, we can’t pay off our debt, but we want it now.


  22. Paul says


    I will take a look at your linked article and the group behind it. Its to easy to just right up something that can support your claims. No response to your point right now.

    Costs are out of control, I gotta agree with you there.


  23. says

    Agree with you completely. And this advocating yelling and screaming instead of discussion is also despicable. I can’t imagine how hard it is for President Obama to control his temper. John Stewart said on his show last night that Obama might not approve of us. Don’t know about him, but I find us pretty disgusting.

  24. Paul says

    Hey Felix,

    Thanks for the link. I read through the summary and it was interesting but I don’t think it was fair to grade our Health Care system against the standards of Socialized Medicine. Further more this particular example was really a survey of perspectives and not hard data. See the quote from their final statement.

    “These rankings summarize evidence on measures of high performance based on national mortality data and the perceptions and experiences of patients and physicians. They do not capture important dimensions of effectiveness or efficiency that might be obtained from medical records or administrative data. Patients’ and physicians’ assessments might be affected by their experiences and expectations, which could differ by country and culture.”

    That said, you have got me interested and I will keep looking into other reports like this to get better educated this issue.

    Thanks, Paul

  25. says

    You know, I’ve worked as an attorney for two different health insurance companies, both Fortune 500 corporations. I know better than just about anyone (except other in-house counsel for insurance companies) how highly regulated that industry is. The only difference is that the regulation is currently on the state level, and an insurer must comply with the laws and regulations of as many states as it chooses to do business in.

    This new regulation of health insurance essentially doesn’t change the amount of “governmental interference” with health insurance (and the bill that’s pending is directed to changing health insurance, by the way, not health care per se). It only changes the level of government from which regulation is coming. There are some specific regulations that are huge changes, such as removing the maximum cap and precluding exclusions for preexisting conditions, but when you have universal coverage (i.e., everyone must purchase a health insurance policy of some sort) that actually becomes affordable for insurance companies, and allows them to compete with the public option on a level playing field.

    I get very angry when I hear people arguing in loud voices that government must stay out of health care. I can’t believe no one is stepping up and explaining what I just said. And the deathers are just beyond the pale in their attempts to scare old people. I’ve never seen anything quite these mobs from either side of the political spectrum before, and they disgust me.

  26. elizabeth says

    The current system in the States IS seriously flawed (it’s market-based) and universal healthcare SHOULD be a priority. This would not be “free” care, but it would be care that’s provided for ALL, regardless of socio-economic background – the NHS in the UK is funded primarily through national insurance (a tax taken out of our pay, the amount based on earnings), and I gladly pay it so that I, and everyone else in this country, can have access to adequate healthcare – and it is adequate, despite problems (such as wait times, which are being addressed certainly in Scotland). Why should someone who comes from a lower socio-economic background be denied the same healthcare that a wealthier person can access (merely because they have more money)? That’s NOT democracy in action. Jeff, I don’t think you needed to explain that you were moderate in order to get Paul to listen to you – I don’t think these labels are helpful anyway (for instance, my idea of left-wing is not everyone’s idea–there are too many competing definitions–what is the substance of our arguments, forget about the divisive labeling). Do we live in communities, do we care what happens to people we live alongside? What is our government there for? I don’t understand people who are against social services that are not market-based/driven (such as healthcare and education) – it seems to me to be a selfish attitude (“I don’t want to pay higher tax for someone else’s healthcare”). Call me an extremist lefty.

  27. jeff vandermeer says

    I am situational. Liz, in that I am definitely left wing on some issues and more conservative (moderate) on others. and I have voted for a moderate repub. remember when there were still some of those running around?