In the Washington Post, Michael Kinsley argues that the reason Americans are rising up against Obama’s Nazi, fascist, etc. health care plan is because we hate change.
You would think that while we might disagree about what kind of change we want, Americans are in total agreement that the current situation is intolerable in all areas and that change — big, immediate change — is essential. Americans do agree about this — in the abstract. But as soon as it seems that change might actually happen — as soon as we leave the abstract for the particular — we panic. We suddenly develop nostalgia for the comforts of the status quo. Sure, we want change — as long as everything can stay just as it is.
Kinsley is still one of the bravest commentators there is when it comes to calling things like he sees them, and so he then moves to something that I suspect many people have been wondering about, as they watch looney-tunes Americans sounding off about how the president is trying to tear down the Constitution: Are Americans too dumb to have a serious, informed debate about health care? (Forgive the long quote, but it’s a good one.)
Why does this happen? Some people (including me) say the voters are immature. Politicians (and those talk radio fellows again) are always telling them that they are wise and those folks in Washington are fools. Pollsters seek and validate their opinions on subjects they haven’t bothered to learn anything about. Politicians drown them in benefits with no thought of how the bills will be paid. No wonder that citizens turn out like spoiled children. But “immature” is a label, not an explanation. It’s just a guess, but my own suspicion is that the raucous town hall meetings that blindsided pols and press alike reflect the voters’ true feelings — misinformed, perhaps, but sincere — and their previous passionate demands for what they now passionately oppose — in a word, “change” — were empty ritual. Discontent verging on anger is almost the price of admission to our political culture these days. You’re nobody if you’re not furious at Congress and/or the media and/or your health care and/or the president. To believe in your country’s institutions is virtually unpatriotic.
I’d agree with most of that, though I’d suggest a generational difference. I don’t see a lot of young people popping off at those meetings. They know that our health care system sucks. What’s the percentage of uninsured between the ages of, say, 21-28? 50%?
(At Worth, we recently posted on Craigslist a job opening which offered a modest salary and health insurance. We got a ton of responses. One applicant told us that the posting was being e-mailed around her community of young journalist friends with the astonished header: “Health insurance!!!”)
And I’d suggest a caveat to Kinsley’s theory: That the change some of these people are pissed off about has nothing to do with health care, and a lot to do with their simmering fury over having a black president.
After all, it’s not like they actually know what Congress is proposing. Nobody knows what Congress is proposing.