Second in a series of articles on the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.
The Republican party taught me something during the 2008 Presidential campaign. The worst thing a person can do, so I learned, is to have any contact whatsoever with another person who participated in violent acts of civil disobedience.
In October of 2008, Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin told a gathering of campaign donors that, "Our opponent ... is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country."
Palin was of course referring to Barack Obama's association with University Of Chicago professor Bill Ayers. Obama and Ayers served on the board of a Chicago charitable organization, and apparently are friendly enough that Obama once held a fundraiser at Ayers' home.
Ayers is a former member of the radical group the Weather Underground and in the late 1960s and early 70s participated in numerous acts of violence meant to protest the Vietnam War. For the past four decades, Ayers has dedicated himself to public service, and in 1997 was named Chicago's Citizen of the Year. He has expressed remorse for his violent acts. Barack Obama for his part has condemned the acts of the Weather Underground.
Ah, but that was 2008. Condemn someone for associating with another person who engaged in civil disobedience? Not any more. Now it's 2010, and, thanks to the health care reform bill, conservatives have fallen in love with breaking the law as a form of political protest.
Within hours of the House of Representatives passing the bill, the violence began. From the Washington Post:
"In the days that followed, glass doors and windows were shattered local Democratic Party offices and the district offices of House Democrats from Arizona to Kansas to New York. At least 10 Democratic lawmakers reported death threats, incidents of harassment or vandalism at their offices over the past week, and the FBI and Capitol Police are offering lawmakers increased protection."
Among the many alarming acts of violence committed by angry conservatives were repeated attacks on the headquarters of the Democratic party of Alaska, and the sabotaging of the gas line of the home of the brother of a Virginia Democratic congressman. Why the home of the congressman's brother? The address of the home had been published on the web site of a Tea Party group who had mistaken the residence for the home of the Congressman himself.
At least some of the violence appears to have been inspired by Mike Vanderboegh, a 57-year-old former militiaman from Alabama, who urged people who opposed the health care bill to throw bricks through the windows of Democratic offices nationwide.Vanderboegh opposes President Obama because he believes the President has "collectivism" tendencies. His condemnations of the government are rank with irony of course: Vanderboegh lives on government disability checks.
But it would be unfair to condemn conservatives at large for the acts of a few bad apples. Any large group of people is bound to include some individuals who are not playing with a full deck. It would however be fair for me to condemn Republican leaders who have made it clear that they actually do condone breaking the law when it involves civil disobedience in response to the health care bill.
From the Hill: "Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has partial jurisdiction over healthcare, told Fox Business Network that Americans would refuse to comply with mandates to buy insurance.
"You're probably going to see a quite a bit of civil disobedience," Barton said. "Not in a violent sense, but all these people are supposed to mandatorily sign up, they're just not going to do it. They're going to say make me pay the penalty but I'm not going to do it."
Barton doesn't seem to be calling directly for people to break the law, but he certainly doesn't seem to be condemning it either. Another Republican however has not minced words in calling for American to violate the law to show their disdain for health care reform.
According to the Arkansas News, Republican Congressional candidate Gunner DeLay, a former prosecuting attorney "said in a news release that he supports efforts to oppose the health care overhaul and that “as 3rd District congressman, I would be committed to supporting this movement, including any acts of civil disobedience that may be necessary to affect change.” Kudos to the News for capping the article with this observation from an Arkansas Democratic party official, "It certainly seems a little ridiculous for a former prosecutor to be encouraging folks to break the law,” he said."
Finally, I realize that Republican leaders are talking about civil disobedience not in terms of breaking windows but only in terms of violating the health reform law itself. But consider what this means: they're suggesting that their constituents will deliberately go without health insurance as a form of political protest.
Hmm, well, people without health insurance don't live as long as people who do. I might point out to Republicans that their actions might be construed as an embodiment of the concept of "survival of the fittest." But since they don't believe in Darwin, it would just confuse them.