Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Ivan the K on the Politics of Health Care

Here’s a really judicious account of the apolitical or "technocratic" contempt the Democrats and their media allies are showing toward citizens angrily concerned about change they can’t believe in and aren’t properly informed about. My own view is that this unfocused anger suffers from lack of political leadership. There’s a great opportunity for some emerging statesman here. I’m going to my town hall meeting with our Rep. Gingrey this afternoon. Our Republican physician-representative will be pretty much preaching to the converted, and I hope he can focus us on the real issues.

Discussions - 13 Comments

Well, what are those issues you deem "real." And why the need for some "emerging statesman" to come to the fore. Which "statesman" stepped to the fore to lead resistance to the attempted "reform" of immigration? There is an opportunity for such a "statesman," but success or failure in stopping this injurious legislation does not depend on such a player stepping out front and center.

We have all that we need to fashion of this a vast millstone, and to then fasten it to the neck of the entire Democrat party.

Good piece. Thanks for the link. One could tie this to a bit that Mikey Kaus noted. Reformers like Zeke Emanuel, it seems, are inspired by Michael Sandel's communitarian civic republicanism. It's a rather strange civic republicanism that wants to create a panel of five, supposedly apolitical, technocratic experts, to make key descisions about the system.

There were sound political reasons for Obama and company to want to avoid debate over the House healthcare bill. Obama's position is to argue that government-run healthcare does not involve real trade-offs for the vast majority. Those promises have not survived the debate, but if Congress had given him a bill to sign by the August break, it wouldn't have mattered.

On who might emerge,

I've seen Michael Steele on tv a couple of times and he was not impressive. He sounded like he was faking it. Tim Pawlenty was okay. I've only seen Bobby Jindal once in the last few weeks and he was great. The good and bad news for us Jindal fans is that he seems to be too busy doing his job to show up on the cable tv shows every day.

The technocratic contempt is not isolated to either the right or the left but saturates the field. The town hall meetings are not representative of grass roots democracy or even astroturf political expression but indicative of splintered postmodern forms of expression in which political speech is micro-spectacalized for you-tube consumption in viral networks. They are exercises in creative symbolic manipulation, a kind of 'immaterial' communication. Fractured, impoverished, neither actual nor virtual. There are literally no 'town halls' in american cyberspace, just abstract fractal pseudo-cooperatives, like an NLT 'comments' section for people who cannot afford internet access.

Where was the judicious account of the (insert adjective of choice) contempt the Republicans and their media allies were showing toward citizens angrily concerned about a war they couldn’t believe in and weren’t properly informed about?

[Recall millions of citizens marching in the streets all across America, and Bush brushing them off as akin to a "focus group"]

I think Ivan goes wrong in two places: (1) he wants to turn the problem of the gulf between experts and the public into a Democratic problem, and (2) he wants to blame what he sees as the administration's attitude for the "awakening of the sleeping giant," as the woman in Lebanon, PA put it.

(1) is way too opportunistic and narrow, since people like Lindblom and Dahl have worried about this problem for some time (those two just come to mind), and it appears to be a general problem of modern democracies. And as we saw over the past 8 years, the tendency to rely on the expert-public gulf as a justification for administrative action has a well-developed national security variant, for example, that was critical for Republican electoral success.

(2) is strange because you need a much better account of how mass communication works in contemporary society. Stertinius above has some interesting thoughts. I think that Habermas has a pretty good description here, where he talks about "shaped public spheres" that inhibit rather than promote the exchange of ideas.

Craig, the main Bush responses to antiwar protestors that I remember were Bush saying that it was a great country that those people could avail themselves of their rights to speech and protest. I don't remember the Speaker of the House implying they were Nazis (or Communists), or that they were unAmerican. I also don't remember the Senate Majority leader calling the protestors "evi mongers" or some such. Which is not to say that many people on the Right did not have very harsh things to say about antiwar protestors.

There were the zones set up implying that free speech is not universal on American soil. One million plus placed on black lists without trail or explanation. I think the public's perception of the threat was greater when it came terrorism than what they precieve the threat of no healthcare or global warming mostly because it sort of came first and it arrived at a time when the good times were a rolling. Not saying either is a greater threat in my mind because I don't think any of them are as serious as policy makers like us believing. Pointing at the other side just does not make right, but I don't blame anyone for not wanting to be one who gives. It would be like admitting my ball club was worse than yours or my tribe was inferior.

The townhalls are not really about debate at this point. The angered masses are not really going to be able to open a diologue so they are resorting to the catch phrase ready made for youtube. Which does more to convert than a philosophical treatise ever could in our public school educated, over medicated, ultra stimulated populace. To the Congressmen calling them rowdies ect, who thinks they would listen and if the arguments were good they would change their vote, republican against or democrat for would do opposite based on the arguments of a few people at a town hall. Even if they could have an open give and take they would get stonewalled by spin and double talk or looked down on like who the heck are you to not grovel at my feet. I think its not really about healthcare or the left, its the acculmulation of wars, patriot act, banker bailout, cap and trade, job loss, outsourcing, healthcare, Fema, Flu Fear mongering. I think the public is having its Brando moment where we are rebelling at whatever you got due to culmulated effect of a decade (probably more like a century) of horrible governance. Believe it or not, some of the anti war people do overlap into the current crowd of rowdies; and I believe that is the point that will eventually collapse our government. Who has faith in it? Why do you obey its laws? Threat of force? What happens when those called on to be the enforcers loose faith? I just can't imagine Nancy Pelosi/republican leader(of which there really are none that seem to fit) collecting my carbon taxes at gunpoint.

"technocratic" contempt....check these statements by David Rothkopf, managing director of Kissinger and Associates and CFR member.

“America has been suffering an outbreak of especially virulent and acute stupidity recently,” writes Rothkopf. “It has been particularly manifest at town hall meetings devoted to ‘discussions’ of health care reform in which incensed Republicans scream at the top of their lungs about provisions that are not actually in any of the legislation under consideration — for example the so-called ‘death panels’ that would have bureaucrats deciding when to pull the plug on ‘grandma’ (as President Obama characterized it yesterday).”

This past weekend, despite the recession, Las Vegas was choked with people mouth-breathing their way from all-you-can-eat buffets to one opportunity after another to fritter away their kids college funds.”

“Powerful people in America have come to depend on our idiots precisely because they know that when it comes to stupidity, they will never let us down.”

the entire thing

I support national health care. Every one should have equal access.

Glen Beck has opened my eyes. Churchill's dangerous support of socialized medicine can only mean that he was secretly in bed with the very Nazi regime he was supposedly fighting against. His support of eugenics and death panels then surely must logically follow, as Palin has showed us. His 'iron curtain' was porous in allowing the red menace of communist infiltration and government takeovers. You better start scrubbing all of his 'leadership' quotes from your site, since he would obviously put Trig Palin to death.

@ ren: Actually, Churchill (like all the thinker's in Europe, and America's early progressives) embraced eugenics to a degree. I realize you're being facetious, but just so you know ;)

That degree varies quite a bit from person to person. I think the $64,000 question is has it ever stopped?

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