Brian Birdnow

The national debate on health care took an ominous turn last week as a number of high profile Democrats beginning with former President Jimmy Carter argued that critics of the Obama Administration have latched on to this debate as a way of voicing their latent racism and anti-Black bigotry. The worst chief executive of the twentieth century dismissed tea party protestors as sore losers who cannot accept the painful reality that an African-American man is now the President of the United States. The fact of the matter is that since 1980 Jimmy Carter has been unable to accept the painful reality that someone other than himself has been the President of the United States, but that is the subject of an entirely different column. Carter’s “racism” salvo has ignited a broadside of covering fire from fellow Democrats and mainstream media allies who now solemnly pontificate about the racism of the anti-Obama protests. In reality, this ludicrous racism charge shows that the protestors and, by extension, the Republican Party are winning the argument and is a sign of growing desperation on the Democratic side as they see a policy debate begin to slip from their grasp. The Republicans, emboldened by the protests, have shown a surprising vigor and are shaking off some of their post-election lethargy and behaving like a political party once again. Still, the road just ahead for the GOP is fraught with peril.

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Right now a Senate committee including Republicans Charles Grassley of Iowa, Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Mike Enzi of Wyoming are negotiating with the Democrats to craft a bi-partisan bill to forward for full Senate consideration. The talks seem to have broken down, but weak-kneed Republicans might very well buckle to intimidation, especially now that the apparition of the dread racism charge is rearing its ugly head. In addition, the Republican Ghost of Failures Past, Bob Dole, emerged last week to announce that health care is a basic human right and to state that the country should have passed ClintonCare in the early 1990s. Furthermore, the ex-Senate Majority Leader publicly lamented his role in having allowed partisan politics to spike such noble legislation. He seems to forget that the country had little enthusiasm for a Democratic Party takeover of health care then either.

In the face of continuing pressure the GOP officials and faithful must look to last Saturday, September 12th. The hundreds of thousands who descended on Washington to protest Obama Administration excesses are a natural Republican constituency. The party must react sharply to the racism charges and must cultivate this emerging Republican majority. It is crucially important that GOP elected officials show real leadership now and prepare to fight rather than make a deal. Only time will tell if the Party actually sees the light this time.

In the meantime, what is to be done? The people must keep pressure on elected officials by continuing to attend rallies, meetings, and forums. We must work in our smaller spheres by sending messages to Congressmen and state legislators, and sending letters to the editors of local newspapers. We must urge our elected representatives to politely, but firmly refuse to compromise, seek consensus or make any deals that deliver socialized medicine to the USA, no matter how pretty the wrapping paper. This is a fight that can be won. We must realize that it will not be easy as the other side begins to hurl the toxic rhetorical accusation of “racism” into our midst, and we had best prepare for the heat to increase along with the stakes. The Republican Party has made remarkable progress during the last few months and now is the time to press this fight to a successful finish.


Brian Birdnow

Brian E. Birdnow is a historian and teaches at a university in the St. Louis area.