To hear the right wingers describe it, passing the Health-Care Reform Act ranked somewhere between breaking the second seal and sending Federal troops to Birmingham in atrocity. I cannot fathom the rage, not one bit. Nor can I fathom the hypocrisy. For example, as the New York Times reported this morning, a sizable chunk of the Tea Party movement have the luxury of banging on against the welfare state because—why else—they're supported by it:
Tom Grimes, [who] lost his job as a financial consultant 15 months ago...has organized a local group and a statewide coalition, and even started a "bus czar" Web site to marshal protesters to Washington on short notice. This month, he mobilized 200 other Tea Party activists to go to the local office of the same congressman to protest what he sees as the government's takeover of health care.
Mr. Grimes, who receives Social Security, has filled the back seat of his Mercury Grand Marquis with the literature of the movement, including Glenn Beck's "Arguing With Idiots" and Frederic Bastiat's "The Law," which denounces public benefits as "false philanthropy."
"If you quit giving people that stuff, they would figure out how to do it on their own," Mr. Grimes said.
Now, I believe Grimes has an absolute, without-a-doubt, Congress-given right to Social Security. (I also think that people who receive assistance can spend it any way they want. Assistance should not mean paternalism.) I just can't figure out why he's against it.
Possibly, though, we on the left are trying to apply reason where none exists. People like Grimes are nuts. People like Glenn Beck are either nuts or sociopathic. And people like John Boehner are craven opportunists who will probably preserve their own seats at the expense of their party.
I know many smart, conscientious conservatives. I go to school with a bunch. (Yes, there are Republicans in business schools.) None, to my knowledge—all right, maybe one or two—is nuts, craven, or sociopathic. Oddly, though, their critiques of HCR come from the economic and fiscal uncertainty they worry it will cause. I've yet to hear one (ok, maybe one :) ) denounce the Democratic party as a bunch of fascistic Communists.
The Times' Frank Rich has a hypothesis about the rage:
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.
Racism? Really? It's not the craziest theory. But I'm not as worried as Rich that the far-right loonies are about to take over. They didn't in the 1850s, though they did put up a fight. Similarly, the far-left loonies didn't take over in the 1970s—or 1870s, or even the 1760s, for that matter.
I would like the opposition party to think, just think, about the long-term damage they're doing to their party and to the country by encouraging their loony fringe. Take it from a Democrat: after our loony fringe took over after the 1968 election, we spent 24 years in the wilderness. So unless you want Democratic majorities until the 2030s, you might want to move more to the center.
 Far-left radicals like Tom Paine got pushed aside as the country swung back to the right during the 1780s. Loonly-left radical Samuel Adams never had much popularity outside New England, unlike his right-leaning brother John. Even Jefferson didn't govern as a radical, though he was considerably left of his two predecessors.
 President Carter, wonderful man that he is, got the Democratic nomination and won the 1976 General Election almost accidentally. Absent Watergate, Reagan would likely have won in 1976. It's an interesting story, but not one that undermines my basic premise.