Object Lesson: Liars Still Lose

I, for one, am very glad that the Republicans and their fellow-travelers did not defeat the federal health care reform legislation this time around (as they have in the past). Why? For the simple reason that they never tried to defeat it on its merits. They tried to defeat it by lying: death panels, socialism, communism, nazism, nationalized health care, socialized medicine, government takeover of health care, government bureaucrats coming between you and your doctor, it will lead to rationing of care, it will give health care coverage to illegal immigrants, the U.S. government will start accessing your bank accounts and related financial records, it’s a new and expensive government program that will fuel the deficit for years to come, we already have the best health care system in the world, reform will cut Medicare benefits for the elderly, and all the rest.

Certainly, there are problems and imperfections in the current bill, and certainly there were plenty of votes for simpler, better reform alternatives. But in 2009 and 2010 the Republicans and most Conservatives in the public eye chose not to fight reform on the plains of Reality. Instead, they built mythological dungeons and torture chambers in the sky, and criticized the reform effort for imaginary weaknesses, supposed problems, and nightmarish flaws that were figments of their own fantasies.

If they had won this battle (or maybe it was a war?) and defeated health care reform, the lesson they would have learned would have been simple, and disastrous: “We can say anything, no matter how outrageous, wrong, or deceitful, to get what we want. If we don’t get what we want, it’s because we weren’t saying things that were outrageous, wrong, or deceitful enough. Why be limited to the truth when lies will set us free?”

Having one political party behave that way has been bad enough (since Nixon: “I am not a crook!”). But if they had won, then it would have been almost impossible for the other party not to adopt the same tactics. And there we as a nation would have stood: governed by two howling packs of bald-faced liars, each one competing with the other to create and promote more emotionally charged, factually challenged, and entirely made-up stories about the important issues of the day.

That’s not a world I’d like to live in, and so I am extremely grateful and appreciative that facts and reality still count for something in our nation. Maybe in years to come, we’ll mature to the point where they count for even more. Until then, I fervently hope we can continue dodging lethal bullets.


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