So today we will look for reality another way. We’ll focus our lens first on real problems of real people. Maybe it will help us see past the canned, scripted and staged politics and motives that hide the hardcore reality of how things really run here in Hate City.
SCENE: It is almost midnight and on the TV, a nonstop cable news network is running clips of freshman tea party Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, still insisting we must defund the Affordable Care Act, now known as Obamacare. The failure to halt Obamacare was his tea party’s justification for shutting down the government.
Someone switches the TV to ESPN baseball highlights — but that doesn’t hamper our focus on health care. Because we are in the emergency room of the Holy Cross Hospital in suburban Silver Spring, Md., just a 20-minute drive north of the White House. Here we can observe the reality of our wasteful health-care system that is finally being replaced by the imperfect but still-funded Obamacare.
About two dozen people are inside the ER waiting room and very few seem to be what you would recognize as emergency cases. Several worried mothers are there with children; some mothers tell me their children have fevers, but they don’t have health insurance. They are in the ER so a doctor will treat their children.
Another young woman is suffering severe abdominal pain. She has a master’s degree but no health insurance. She has been diagnosed at a free clinic with a fibroid tumor that apparently has grown larger. Tonight the pain became unbearable; her sisters and friends carried her to the car and drove her to the ER. She thinks she will need surgery — soon.
Because we Americans are a compassionate people, we don’t let sick or injured people go untreated, even if they have no money. This means we pay their bills, sooner or later. Every time. It is the most costly, least-efficient way to provide health care.
Now that the Supreme Court declared Obamacare the law of the land, the good news is everyone can be covered and it will save us all money. The bad news is Obamacare is a market-based effort that has flaws and must be fixed. Sensible Republicans know this; but if they work with President Barack Obama to fix his plan, tea party Republicans will demonize and maybe defeat them in primary elections. So, Republicans duck and cover rather than lead.
Two weeks ago, members of the tea party minority forced the House Republican majority to shut down the government. Then, even worse, they played chicken (yet again!) with threats of not raising the debt ceiling — even if that would force America to default on its debts for the first time or break our commitments on Social Security and other programs to fellow Americans.
SCENE: Hundreds of tea party-led protesters — enough to fill video screens coast-to-coast — descended upon the World War II memorial that was barricaded shut because of the government shutdown the tea party championed. “This is the people’s memorial,” the ubiquitous Cruz proclaimed. He demanded that the monument be opened to visiting veterans despite the shutdown he’d championed — and denounced the fact that tax money was spent to also barricade Mount Vernon, Mount Rushmore and so on. (But what would Cruz and his tea party protesters say if vandals permanently defaced our national shrines during their gleeful government shutdown?)
Tea party protesters then dragged the barricades from the monument to the White House to protest that anyone would dare shut down monuments due to a government shutdown.
One speaker took the spirit of the moment one step further. Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch, the conservative legal activist group, declared: “We are now ruled, quote, unquote, by a president who bows down to Allah. This president is not a president of ‘we the people.’ He’s a president of his people. ... I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come up with his hands out.”
So it was that one dared say out loud what too many think (and maybe say only in mass emails) here in Hate City. Last Sunday, the hate that now fuels our politics spewed into the open, for all to hear. That is the shame that has befallen the game that once was America’s politics.
Martin Schram writes political analysis for Scripps Howard News Service.