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Playing Games

Original post made by Tom Cushing on Oct 7, 2013

We have a few days left before the end of the world as we know it, so why not play a game? It'll be alMOST as much fun as being in the Congress. See if you can match the apocalyptic quotation with the speaker. Here we go:

1 -- "This bill opens the door and invites the entrance into the political field of a power so vast, so powerful as to threaten the integrity of our institutions and to pull the pillars of the temple down upon the heads of our descendants."

2 -- (The legislation) "will lead to deteriorating service. Washington bureaucrats will invade the privacy of the examination room. We are on the road to rationed care and that patients will lose the freedom to choose their own doctor."

3 -- "If (we) don't stop this legislation, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was like in America when men were free."

4 -- "…why not food baskets, why not public housing accommodations, why not vacation resorts and ration(s) of cigarettes and beer?"

5 -- "This is one of many attempts to Sovietize America."

a. Ted Cruz

b. John Boehner

c. Michelle Bachmann

d. Sarah Palin

e. Pat Robertson.

All done? Here's the thing: the first and last quotes were from Republican opponents of the original Social Security bill, in 1935 (James Wadsworth, Silas Hardy Strawn). The middle quotes were taken from the Medicare debates of the 1960s (Wall Street Journal, Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater). Sorry. But in each case, the question might be asked of each GOP speaker: how'd all that doomsday rhetoric work out for you?

It's important to keep that hyperbole in mind when considering the immensely better financed, developed, focus group-tested, rehearsed and delivered lines of the current merry little band of ObamaCare opponents. A good rule of thumb is that if you hear an attractive word used prominently by more than one speaker, it's a plant by this well-planned and polished assault on the government (link).

The best current candidate: "a conversation" – how non-threatening, reasonable and collaborative does that sound? But as Mr. Gershwin taught my grand-daddy, also in the 1930s, some statements should be taken with a grain of salt, because "it ain't necessarily so." As in most things, better to focus on what folks actually DO, than on what they Say.

So, why have Republicans fought so hard, for so long, against programs that have vastly relieved old-age and disability suffering of so many fellow citizens, that work pretty well (indeed, Medicare is the only cost-based health-care in the country), and are hugely popular with just about everybody else? Why would they now spread such disinformation, and threaten to destroy the full-faith-and-credit of the entire nation in the hope of derailing one law?

Part of that answer lies in global, diametrically opposed viewpoints between conservatives and liberals about what government is, and should do. More about that later in the week. And more specifically, as Conservative columnist Ross Douthat puts it:

" … what you're seeing motivating the House Intransigents today, what's driving their willingness to engage in probably-pointless brinkmanship, is not just anger at a specific Democratic administration, or opposition to a specific program, or disappointment over a single electoral defeat. Rather, it's a revolt against … what many on the right see as forty years of failure, in which first Reagan and then Gingrich and now the Tea Party wave have all failed to deliver on the promise of an actual right-wing Answer to the big left-wing victories of the 1930s and 1960s — and now, with Obamacare, of Obama's first two years as well."

"… This time, no matter the risks and costs and polls, there are small-government conservatives who intend to dare — because only through a kind of wild daring, they believe, can the long-term, post-New Deal disadvantage that the cause of limited government labors under finally be overcome."

So it's a last stand against a law that Must be opposed, not because it's unpopular, but because, like its predecessors in the '30s and '60s, it will be embraced and built-upon, once it is implemented and understood. It's apparently a war they see as holy, and with a zealot's blind spot, one that they think they can either win, or accept martyrdom.

Unfortunately, we are All in this boat together, they are imperiling All of us, and I, for one have no desire to play That game. As Douthat concludes: "If this attitude sounds more like a foolish romanticism than a prudent, responsible, grounded-in-reality conservatism — well, yes, unfortunately I think it pretty clearly is."

Synopsis: GOP doomsayers inveighed against Social Security in the 1930s, Medicare in the '60s and now ObamaCare. The tiny House minority that is steering the ship-of-state of-all-of-us toward Niagara sees this as a do-or-die mission to reverse 80 years of progressive government. Unless you want that, GOP moderates, you'd better tell them, soon. They won't discover it on their own.

Comments (4)

Posted by Oliver, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 7, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Interesting comment, Tom, though I think you may be soft-pedaling this most recent Republican temper tantrum. Dislike of big government? Resentment toward New Deal and Great Society? No doubt. But in stressing this, you appear to be constructing an edifice that is but one brick wide.

For, you see, I think there is much more at work. When Rand Paul nudges up to Mitch McConnell and talks about spinning Reid's so-called refusal to negotiate, he may be playing the game you suggest. But what is he doing when telling audiences back in Kentucky that restaurant and hotel owners should have the right to refuse patrons based on any criterion they want because, hey, people should be able to do whatever they want to with their own private property?

And what about Republican efforts to neuter the Voting Rights Act? And the kinds of loathsome fear Palin attempts to inject in Republican followers regarding city dwellers who 'aren't like us'?

And the fear and hatred of food stamp recipients, and their children. And immigrants. And gays. And 'loose women' (Limbaugh). And all those entitlement sponges.

And where does dislike of big government figure into the Republicans' efforts to have government exercising increased control over women's bodies? And support of American 'exceptionalism' as big boy, big govt America invades Afghanistan and Iraq?

No, I think you give the Republicans far too much credit. Dislike of big government wasn't behind the birther movement.

Your thesis neglects the xenophobia and racism that is at the core of the Republican Party, apparent since Reagan's campaign kick-off in Oxford, Mississippi, papa Bush's use of Willie Horton ads, McCain/Palin's use of Obama's former pastor.

I don't share your 'optimism' that moderate Republicans will step forward and exercise some moderating reason; for the racism and xenophobia is no less rampant amongst their own 'moderate' wing.

John Dryzek once said something like: 'Change is rarely instigated by governments; governments only act when they must in response to concerted action by the populace.' In this regard, perhaps the increasingly revealing polls that show support for Republicans' petulant theatrics slipping substantially will have some impact. I hope so. More likely, though, this charade, with fear and hatred masking itself as principle, won't end until the American public becomes more vocal than it has been thus far.


Posted by Oliver , a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Web Link

Congratulations, Tom. Your well written piece elicited exactly one response from the intellectual heavyweights that make up the PW readership. Had you simply written something like 'Obama is a big fat bozo', you no doubt would have gotten hundreds of hits and scores of responses.

I've enclosed a link by Robert Sheer, former opinion writer for the Los Angeles Times until they let him go a few years back.


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville
on Oct 10, 2013 at 9:17 am

Hi Oliver: thanks for your thoughtful comment and the link. In my view, there are factors in the current GOP apoplexy that are personal to the Prez (some of them status-related), there are others based on what he stands-for, and there are important policy disagreements. I try to focus on the latter, lest I be accused of playing various cards -- that's too easy-a-charge to make, and then stop reading. This one had some elements of what he stands-for, as well. I also certainly disagree with him on a variety of policy topics, but these blogs will tend to have a southpaw tilt.

I understand that I'm about to become a regular on this board, so I thought I'd try out the most recent blog (there are a hundred-or-so more on the Danville Express: Raucous Caucus). I hope I can count on you to contribute your perspectives on these topics, as the spirit moves.

Please stay tuned!


Posted by Oliver, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Kind of an odd response, Tom, don't you think? You mean to say that race doesn't figure prominently into Republican policies? (Did you read the Sheer link I sent?) You mean to say that the charge of Republicans being racist only applies to whether or not they dislike Obama? Seems to me, with your rather narrow view of both policy and racism, that the question of racism doesn't figure in your analysis, at all. Why would that be?


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