Republican candidates spent much of the presidential debate piling on Rick Perry, a man whose policies they say scare voters. The most frightening thing about last night, though? Members of the audience who think the uninsured should be left to die.
Rick Perry received plenty of negative attention at last night’s CNN/Tea Party Express presidential debate, where the frontrunner’s seven Republican rivals used their time to again attack him on issues like jobs growth, Social Security and HPV vaccines.
With regard to the latter matter — the fact that Governor Perry signed an executive order requiring sixth-grade girls to get a vaccine for the STD — Michele Bachmann insisted, “To have innocent little 12-year old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat-out wrong.”
The congresswoman also insinuated that Perry had pushed the legislation to benefit the vaccine’s maker, Merck, which also gave Perry campaign money.
“The drug company gave thousands of dollars in political donations to the governor, and this is just flat-out wrong. The question is, is it about life, or was it about millions of dollars and potentially billions for a drug company?” wondered Bachmann.
Perry defended himself by pointing out that parents could opt out of his vaccine and said he was “offended” by Bachmann’s claim that he “could be bought for $5,000,” the amount the company gave him.
Tenacious Perry was also forced to defend himself against questions about his Social Security stance, including past remarks that the program is a “Ponzi scheme” and a “monstrous lie.”
The governor’s main rival, Mitt Romney, said that Perry’s comments are “frightful to many people.” Jon Huntsman also played up fear, saying, “we’re frightening the American people who just want solutions.” Perry offered none, although said he would down the road.
Through their arguments, the candidates were trying to accomplish one thing: convince voters that Perry imperils their future.
As MSNBC’s Tom Curry reports, “Romney is assuming or hoping that people will be frightened by the suggestion that they ought to be frightened by Perry’s harsh words on Social Security.”
And, yes, voters should be worried about Perry’s past statements on Social Security: that institution must remain solvent for generations to come, but as Curry notes, people were worried about Social Security’s future before Perry even entered the race, and therefore these politics of fear may fall flat.
While the candidates tried to present Perry as a bogeyman, the most unsettling moment from last night came from the audience.
During a line of questioning about health insurance, host Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul, a physician, what should be done about a healthy, 30-year old man who doesn’t buy insurance but then needs urgent, life-sustaining health care. Paul says that the man should “take responsibility for himself.”
“That’s what freedom is all about: taking your own risks,” replied Paul. Blitzer then asked whether “society should just let him die?”
Before Paul could get out his answer, several people in the audience clapped and yelled, “Yeah!” There’s video below, for your viewing pleasure.
Former Congressman Alan Grayson — a Democrat who once declared, “The Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick.” – described this “let him die” moment as “sadism.”
Said Grayson, via Huffington Post:
What you saw tonight is something much more sinister than not having a healthcare plan. It’s sadism, pure and simple. It’s the same impulse that led people in the Coliseum to cheer when the lions ate the Christians. And that seems to be where we are heading — bread and circuses, without the bread. The world that Hobbes wrote about — “the war of all against all.”
Grayson’s terminology and analogy are perhaps too harsh, but those members of the audience did expose the Tea Party movement’s dark side.
As we learned during the original healthcare debate, many Republicans think mandated insurance borders on insanity.
The plan, said conservative GOP Congressman Steve King, was based on an “irrational Leftist lust for socialized medicine.” I argued at the time that there’s nothing irrational about caring for the community at large. And that’s the same argument I employed when Republicans began their war on labor unions.
The perverted individualism behind capitalism, and by extension conservative politics, shows how selfish people can be. Tea Partiers who think it best to let people die embody the movement’s most repugnant ideological trait.
In addition to showing the deepest, darkest pit of selfish individualism, it reveals how little respect such right-wingers, a group traditionally committed to the “pro-life” movement, have for living beings and the nation at large. They are more interested in the isolated states than a united, communal America.