If you’ve ever stood in the queue at a Walgreens’ pharmacy, waiting to pick up a prescription, you’ll inevitably have noticed the anguish, frustration, or sheer bad temper of some in front of you as they are told their drugs are not covered by a particular insurance company, and the amount they have to find before they receive their medicines is almost enough to fund the purchase of a cheap, second-hand, car.
Yet, these same folks are often the ones attending, and shouting the loudest against healthcare reform, at the local ‘tea-party’ meetings organized by far-right political groups.
In part one of a recent mini-series on BBC Radio Four, Dr David Runciman, a teacher of political theory at Cambridge University, asks why it is the very people Obama’s reforms are most likely to help are often those most vehemently opposed to it.
“Turkeys Voting For Christmas” draws on the theories of various psychologists before Runciman reaches this somewhat vague conclusion:
This is a culture war but it is not simply being driven by differences over abortion, or religion, or patriotism. And it is not simply Red states vs. Blue states any more. It is a war on the entire political culture, on the arrogance of politicians, on their slipperiness and lack of principle, on their endless deal making and compromises.
And when the politicians say to the people protesting: ‘But we’re doing this for you’, that just makes it worse. In fact, that seems to be what makes them angriest of all.”
Runciman tosses aside the old hot chestnuts of abortion, religion, patriotism, and Red v. Blue, in favor of a ‘less simple’ argument, as though everything is more complex these days than it used to be.
But, is he right to do so?
One aspect of life that has changed in the modern world is our reluctance to still call ‘a spade a spade’. Political correctness, once rightly hailed as a set of rules to safeguard minorities, has escalated to ludicrous proportions. Runciman’s article is most notable for its total lack of the word ‘education’. To suggest the ‘Turkeys’ are voting for ‘Christmas’ because the American education system has for decades been woefully lacking for a majority of its poorer citizens, and that (to put it bluntly) most of them haven’t a clue about politics or its motivations, and have fallen victim to a system of indoctrination designed to control the masses and bend them to the far-right political will, using a combination of US-distorted religion and misplaced patriotism, would perhaps be too politically incorrect for either Dr Runciman, or the BBC.
Nevertheless, to this writer at least, that explanation holds water better than this leaky bucket from Dr Runciman:
If people vote against their own interests, it is not because they do not understand what is in their interest or have not yet had it properly explained to them.
They do it because they resent having their interests decided for them by politicians who think they know best.”
So, the good people of the American ‘Tea Party’ meetings accept the righteousness of a national healthcare system, but don’t want it because they don’t trust the politicians who are prepared to give it to them?
Yet, they support and trust those politicians who blatantly refuse to give it to them. Politicians who number among the wealthiest and most powerful individuals in the country because they’re in the pockets of the corporate elite.
Everyone hates to admit they’ve been brainwashed, so it’s hardly surprising the good people of the USA pooh-pooh the idea that their much vaunted political ideals are anything less than perfect. In the America of the 21st century, and particularly those parts known colloquially as the ‘Red States’, American patriotism is king, and God’s Chosen People are all US citizens.
Once the masses are indoctrinated to believe those two simple lies, manipulation by the wealthy and powerful is simplicity itself; all that’s needed is the merest suggestion that something as benign and beneficial as universal healthcare strikes at the very fabric of American ‘freedom’, that it’s no more than a clever ruse to take power from God Himself and transfer it to a renegade government.
That achievement has taken the efforts of only two Americans: Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck – with a little help from the Fox News Channel.
Reason has flown out the window. Perhaps, it was never in the room at all.
Much criticism is being levelled at the Obama administration for not striking back at the Republican propaganda machine over this issue, but reason is all Obama has to offer. If he stoops to the level of the other side he is no better than they are and risks losing the credibility of those many Democrat voters who long ago cast aside propaganda in favor of individual thought.
In the minds of right-wing Republican supporters, reason is replaced by emotion. One has only to listen for a few minutes to the rantings of Beck or Limbaugh to realize reason has no place in their minds. The emotion they stir is that of fear. Fear of change; fear of the death of ‘old orders’; above all, fear of truth.
Dr David Runciman is wrong to believe the people vote against their best interests from distrust of politicians. It is fear of change that ousts reason; a fear constantly hammered into their skulls by the US media, controlled by those for whom change can only mean the relinquishment of power.
Yesterday afternoon I followed a beat-up old pick-up truck covered in stickers into the local Walgreens’ car park. I needed to collect a prescription.
I breathed a sigh of relief on arriving at the pharmacy counter, as only one person waited to be served. Given the bitterly cold winter weather, bringing the usual crop of colds and coughs, I’d expected a long queue.
The man was probably in his mid-thirties, roughly dressed, cap on back-to-front, and with a good three day growth of stubble.
I heard the pharmacist say to him, “The insurance company won’t cover this antibiotic. If you want it you’ll have to pay $486.00.”
The man’s face darkened with anger and frustration. “Na,” he drawled, “Ah don’t think so……”
It was a brief response. The tone expressed more than the words. The pharmacist stood, silent.
The man repeated himself, “Na, ah don’t think so…….”
Then without another word he turned and stormed out of the building.
I collected my prescription, paid the $12.50 owing, and returned to my car.
I noticed the beat-up old pick-up truck pulling off the car park, and recognized the man behind the wheel, back-to-front cap and three day stubble clearly illuminated by the headlamps of an approaching vehicle.
As the truck pulled away my own headlights shone on the truck’s tailgate, reflecting off one out of half a dozen worn and torn bumper stickers.
It was newer than the rest, and read:
REAL MEN DON’T VOTE DEMOCRAT”
“Na,” I mimicked to myself, “Ya don’t think………do ya?”
 “Why do people vote against their own interests?” BBC, January 30th 2010
Filed under: Keep it simple