Healthcare Summit Democrat Demagoguery

Joseph Epstein once wrote, ''Disagree with someone on the right and he is likely to think you obtuse, wrong, sentimental, foolish, a dope; disagree with someone on the left and he is more likely to think you selfish, coldhearted, a sellout, evil.'' Throughout the health care summit on Thursday, I was constantly reminded of this observation. 

Most Democrats at the meeting started their monologues with a heart-wrenching story of a victim of our current health care system. Instead of defending how their plan would help those in need, they relied on emotional pleas that "we must do something" and hoped that the stories themselves would be enough to convince the public to embrace their total reform of the nation's health care system. Rarely did a Democrat point to specific ways in which they could work with Republicans to solve the problems they so aptly retold.

Democrats have employed this tactic since coming to power in 2006, but at the Thursday summit, the Democrat-as-defender-of-the-helpless argument reached its pinnacle. President Obama began their routine. Only minutes into the meeting, the president talked about letters he received from families going bankrupt or unable to get insurance for children with preexisting conditions. He even mentioned his own daughters, one with asthma and the other going to the emergency room to be treated for meningitis. He deeply expressed his feelings of "what if." This started the parade of sad stories that Democrats told the national audience for nearly seven hours.

Nancy Pelosi spoke of a woman in Michigan who had to choose between her food and her deductible. Harry Reid opened by talking about a baby with a cleft palate. Steny Hoyer described the problems one woman faced after being diagnosed with a tumor. From the opening comments to the final hour, it became clear that these emotional pleas, pointing to more questions rather than solutions, would be the Democrats' tactic of the day. 

Senator Jim Clyburn discussed a hospital administrator who told him that people with insurance could not afford their high deductibles from going to the emergency room in a small hospital in Dillon, South Carolina. Rep. George Miller talked about his artificial hips. Then, as the morning session came to a close, Rep. Louise Slaughter informed the audience of a woman who wore her dead sister's dentures because she could not afford her own. These stories seem far removed from the 80 percent of the Americans who told Gallup less than six months ago that they feel satisfied with their coverage.  

The appeal to our emotions continued into the afternoon. This time, Democrats worked to demonize those they believed stood in their way. Taking President Obama's lead after he blamed his former car insurance company for him not buying collision insurance from them, Senator Harkin compared "the segregation" of those with preexisting conditions today with African-Americans under the oppression of Jim Crow before Brown v. Board in the 1950s. Senator Jay Rockefeller said, "The health insurance industry is the shark that sits right below the water, and you don't see that shark until you feel the teeth of that shark." Since every story about a victim needs to have a wrongdoer, Democrats alluded to the irresponsible practices of insurance companies and, of course, their Republican allies.

After working to make insurance companies the enemy, Democrats went back to the sad stories. Senator Kent Conrad talked about his father-in-law's heart condition. Senator Dick Durbin relayed a story about a woman who suffered burns after her surgical oxygen caught fire. Rep. Henry Waxman talked of a child with a hole in his heart. Senator Chris Dodd spoke of a small businessman losing a favored employee because of health care costs. Finally, near the end of the day, Senator Patty Murray gave us the most heart-wrenching tale when she explained how talking about health care reminded her of a little boy whose single, working mom passed away because she lost her health insurance after missing work too many times.

Over a seven-hour span, American viewers heard fifteen unfortunate stories told by Democrats, which apparently represent a nation of 300 million people. Most of the stories involved situations that are addressed in current Republican health bills. Yet they were all told as apparent proof that we should accept and pass -- unchanged -- an enormous Democratic overhaul of the American health care system.  

Democrats demonize and victimize when they need the public's support. They did it in the summer, when they used AIG as a whipping boy of populist anger, and last week, when they provided the New Jersey Assembly with a blind thirteen-year-old to discuss the troubles with budget cuts as a way to attack the state's debt. Their reliance on the tactics of victimization rather than facts, however, is exemplified best in an exchange between Paul Ryan and Xavier Becerra that took place Thursday.

Rep. Paul Ryan succinctly and correctly explained the budget gimmicks behind the Democratic health care plans. Ryan started by saying, "First, a little bit about CBO. I work with them every single day -- very good people, great professionals. They do their jobs well. But their job is to score what is placed in front of them. And what has been placed in front of them is a bill that is full of gimmicks and smoke-and-mirrors." Clearly, Ryan believed the CBO's results, as he chastised the gimmickry of the Democratic plan, not the CBO itself. 

However, instead of discussing the Democrats' plan and working in the realm of facts, Becerra stated, "[Ryan] and I have sat on the Budget Committee for years together, and you have on any number of occasions in those years cited the Congressional Budget Office to make your point, referred to the Congressional Budget Office's projections to make your point. And today, you essentially said you can't trust the Congressional Budget Office." In this case, Becerra's victimization of the CBO clearly failed in the face of Ryan's clearheaded financial assessment. Recognizing this, the congressman from California simply ignored Ryan's criticism of the budget gimmicks and praised the plans for their budget-neutrality.

Thomas Sowell builds on his former work and describes this phenomenon of emotional pleas in his newest book, Intellectuals and Society. He claims that many on the Left have what he labels "the vision of the anointed." Americans across the country saw the encapsulation of this idea in the Health Care Summit. Instead of detailing why their plan works better, Democrats instead accused their detractors of insincerity and cold-heartedness towards suffering Americans. They acted as though only Democrats want to help those in need. This tactic gave them no reason to explain why their reforms will work. Before passing a bill that a majority of Americans do not want, they must still explain why their plan is better. Hopefully the American public will see beyond these tactics and prevent the anointed Democrats from doing whatever it takes to pass their bill.

