Soundbites of this sickening display from Monday’s Republican presidential primary debate on CNN have been in heavy rotation among political junkies, bloggers and pundits across the country. In it, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer asks Rep. Ron Paul of Texas what the fate should be of a 30-year-old uninsured man in a coma. The audience was made up of “tea party” activists, part of the extremist conservative movement that has all but taken over the Republican Party.
Is this what we as a society has devolved into? I hope not. I don’t believe the people in this audience are even close to representative of what the majority of Americans think. I think the majority of Americans would be horrified. The ugly behavior exhibited at the debate is the dark side of humanity that we have to constantly fight against.
It’s unfortunate that Wolf Blitzer chose to frame his question to Rep. Paul as if the uninsured are uninsured because they choose to be that way. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the uninsured – myself included – want health coverage, but either cannot afford the outrageous premiums on individual policies, or have preexisting conditions and can’t get insurance at all. Many have lost health coverage because they’ve lost their jobs in this horrible recession, and can’t find new ones.
Blitzer, a millionaire news personality, with very good health coverage from a major corporation, probably isn’t worried about ever becoming uninsured. And Rep. Paul has health coverage for life as a sitting congressperson. It’s infuriating that these are the kind of folks influencing the debate over health care.
It’s very telling, however, that Rep. Paul immediately answered “No” to Blitzer’s question, and then pitifully stumbled through trying to defend his libertarian nightmare of forcing the sick to beg charities for care. Turns out Paul knew someone in a similar situation. It’s been revealed that Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign manager, Kent Snyder, died of pneumonia and didn’t have health insurance. Snyder’s family ended up saddled with $400,000 in medical bills, and tried to raise the funds by soliciting donations.
It’s upsetting that Rep. Paul didn’t provide his own employee at the time with health insurance. It’s incredibly ironic still that the unfortunate Mr. Snyder, whose own support for libertarian ideology showed in his fervent support for Rep. Paul, eventually succumbed because of that ideology. Libertarianism may sound good to some in theory, but it falls apart in real life. What Rep. Paul and the shameless people in that “tea party” audience don’t understand is that no one person is an island unto him or herself. The mark of a civilized society is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. People in civilized societies take care of one another. Otherwise, how are we different from mere animals?