Sam Uretsky

Republican Contributions to Language

On Sept. 14, the New York Times published a report headlined “Bailed Out by Obama, but Rooting for Romney.” The report described two towns, Wentzville, Mo., and Lordstown, Ohio, both of which had benefitted dramatically from the General Motors. Wentzville is expected to vote for Mitt Romney in November, and while Lordstown proper will almost certainly favor President Obama, two surrounding counties that also benefitted from the bailout are expected to favor Mr. Romney..

One of the people interviewed summed up the reason for favoring Mr. Romney, who would have let GM go bankrupt, and left both communities to wither: “I’m glad GM is here, and you can’t rewrite history. But I believe in less government and lower taxes and that people should have personal responsibility. Government isn’t the answer for everything.” The notion of less government sounds good, but it can be carried too far. There are things that we can do as individuals, and other things that require community action. The role of government is to do those things that the private sector can’t, shouldn’t, or won’t do. Unfortunately we seem to have a lot of these things totally confused.

Even as the Republican Party slips into obsolescence, taking their rightful place alongside the Know Nothings, with Mitt Romney having written off “47% of all Americans” and Rick Santorum announcing that smart people, (the media, colleges and universities were given special mention) would never vote Republican. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) summed it up brilliantly with “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

The trouble is, it may not matter. “The evil that men do lives after them ...” and the modern Republicans have managed to shift the discussion so far to the right by the time we get back to anything like the center. The Voteview web site has a chart estimating the liberal-conservative positions of all presidents since World War II, indicating that President Obama is the least liberal Democratic president since Harry Truman. This is not inherently bad, but the issue is what the Karl Rove treatment has accomplished.. Liberals are, by nature, cooperative. They are into caring and sharing and believe in the lessons of Sesame Street, and Barak Obama, in spite of all he has experienced, retains this as part of his being. He was sincere in his slogan of “yes we can” and thought that if politicians of every party bonded over a bottle of beer, they could make the world a better place.

He believed in compromise, in centrism, and when he went to bargain with the Republicans, always began with a plan that he thought they would be prepared to accept. That’s why the initial stimulus package was at once too small, and too heavily loaded with tax cuts, so beloved of the Republicans – which is why it didn’t work as well as a textbook Keynesian stimulus would have. The Affordable Care Act was modeled on a Heritage Foundation proposal which had been implemented by the Republican governor of Massachusetts. But Karl Rove’s strategy is to attack the opposition on its strength, and if President Obama was prepared to meet the Republicans half-way, they would simply edge further to the right, while attacking every program as socialism, European style socialism, secular-socialism. It has been said that the United States has moved to the right, but that’s not true – only the language has, but in politics that’s enough. The distinguished bioethicist, Dr. Arthur Caplan, has said “You can’t be the only modern country in the world to speak about equality of opportunity and have uninsured people who can’t get basic medical and dental care” and yet Michele Bachmann has called the program that attempts to resolve at least part of this program “the crown jewel of socialism.” Meanwhile, the public option, which would have demonstrated the superiority of a true single-payer healthcare program, was dropped without discussion, while the attempts to develop treatment protocols to find the best, most cost-effective means of treating disease, were first nullified and then eliminated. in Harper’s magazine, Thomas Frank wrote “The s-word has become the GOP’s political talisman, spat out the window of a champagne colored Mercedes, howled from the podium of CPAC.”

The Republicans are on the way out, done in by their own anger and prejudices, but they’re leaving us a legacy of Newspeak, where every government program that helps people is socialist, and any program of any sort is “big government”, and “government is the problem.” There are lots of things we can do to improve the United States and the world, but the first step will have to be to reset the language.

Sam Uretsky is a writer and pharmacist living on Long Island, N.Y. Email

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2012

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