Katy Burns: Has the GOP lost its mind?
Last Thursday Rep. Bill O’Brien, former speaker of our House of Representatives, blessed readers of the Monitor with an exceptionally incoherent column.
Near as I could tell, he cited a piece on Breitbart.com to argue that, somehow, all members of the “Doctrinaire Left” are political and philosophical descendants of South Carolina Sen. John C. Calhoun. You remember Calhoun, surely, from your American history class. Oh, yes, he also died in 1850.
And as political descendants of Calhoun, a fiery defender of slavery and a notorious racist (as were a lot of white Americans of his day), today’s “Left,” defined broadly enough to include all but the extreme right-wing fringe, are universally united in a long-standing desire to keep black Americans in perpetual servitude. Or so this crackpot theory goes.
This, presumably, includes the current (coincidentally) black president of the United States, Barack Obama.
O’Brien’s rambling discourse was so weird, it hardly found any defenders even from among the Monitor’s happy troupe of right-wing anonymous online commenters, who normally applaud any attack on Obama, no matter how crazy.
But that’s what’s happening today to the Republican Party on every level. Like O’Brien, it is being driven quite insane. And the culprit is the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare seems to have unhinged almost everyone in the once Grand Old Party.
O’Brien’s diatribe was in response to a Monitor editorial which rightly excoriated the Mont Vernon Republican for a particularly odious comparison he made, in a public rally, of Obamacare – a serious attempt to extend minimal health care protection to millions of uninsured Americans – to the vile Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. That Act is one of the most shameful bills ever enacted in the U.S. It allowed black people – whether runaway slaves or freed men and women – to be seized anywhere in the nation based simply on the word of a property owner and forcibly sent South to be resold into slavery.
It will forever be an indelible stain on this nation’s history. It helped pave the way for our blood-drenched Civil War.
Needless to say, O’Brien was rightfully condemned throughout the state. His feelings were hurt. So, of course, he doubled down! And in one of the lamest defenses ever, he penned last week’s bizarre statement.
This is, apparently, what Obamacare does to the mass of Republican pols. Makes them quite bonkers.
Like all Republicans who have for four years insisted that Obamacare won’t work, O’Brien has done everything he can to ensure that in New Hampshire that prophecy comes true. Hence the state’s GOP, including, sadly, the current majority in the Senate – who in O’Brien’s heyday were considered the sane ones but certainly are no longer – have done and continue to do their best to try to sabotage it.
This means turning down millions of dollars in federal grants to the state designed to spread awareness of the program and what it entails, to help people to apply for it and to set up the insurance exchanges that are integral to the Act. They have, legislatively, done everything possible to tie the hands of state officials who are eager to help ease Granite Staters’ transition, and they
have – this is the cruelest – so far prevented New Hampshire from participating in a fully financed Medicaid expansion that could extend minimal health care coverage to more than 50,000 uninsured people.
The same things are happening across the nation in states dominated by Republicans. Even where a handful of Republican governors have tried to help their citizens, they are foiled by their legislatures.
Are you stunned to see that most of the recalcitrant states are in the Deep South and Upper Plains states – the ones whose politicians moan and groan about the feds even while accepting more federal money than they ever pay in? Or that most of the states welcoming Obamacare are in the Northeast or on the West Coast, the states which mostly without complaining send far more to Washington then they get back?
I thought not.
Anyway, the GOP in Congress doesn’t have the flexibility of the various states. After all, the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – is law. Has been for nearly four years. Many parts of it are already in effect, even if millions of Americans remain ignorant of that fact. And the entire act will be operative next year.
Drat! What do to, if you’re a doctrinaire Republican congressman who’s vowed to repeal Obamacare? Well, easy, you vote to repeal it! Which the GOP-dominated House of Representatives has, in effect, done 40 – yep, 40 – times in the last two and a half years. Not that the votes do any good.
Let’s take a peek at reality here. Repeal will not – repeat – not get through the Senate. And if, improbably, it did, there is no way that President Obama (it is not being called Obamacare for nothing) would ever sign it. He will be president until January 2017.
The GOP dead-enders are making repeated – and futile – attempts to defund Obamacare, despite the fact that most of the funding was built into the bill and can’t be so easily changed.
With the help of well-funded advertising by outside groups, large numbers of Republican office-holders are trying to persuade potential recipients of Obamacare, primarily young people, to refuse to get insurance. Yeah, kids, stay uninsured!
And some Republican allies have started a loopy campaign urging young people to burn their Obamacare cards! Never mind that there are no Obamacare cards. It’s apparently an attempt to relive the burning of draft cards in the 1960s. Not, mind you, that many draft cards were actually burned in the ’60s.
The most reprehensible stunt, though, threatens to shut down the federal government unless, miraculously, both the Senate and Obama himself agree to make Obamacare disappear. This is one that some Republicans in the Senate as well as the House are enthusiastically embracing.
They go so far as to advocate not paying the federal government’s bills, thus defaulting on our debt, wrecking the country’s credit rating and likely throwing not only the American but the global economy into chaos.
What’s that great much-quoted definition of insanity? Oh, yes. It is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well, meet Bill O’Brien and his crazed cohorts.
And there doesn’t seem to be anything that responsible GOP leaders – yes, there are a few – are able to do to put a stop to the madness.
(Monitor columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)