Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Precisely the disappointment we were prepared to feel. All the noise from the right about Obama being a not-so-crypto-socialist or communist or Marxist has had its desired effect: Obama now seems willing to drop the public option from his health care reform package. But everyone who always saw Obama for what he is—a dogged centrist who knows how to game the system—already knew that the public option would likely be off the table during the initial rounds of reform. Thoughtful folks knews that Obama would play politics—that he would float a plan far more ambitious than he could push through Congress—that his concessions would be scripted from the start, consisting of provisions that he knew to be untenable in the present political climate but which, after becoming familiar through repetition, would sound less extreme the next time they became fodder for public discussion. Such are the dictates of his technocratic fancy. What makes the conservative response to his policies particularly dumbfounding is that he’s flashed his incrementalist credentials numerous times—most saliently in his treatment of the GLBT issues—and yet conservatives respond like he’s always playing for the whole pot when, in fact, all his talk of high stakes is intended to distract them from the fact that he’s penny-anteing them into poorhouse. In short, conservatives are giddy because they’ve “prevented” him from winning as big as he talks even though he’s the only one leaving the table with anything in his wallet. Tempted as I am to expand on all the apt metaphors here—deaths accomplished by a thousand cuts that produce ghosts who proudly crow about not being beheaded, or defeated generals bragging about transitory victories in a long war—but as conservatives have provided me (and Obama) with better material, I can cut to the chase. Consider what the conservative movement currently considers a win: Conservatives lie about the existence of “death panels.” Liberals cave to public outcry and eliminate “death panels” that never existed from an inchoate version of the Senate’s health care reform package. Conservatives declare victory. I remember playing similar games as a child. I would: Pretend there were Imperial Storm Troopers in my closet, who I would Defeat by dint of Force and flashlight, before Declaring victory over the gathering forces of darkness. The difference being, of course, that because there were no actual Storm Troopers in my closet, my imaginary victory entailed nobody else’s actual defeat; whereas those who boast of victory over imaginary “death panels” have, in fact, suffered both tactical and rhetorical losses. Any provision short of a “death panel” that crops up in future iterations of health care reform will fail to rouse the ire of the conservative base to the boil it’s at now. They have, in short, diminished the rhetorical effectiveness of future complaints. Sarah Palin has allowed conservatives to feel the thrill of victory amid their agonizing defeat, and they love her for it. I anticipate the response to this post from those to my right will be that I’m reading Obama’s mind—that I can’t possibly know...
“Certain lives are not worth living. Certain people, we should not spend the money to keep them alive…” Consider this a bookend to Ari’s post, as those are the words of Hitler according to this protester: According to her and those like her, Hitler didn’t actively conspire to murder millions of people in the service of a racist eugenics, he passively refused to “spend the money to keep them alive.” Who are “they” here? Because she claims that “limiting Medicare expenditures in order to reduce the deficit . . . is the T-4 policy of the Hitler—of a Hitler policy in 1939,” she must be talking about those killed under the auspices of the Aktion T-4 Euthanasie: the lebensunwertes Leben, or “life unworthy of life,” i.e. the elderly, the mentally disabled and the otherwise infirm. Par for the course for those who believe in “death panels.” However, if people like this protester possessed a perspective of more depth and extension than the Wikipedia Brand Knowledge currently bandied about conservative discussion boards and listservs, they would know, for example, that the T-4 initiative was prohibitively expensive. Its predecessor, the Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses, or “Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring,” which mandated the sterilization of the physically and mentally disabled, had been scaled back because it was too expensive. That is, they stopped, not started, the ideologically-based murders of those they considered defective because it would save Germany a few million Reichsmarks. This should go without saying: the Nazis wanted to kill these people, they simply couldn’t afford to. In fact, it was only in 1939, after they’d planted a war on both horizons, that Hitler could justify the expense required to expand the T-4 initiative into the concentration camps. In short, whatever Obama’s policy will be, if it is, as this protester claims, designed to reduce the national deficit, it won’t resemble Aktion T-4 one whit. Moreover, the category of lebensunwertes Leben wasn’t limited to those with mental or physical handicaps as we currently understand them: opponents of Nazi policy were routinely deemed to be insane and euthanized, meaning that so long as this protester and those like her are free to berate Barney Frank with patent nonsense, Godwin’s Law is still in full effect. (x-posted.)

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