Republicans profess an unmatched love of country, but what they have is an unmatched disdain for the people who inhabit it.
There’s a line from the 1995 movie “The American President” starring Michael Douglass and Annette Bening that just keeps ringing in my head. I’ve used the line in past posts, and I’m sure I’ll use it again (and again, and again, and again) because it’s so incredibly and pointedly accurate. Even more so today.
A little refresher course: “The American President” is about a widower, Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas), who in the wake of his wife’s death from cancer manages to get himself elected President of the United States. He falls in love with a lobbyist, Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening), and they begin dating. During the course of their relationship, they are subjected to countless vicious, heinous attacks on their character by Republicans for having the audacity of being two single, consenting adults who find that they have much in common and enjoy each other’s company immensely.
The line in question comes from the scene where the happy couple is enjoying a quiet, private weekend “alone” at Camp David (the President is, after all, never really alone). Responding to a particularly heinous charge hurled by Republican Senator and erstwhile presidential candidate Bob Rumson (Richard Dreyfuss), Wade asks her boyfriend, “How do you have patience for people who claim they love America but clearly can’t stand Americans?”
Back in 1995, in the aftermath of the Newt Gingrich led revolution and the Republican takeover of Congress (original version), Republicans found new ways to mask their disdain for the American people in a cloak of patriotism. But while they claim a superior and unwavering love of their country (while accusing Democrats of being anti-American, or communists, or of having an absolute hatred of America, or the latest attack where former New Hampshire governor John Sununu laments that he wishes Barack Obama would “learn to be an American”), it is becoming more and more clear that what Republicans are doing is projecting their own growing hatred of this country onto Democrats.
Well, okay, maybe that’s not entirely accurate. Republicans do love America. They love the property they own. They love the money they can make. They love the power they can accumulate. They love the rules they can flaunt. What they so clearly hate, as Bening’s character said so succinctly, are Americans. As in the American people.
Think about it in terms of the policies they support. Prime example: Health care. The Affordable Care Act that was recently upheld by the Supreme Court provides for a dramatic expansion of Medicaid that will expand coverage to millions of Americans who earn up to 133% of the poverty level. Until the health law kicks in, Medicaid is only available to the extremely poor with families or the disabled. Now it will be available to anyone who otherwise would have no access to basic health care. The kicker? The federal government will pay for 100% of said expansion for the first four years, tapering down to 90% of all costs by 2020.
This won’t cost states any more than they’re already spending on Medicaid programs, and will open up access to health care to millions who need it but can’t afford it on their own. Not so fast, say Republicans. By imposing strict rules that opens the program up to more people you’re infringing on states’ rights, they say. Several states headed by Republican governors have already declared that they will outright refuse to accept any expansion of Medicaid at all. If people can’t afford health care, that’s their problem. Florida’s Rick Scott, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindahl, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Kansas’ Sam Brownback, and Iowa’s Tom Branstad have all vowed to reject the program. Texas and Rick Perry have vowed to reject the Affordable Care Act altogether.
When challenged by Fox News’ Chris Wallace (I know, right? A Fox News anchor challenging a Republican politician?!?!) on what Republicans would do to provide coverage to the 30 million who would finally get health insurance under “Obamacare,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell replied “That’s not the issue.” The truth is they have no plan, and no intention of coming up with a plan. People are uninsured and without access to health care unless it’s via the emergency room at taxpayer’s expense, and that’s just peachy with Republicans. In fact, the only proposal offered by Republicans to counter the Affordable Care Act would have extended coverage to a mere 3 million people. That was the best they could do, and they didn’t care.
The truth is that they have no desire to reform a broken system that denies health care to those with preexisting conditions, institutes lifetime caps on how much health care any one individual can receive, and won’t allow young adults who are just starting out on their own to remain on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26. They don’t like the provision that says that insurance companies must dedicate a minimum of 85% of premiums collected to actual health care expenditures. They don’t want to prevent insurance companies from culling their rolls of less healthy patients just to increase profits. If it’s not excessively profitable for insurance companies, Republicans are against it.
They’ve even suggested that an individual without health insurance who is otherwise healthy but gets into an accident or suddenly becomes catastrophically ill should be left to die without the life saving care he needs. “Let him die,” Republicans shrug.
And then there’s Medicare, the wildly popular (especially with seniors) and successful government program that provides health care to those 65 and older, most of whom would otherwise be entirely without it. Republicans excoriate the ACA for cutting $500 billion over 10 years in waste and fraud out of Medicare, insisting that the ACA is making cuts to Medicare benefits, which is entirely false. Meanwhile, the only “serious” proposal offered by Republicans is the Paul Ryan budget that turns Medicare into a voucher system, placing actual limits on the care seniors can receive. A $6,000 per year allowance to purchase health insurance on their own is not going to get our seniors very far. Ryan’s budget would significantly increase the burden on seniors, including benefit cuts, particularly to low income and disabled seniors.
Republicans have been itching to get rid of Medicare for decades, and the Ryan budget that has been passed not once but twice in the Republican controlled House of Representatives would essentially accomplish just that. Medicare as we know it today would cease to exist. And yet the hypocrisy is absolutely staggering when Republicans accuse Democrats of making cuts to Medicare via the ACA.
Bob Greenstein of the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities wrote of the Ryan budget:
The new Ryan budget is a remarkable document — one that, for most of the past half-century, would have been outside the bounds of mainstream discussion due to its extreme nature. In essence, this budget is Robin Hood in reverse — on steroids. It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history). It also would stand a core principle of the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission’s report on its head — that policymakers should reduce the deficit in a way that does not increase poverty or widen inequality….
Specifically, the Ryan budget would impose extraordinary cuts to programs that serve as a lifeline for our nation’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens, and over time would cause tens of millions of Americans to lose their health insurance or become underinsured.
The Paul Ryan budget that is so fervently supported by Republicans across the board—including presidential nominee Mitt Romney–and includes the dismantling of Medicare and Medicaid programs, is a clear demonstration of the utter and complete disdain Republicans have for actual American people.
The list goes on and on and on with immigration, abortion rights (Republicans are incredibly concerned about the fetus, but once the baby is born, they could not possibly care less), pollution and the environment, voter ID laws designed to prevent certain groups that are more likely to vote Democratic from voting…..
Republicans have no solutions to any problems, but they sure like telling us about what they don’t like. And what they don’t like are the people (non ultra-rich, of course) that government is supposed to serve. And so the question is “How do the American people have such patience for a political party that claims to love America but so clearly can’t stand Americans?” If anyone can possibly figure this out, please share. I’m dying to know.
This article originally appeared at the San Diego Free Press.