The Rage Is Not About Health Care

But the explanation is plain: the health care bill is not the main source of this anger and never has been. It’s merely a handy excuse. The real source of the over-the-top rage of 2010 is the same kind of national existential reordering that roiled America in 1964.

If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It’s not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from.

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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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21 Responses to The Rage Is Not About Health Care

  1. Exactly. Nobody’s actually against ending preexisting condition clauses and recission. It’s just a convenient excuse.

  2. benvolio says:

    I think that Health Care may actually be part of what’s causing the upset. I mean, in that the tea partiers are dead afraid that reform means that somebody ‘undeserving’ (i.e. those scary brown people) will get something (i.e. a trip to the docs) that the ‘deserving’ have to ‘pay for’. (Most of ’em don’t, either because they get Medicare or have it through their jobs, but that just means they deserve it, dammit!)

    But, otherwise, yeah.

  3. J.D. says:

    Are you going to acknowledge these are Frank Rich’s words in your post? Anyone who doesn’t click on your link would think you had written this, if they did not read Frank Rich’s column (as I did).

  4. ballgame says:

    I think it would be a huge mistake to assume that the teabagger movement is entirely the product of racial and gender resentments. The puppeteers behind the scenes are not stupid and are incorporating vague references to legitimate left wing critiques of Obama’s corporatist policies as well as the more explicit unhinged Limbaugh and Beck rants. They are, of course, being hypocritical when they do this, but the point is they are playing on legitimate resentments as well as fallacious ones.

    Ian Welsh had a superb post up today about this:

    The bottom line in America today is that while everyone who isn’t paid not to know, knows how to fix what’s wrong with America (for example, instead of the mess called Health Care Reform, pass single payer), nothing that really fixes anything fundamental will be allowed to occur. …

    The most important game in America today is the contest for control of government, so that government can directly or indirectly give you money. Health care “reform” in which the government decided to force Americans to buy private health insurance or be fined is merely the latest (and most blatant) example. Virtually every industry, from finance to telecom to agriculture is involved in this game. It is in all their interests to make sure the game continues, but they do fight amongst each other for the spoils.

    This game will continue until the US can no longer afford it. … This is the downward spiral of a great power in senescence. It ends in collapse, reformation or revolution, when it becomes clear that the rents of the Ancien Regime can no longer be afforded, and too many of those who were bought off are thrown off their dole.

    The Tea Partiers, however misguided they may be in many respects, have been thrown off the dole. Whatever they are called, they will not be going away.

  5. aznemesis says:

    So, this is the argument? Nothing about Obama selling women out (yet again) with his “executive order” banning most abortion coverage? No mention of him silencing the single-payer proponents before the debate even started? No mention of Kucinich and the lot bending to sell-out b.s. of this huge gift to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries? Okay. You can keep playing it like his race makes one damned bit of difference.

  6. piny says:

    I think that progressive anger about the bill probably does have to do with stuff like the way women were treated, or with the general inadequacy of the bill (I and pretty much every “young invulnerable” that I know won’t actually see any benefit until 2014).

    But teabaggers, by and large, are creepy racist misogynist reactionary wish-they-could-still-feel-comfortable-with-the-Republican-party Republicans. They are not angry because Kucinich stooped to compromise. They are angry because Kucinich has not been drawn and quartered. And race definitely does make a difference; a lot of people are extremely angry that a black man was elected. They see it as another huge betrayal of the way things oughta be.

  7. amandaw says:

    I love it when, every time someone makes the point that “race is a part of this” someone shows up to pseudo-refute, “it’s not all about race!”

    … I mean, it’s not just this one instance, it pretty much happens every single time.

  8. piny says:

    Well, we agree that it’s not all about race. But it’s important to understand that “race”–that is, an obvious societal milestone on the way to equality–is included in the OMG END OF THE WORLD attitude.

  9. William says:

    … I mean, it’s not just this one instance, it pretty much happens every single time.

    Denial is a powerful defense. Tells us something disconcerting about how much needs to be defended against…

  10. Marc W. says:

    It’s aggravating how these Tea Baggers have subsumed all criticism coming from the far left on this health care reform–to the point where even Jane Hamsher will side with Republicans/FOX news to accomplish her goals.

  11. Politicalguineapig says:

    Personal Failure: Er, actually, they are. You’re assuming these people are rational. And that’s not a valid assumption.

  12. Bai Li says:

    I’m happy about the tea party movement in the same way I’m happy for lists of sex offenders in your area. It’s sad, but it helps highlight the ones you need to stay away from. Oh well.

  13. leedevious says:

    My boyfriend objects to the health care bill because of the fine he’ll have to pay for not having insurance. It’s still a ridiculous reason, since it’s really for the best to have insurance anyway. But at least he’s sane =]

    • Cara says:

      Leedevious, yes it’s best to have insurance, but while I don’t know your boyfriend’s situation, the problem for many of us is that we’d like insurance but can’t afford it, and the fine is cheaper.

      Also, let’s please not do the ableist “people I disagree with are crazy, because mental illness is scary and bad, and not having a mental illness (being “sane”) is the only respectable way to be” thing. Being “insane” is not a failing of morals, ethics, or critical thought. Thanks.

  14. Tom Foolery says:

    This op/ed is a complete nonsense, and Frank Rich is a moron. If you disagree with me, it is obviously because you hate people of my race, which I decline to disclose here.

    But to contribute, political discourse goes nowhere if you insist on finding the stupidest people who disagree with you and arguing only with them. This health care bill costs nearly a trillion dollars of money that the U.S. doesn’t have, and gives the federal government nearly unlimited license to regulate private behavior, including, as we’ve already seen, abortions, in the name of controlling health care costs. Is it so unimaginable that some people oppose the bill for those reasons, rather than racism?

  15. truncheon says:

    Threatening the lives of elected US officials: two years ago, would have earned you a one-way ticket to a Syrian prison for interrogation. Wrap yourself in the flag, though, and you’re a Patriot, not a Traitor. What a country!

  16. Lurkin Merkin says:

    If you disagree with me, it is obviously because you hate people of my race, which I decline to disclose here.

    Am I understanding this properly? You’re making an argument. If we don’t agree with your argument it’s because we’re just biased against you. If we’re biased against you, it’s because we don’t like your race. However, you aren’t going to tell us what race you identify with.

  17. Tom Foolery says:

    …he’s kidding.

    Except for the part where I’m TOTALLY SERIOUS.

  18. a lawyer says:

    On the race and gender angle: Rich’s claim, in the quoted text, isn’t that race and gender animosity are “a part” (quoting amandaw) of what’s animating the Tea Party movement: it’s that they’re the principal thing animating the Tea Party movement. In painting racism and sexism as the core of the Tea Party movement, Rich is making an extremely strong claim.

    It’s not enough to retreat to the claim that race is “part” of the Tea Party movement. Sure, but the question is how big a part. 1%? 20%? 95%? Rich is saying that racism and sexism are 95% of it, and the Tea Partiers’ nominal objections to Obama’s policies are mostly irrelevant.

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