My Turn: This is why so few African Americans vote GOP
It is hard to imagine anyone would choose to equate the horror of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 to providing access to health care to Americans. But it happened right here in New Hampshire. As an African American who recently witnessed Gov. Maggie Hassan sign a bill freeing slaves, posthumously, I am appalled and every Granite Stater should be too.
Just over a week ago, disgraced and deposed former House speaker Bill O’Brien was fervently rallying against health care reform in front of the State House when he shocked the state with this: “And what is Obamacare? It is a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.”
Since then, the Concord Monitor has called O’Brien’s comparison “obscene” and “despicable.” The Nashua Telegraph called his statements as “a stain on the New Hampshire House,” and asked the New Hampshire Republican leadership if these views “represent those of the party” as a whole.
More than a week has passed since O’Brien added these disgraceful comments to his long, dark record of shameful and embarrassing remarks.
Instead of an apology, he has battened down the hatches and defended his egregious position. Yet, still more shocking has been the numbing silence coming from the leadership of the New Hampshire Republican Party.
I am struck by how easily and openly the far right wing voices its disdain for providing access to affordable health care for all. Doubly so when such access should be a fundamental right, shared by all Americans. The simple fact is improving the health of our society will improve the health of our economy.
I also am struck by a party which acknowledges the need to be more inclusive, continues to insult, belittle and marginalize the very groups of minority voters needed to win elections. In New Hampshire while it is fair to say our numbers our small, O’Brien and the Republicans who refuse to distance themselves from him should not be lulled into a false sense of security. We vote, we matter and we will be joined by Democrats, Republicans and Independents who find his statement offensive.
O’Brien’s colleagues would be wise to re-consider their silence and show some grit. They need to refute his statements lest they be grouped with him and his radical thinking. With the silence of the GOP leaders, it is easy to understand why so few African Americans even consider voting Republican.
Here’s the kicker – try as they might to thwart the efforts of the President and the Democratic Party – the economy has strengthened, the budget deficit is declining and the rise in health care costs is slowing at a faster rate than projected. Access to affordable health care is the law of the land; it has been upheld by the Supreme Court, and was reaffirmed by voters last fall. Get over it, and let’s talk about improving our education system.
(Joanne Dowdell of Portsmouth is an at-large member of the Democratic National Committee.)