Like a lot of people, I get a certain amount of ‘junk mail’ in my email inbox, some of it wanted, like the various eclectic, innocuous but interesting things such as A Word A Day and The New Zealand Week and my second favourite aviation newsletter, AVWeb. I even – god help me – knowingly subscribe to a few of the more rabid rightwing websites just to keep myself informed about whatever the other side is foaming at the mouth over today. (Think I’ll just mention them in passing without giving any the benefit of a link, however). Sometimes I sign an on-line petition or make a donation and inevitably end up with endless newsletters soliciting more money and more signatures from me, like from BoldProgressive.org – which the other day sent me yet another plea, this time to help defeat Republican Olympia Snowe who opposes the public health insurance option.
So over my morning toast and coffee, I read BoldProgressives’ article on Nancy Randolph, who with her husband were a modestly well-off married couple from Maine, and had paid for what they had thought was excellent health insurance… until Mr. Randolph was diagnosed with cancer and the insurance company denied him coverage. He died, and the couple ended up in bankruptcy. Heartbreaking, gut-roiling stuff. And my heart truly does go out to Nancy Randolph, hers is a terrible tragedy made so much worse by knowing it was preventable. But there was one small point that bothered me…
Nancy Randolph voted for Republican Olympia Snowe.
In the clip, Nancy explains she voted for Snowe because she thought the senator would be ‘independent’. What, she didn’t notice the great big R beside the candidate’s name on the ballot? She didn’t notice how ‘independent’ a certain senator from a nearby New England state has been?
Far, far too many people in this country have either voted Republican, or worse, didn’t vote at all, because they didn’t think all those issues progressive have been so annoyingly vocal about for years would ever affect them. They’re hardworking middle class folks with decent jobs at good pay; why should they worry WalMart threatening their workers with violence if they dare to unionize? They’ve kept themselves in decent shape, watched their diet, exercised, stopped smoking, been responsible for their health and the worst medical problem they’ve had to deal with has been a bad cold or a sprained ankle, why should their hard-earned taxes go into paying for treating someone else’s kid with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria… whatever the hell that is? They’ve been upstanding citizens responsible and financially prudent, just as the conservatives have always claimed they should be, been loyal employees for stable companies and managed their pensions and modest investments carefully, saved up to put their kids through college. So why should they care about other people who weren’t as sensible, why should they care about tuitions skyrocketing and universities cutting back on such rubbish as the arts or adult education? Why should they worry about companies that go under from mismanagement, why should the government imposing regulations on the banks and investment firms that have done such a good job of safeguarding their retirement? They’ve been conscientious about donating to proper charities, like their church or Girl Scouts or those little brown kids in far away countries, but resent one penny of their tax money being used to help deadbeats or drug addicts or criminals in prison or single mothers or high school dropouts – those people get what they deserve… don’t they?
It’s not even like Olympia Snowe is on the same level of revulsion and incompetence as is Mean Jean Schmidt or Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin, either. Snowe has earned her respected reputation, rarely missing a vote. She and fellow Republican Maine Senator Susan Collins went against her own party to vote to acquit Clinton, adamant his perjury didn’t warrant his being hounded from office. She’s angered the GOP enough times for them to have accused her of being a RINO, and she has shown genuine bi-partisanship in the past. Her reluctant opposition to the current attempts at health care reform has not been as dogmatic and irresponsible as all too many of her colleagues’, either. As Republicans go, this country can and has done a hell of a lot worse than Olympia Snowe, some of them even being our own Blue Dogs… haven’t we? We can live with a compromise, better we get a little something rather than nothing at all… right? Right?
It’s been this kind of complacency and condescension that has been tolerated, even encouraged, under Republican administrations, when times seemed rosy, money flowed endlessly like milk and honey, plastic money had no limit and Greed was Good. Back when being called a ‘liberal’ was a humiliating insult, and Democrats were ridiculed for their silly little worries, mocked like the kook on the corner wearing a ‘The End Is Nigh’ sandwich board. So they voted their pockets, and partied like there was no tomorrow. Turns out… there wasn’t one.
And it’s not even like the right had no way of knowing what the Republicans were like when they voted for Republicans. By 2005, the GOP was already feeling the repercussions of disenchanted Republican voters pissed off over rising petrol prices while Bush pushed for more drilling. They were fed up with the endless war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the unseemly squabbling over Terri Schiavo’s corpse, Bush’s attempts to privatize Social Security and the Republican’s obsession with terrorism and the Religious Right. Independents were already leaving the GOP in droves, and more than a few Republican party loyalists were having severe crises of faith. But by 2005, it was far, far too late. Eight years of Dubya and Republican rule have now bankrupted the country and pauperized its citizens. Obama won this past election in very large part with votes from conservatives who finally started looking around in dismay at the trashed mess the NeoCon frat boys were leaving behind in a wake of hurricane force destruction.
So there was an ungenerous, angry part of me that had the kneejerk thought – You voted Republican, Nancy, not me. Now you’re reaping the consequences. Except that the rational part of me knows Nancy Randolph is not a wingnut, she and her husband were normal people doing the best they could, looking after their own self-interests just like any one of us would do, conservative or progressive. It is unfair of me to hold her buyer’s remorse against her, or her late husband. This is a genuine tragedy – no one deserves to die because of the way they voted, and I strongly doubt the Randolphs ever approved of bashing liberals with baseball bats or shooting Unitarians. A simple, ordinary, even well-meaning ideological choice has cost Mr. Randolph his life, and Mrs. Randolph her livelihood and financial security. That goes beyond the pale of any political differences.
I do support what BoldProgressives is trying to do, undermining the Republican base with exactly what I’ve been banging on about for years, appealing to the less crazy factions of the right to reject the party that ruthlessly exploited them when they were needed and now have abandoned them like unwanted rubbish when they’re no longer of use. Pretty much the standard operating procedure insurance companies advocate, really. And we can’t forget for even a moment it is they and those Republicans in power who still support them – not the victims like the duped and cheated Randolphs out there – who are our real enemies.
But it goes beyond rejecting any callous ‘you reap what you sow’ schadenfreude. We are all reaping the Republican whirlwind, and it will take all of us to get out of it. But that doesn’t mean we have to compromise in the name of ‘bi-partisanship’. Actually, this country is still wealthy enough to afford universal health care for all its citizens – what it can not afford, quite literally, is thinking we have to settle for Blue Dogs and the not-really-all-that-bad Republicans like Snowe, or so-called ‘compromises’ that are not compromises at all. We want… no, not want… we desperately need real progressive politics, so we must elect real progressives who support real progressive policies, and relentlessly hold them to their promises once they’re in office. We don’t have to settle for Blue Dogs or the not-really-all-that-bad Republicans like Snowe. We won’t settle for make-do, second best, get by, let-them-eat-cake, mealy-mouthed, half measure compromises.
We simply… can’t.