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Republicans reduced to “scam the elderly” politics

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, August 10, 2009 13:46 EDT
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The abortion scare tactic, while not gone, is waning in favor of the “scare the elderly” tactic in the fight to keep huge numbers of Americans uninsured. Newt Gingrich has jumped aboard the Palin train in just making shit up that doesn’t even have a slight relationship to any bill that’s actually kicking around Congress.

On ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopolous,” Gingrich was given a chance to reject Palin’s false and vicious claims about “death panels.” Part of me expected Gingrich to take that opportunity; whatever else he is, Gingrich doesn’t seem demonstrably stupid, and the “death panel” rhetoric seemed beneath him. It also might have been a good way to distinguish himself from a possible 2012 rival.

Once again I gave too much credit even to a Republican I dislike. Gingrich declined Stephanopolous’s generous offer, and instead allied himself with Palin’s take on Obama’s plan: “You’re asking us to decide that the government is to be trusted…You are asking us to trust turning power over to the government, when there are clearly people in American who believe in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards.”

Once upon a time, about a week ago, lying ass conservatives at least tried to come up with some sort of plausible deniability by claiming that someone was going to come to your house and force you to write a living will, and that because government bureaucrats have the magical ability to put a glamor on you, you’d have no choice but to bend to their unstated will to write a living will that said, “If I cough too hard, give me a fatal dose of morphine.” This was an obvious lie, but they could defend it by make vague gestures towards a potential item in the bill that would reserve funding for those who want it to have a right to free counseling on a living will. Which is actually a great idea, because most people have very little idea of how many potential ways you could become terminally ill, and what sorts of horrors you might face if you don’t plan ahead of time, and a counselor could walk you through all the possibilities. This offends conservatives, because they think having compassionate assistance in private legal and financial matters should be the right of the wealthy, period. But they can’t say that, so they came up with the “knock on the door” crap.

Which Sarah Palin, in her infinite wisdom, decided sounded so much better as a) death panels b) something anyone with any illness would be subject to, including babies with non-terminal illnesses such as Down’s Syndrome and c) you have no chance of input in your own case at all. Which is the exact opposite of what was proposed, which was something available to people who are growing older, facing potentially terminal illnesses, and who simply need education so they can make fully empowered decisions. And Gingrich’s reaction shouldn’t be surprising—despite the fact that McCain’s epic loss showed that you can’t win just by catering to the base, that’s exactly what the Republicans have decided to do. Perhaps it’s because they’ve decide that this isn’t exactly about elections, but creating an angry and freaked out mob that will shut down health care reform, and then they’ll win on the basis that the voters don’t vote for useless Democrats, even though it’s still the better choice, since it’s between no change and bleeding the country dry.

What’s interesting is how base the whole thing from beginning to end. Sure, since the point of the uproar is to keep millions of Americans uninsured, leaving many of them to die for lack of care, it’s easy enough to say that the Republicans are being monsters. But the end results of policy are always a tad abstract, and it’s always a truism that we can’t be expected to fix all the world’s problems, and conservatives can lean on that even when we have a problem we can fix. But this tactic of scaring people about euthanasia is straight up, undeniably immoral shit. It’s because they’re openly preying on the elderly now, taking advantage of something hucksters and charlatans have known for a long time, which is that a lot of people lose their ability to think critically about lurid claims, and so it’s easy to separate them from their money (or in this case, their time and energy). Digby wrote about this:

The elderly are easy prey for all kinds of scare stories and scams from unscrupulous people. And nobody is more unscrupulous than a right winger desperate to obstruct a program or politician they know will be popular and empowering of liberals. Here’s one example from a few years ago, and as far as I know they are still active today. The groups they fronted for certainly are.

Increasingly, there’s public education projects aimed at those who care for elderly people to educate them about the importance of guarding the gates against scam artists, and what to do if an elderly relative is overly credulous to the claims of hucksters out to steal their money. If you ever wondered who actually responds to those Nigerian email scams, for instance, the ugly truth is that a lot of the victims turn out to be elderly people who have trouble sussing out real claims from bullshit. There’s cognitive, biological reasons that this happens, and I suspect that elderly people who’ve seen so many remarkable changes over their lifetime have a real reason to think that even outrageous claims could be real.

Of course, the other problem in this case is that the people being targeted—elderly white people—are also the most likely to harbor unreconstructed racist beliefs and, in their view, the black President is going to give health care to black people and get the money to pay for it by killing a bunch of old white people. That’s the lurking argument behind the euthanasia lie, and I imagine it satisfies a lot of anger that the more racist set has over the fact that we even have a black President. But that a lot of the elderly people responding to this argument are embittered old racists doesn’t mean that the Republicans who are exploiting their gullibility are off the hook for being utter sleaze.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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