Carl Paulus is a Ph.D. candidate at Rice University, where he studies nineteenth-century United States politics.
Joseph Epstein once wrote, ''Disagree with someone on the right and he is likely to think you obtuse, wrong, sentimental, foolish, a dope; disagree with someone on the left and he is more likely to think you selfish, coldhearted, a sellout, evil.'' Throughout the health care summit on Thursday, I was constantly reminded of this observation. 

Most Democrats at the meeting started their monologues with a heart-wrenching story of a victim of our current health care system. Instead of defending how their plan would help those in need, they relied on emotional pleas that "we must do something" and hoped that the stories themselves would be enough to convince the public to embrace their total reform of the nation's health care system. Rarely did a Democrat point to specific ways in which they could work with Republicans to solve the problems they so aptly retold.

Democrats have employed this tactic since coming to power in 2006, but at the Thursday summit, the Democrat-as-defender-of-the-helpless argument reached its pinnacle. President Obama began their routine. Only minutes into the meeting, the president talked about letters he received from families going bankrupt or unable to get insurance for children with preexisting conditions. He even mentioned his own daughters, one with asthma and the other going to the emergency room to be treated for meningitis. He deeply expressed his feelings of "what if." This started the parade of sad stories that Democrats told the national audience for nearly seven hours.

Nancy Pelosi spoke of a woman in Michigan who had to choose between her food and her deductible. Harry Reid opened by talking about a baby with a cleft palate. Steny Hoyer described the problems one woman faced after being diagnosed with a tumor. From the opening comments to the final hour, it became clear that these emotional pleas, pointing to more questions rather than solutions, would be the Democrats' tactic of the day. 

Senator Jim Clyburn discussed a hospital administrator who told him that people with insurance could not afford their high deductibles from going to the emergency room in a small hospital in Dillon, South Carolina. Rep. George Miller talked about his artificial hips. Then, as the morning session came to a close, Rep. Louise Slaughter informed the audience of a woman who wore her dead sister's dentures because she could not afford her own. These stories seem far removed from the 80 percent of the Americans who told Gallup less than six months ago that they feel satisfied with their coverage.  

The appeal to our emotions continued into the afternoon. This time, Democrats worked to demonize those they believed stood in their way. Taking President Obama's lead after he blamed his former car insurance company for him not buying collision insurance from them, Senator Harkin compared "the segregation" of those with preexisting conditions today with African-Americans under the oppression of Jim Crow before Brown v. Board in the 1950s. Senator Jay Rockefeller said, "The health insurance industry is the shark that sits right below the water, and you don't see that shark until you feel the teeth of that shark." Since every story about a victim needs to have a wrongdoer, Democrats alluded to the irresponsible practices of insurance companies and, of course, their Republican allies.

After working to make insurance companies the enemy, Democrats went back to the sad stories. Senator Kent Conrad talked about his father-in-law's heart condition. Senator Dick Durbin relayed a story about a woman who suffered burns after her surgical oxygen caught fire. Rep. Henry Waxman talked of a child with a hole in his heart. Senator Chris Dodd spoke of a small businessman losing a favored employee because of health care costs. Finally, near the end of the day, Senator Patty Murray gave us the most heart-wrenching tale when she explained how talking about health care reminded her of a little boy whose single, working mom passed away because she lost her health insurance after missing work too many times.

Over a seven-hour span, American viewers heard fifteen unfortunate stories told by Democrats, which apparently represent a nation of 300 million people. Most of the stories involved situations that are addressed in current Republican health bills. Yet they were all told as apparent proof that we should accept and pass -- unchanged -- an enormous Democratic overhaul of the American health care system.  

Democrats demonize and victimize when they need the public's support. They did it in the summer, when they used AIG as a whipping boy of populist anger, and last week, when they provided the New Jersey Assembly with a blind thirteen-year-old to discuss the troubles with budget cuts as a way to attack the state's debt. Their reliance on the tactics of victimization rather than facts, however, is exemplified best in an exchange between Paul Ryan and Xavier Becerra that took place Thursday.

Rep. Paul Ryan succinctly and correctly explained the budget gimmicks behind the Democratic health care plans. Ryan started by saying, "First, a little bit about CBO. I work with them every single day -- very good people, great professionals. They do their jobs well. But their job is to score what is placed in front of them. And what has been placed in front of them is a bill that is full of gimmicks and smoke-and-mirrors." Clearly, Ryan believed the CBO's results, as he chastised the gimmickry of the Democratic plan, not the CBO itself. 

However, instead of discussing the Democrats' plan and working in the realm of facts, Becerra stated, "[Ryan] and I have sat on the Budget Committee for years together, and you have on any number of occasions in those years cited the Congressional Budget Office to make your point, referred to the Congressional Budget Office's projections to make your point. And today, you essentially said you can't trust the Congressional Budget Office." In this case, Becerra's victimization of the CBO clearly failed in the face of Ryan's clearheaded financial assessment. Recognizing this, the congressman from California simply ignored Ryan's criticism of the budget gimmicks and praised the plans for their budget-neutrality.

Thomas Sowell builds on his former work and describes this phenomenon of emotional pleas in his newest book, Intellectuals and Society. He claims that many on the Left have what he labels "the vision of the anointed." Americans across the country saw the encapsulation of this idea in the Health Care Summit. Instead of detailing why their plan works better, Democrats instead accused their detractors of insincerity and cold-heartedness towards suffering Americans. They acted as though only Democrats want to help those in need. This tactic gave them no reason to explain why their reforms will work. Before passing a bill that a majority of Americans do not want, they must still explain why their plan is better. Hopefully the American public will see beyond these tactics and prevent the anointed Democrats from doing whatever it takes to pass their bill.

Carl Paulus is a Ph.D. candidate at Rice University, where he studies nineteenth-century United States politics.

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