To fund or defund Obamacare? That is the question. If you’ve listened to conservative talk radio lately, you know that there is an interesting divide among Republicans. One faction wants to withhold the funding necessary for President Obama’s key piece of legislation, while the other wants no part of such a plan. Certain hosts have essentially said that having a disagreement over strategy is now tantamount to a betrayal of conservative principles. Men and women who are generally friendly to conservative causes have been called “French conservatives” and fake conservatives, and the question becomes: “Why?” What good does it do to attack someone’s character because that person disagrees over a strategy designed to bring about the same end? The kind of tone-deaf rhetoric on display by some very smart men on the right side of the political fence is exactly why over 90% of the black vote consistently goes to Democrats.

Note the following:

  • When people make decisions, they are almost always doing so because they are running towards a pleasurable outcome or away from the prospect of pain.

Once you have determined which mindset a person or a collective group of people are acting in accordance with, it is then possible to craft a message that makes them more receptive to your point of view. Right now, elected Republicans who disagree with the defunding route do so largely because they fear they wouldn’t be able to convincingly explain the philosophical reasons to the American public. By extension, they also fear the political pain that would follow.

The American people generally know that Obamacare is on course to become, in many ways, a “train wreck” (to borrow a phrase from Democratic Senator from Montana, Max Baucus). However, they also know that the bill was passed by the House and the Senate and signed into law by the president. They know that it was ruled on by the Supreme Court and found to be Constitutional. At this point, not funding Obamacare will in all likelihood be perceived by most voters as an underhanded way for Republicans to get what they couldn’t get through the Democratic process or the courts. That might not be fair, but the world isn’t always fair — and it’s really not fair if your political leaders are a bunch of bumblers who care more about holding on to power than the well-being of the American people.

America is $17 trillion in debt. It has officially gone over the “fiscal cliff,” even if the average citizen hasn’t opened his/her eyes to the pavement fast-approaching. The reality is that we can not fund Obamacare because we’re broke. In fact, we’re the brokest nation in the history of the world. That aside, does anyone believe that House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell can connect the dots for the American people? It seems pretty obvious that Messrs. Boehner and McConnell do not even believe in themselves, so why should the rest of us?

Right now, there are many conservatives who are having their credentials challenged simply because they don’t want to win the battle but lose the war. If conservatives treat their “friends” like this, why should voters who are skittish about them think of ever changing their political allegiance? The answer is simple: they shouldn’t.

As I mentioned earlier, people either run towards pleasure or away from pain. Since black Americans in the aggregate almost universally support Democrats and the liberal world view, there is probably some truth in the notion that they collectively own a specific fear or desire a specific pleasure. It is my assertion that American blacks generally view public policy within the context of slavery and other historical prejudices perpetrated upon their ancestors. Will ‘policy x’ be more likely to duplicate the painful experiences of the past or not? Will ‘policy y’ be more or less likely to strengthen the hand held by America’s racists in life’s poker tournament? Collectively, they are acting from a fear-based perspective, which in the long term I think is detrimental (but useful to know when trying to understand how best to reach them on election day).

When conservatives talk about the Founding Fathers, it doesn’t matter what The Declaration of Independence stands for our how the Constitution is one of the most beautiful documents ever written — because both conjure up our nation’s sordid past. When conservatives talk about dismantling the federal government, many black Americans think about how instrumental the federal government was for them during the civil rights era. And so, the conservative has two options:

  1. Convincingly demonstrate why such a fear-based model of thought actually makes prosperity less likely.
  2. Come up with a fear-based public policy messaging. I prefer option ‘a’ to option ‘b’.

Conservatism is a hard sell for many people who live in fear because of its emphasis on the individual. Freedom can be a scary thing because when you are free to succeed on your own you also must also accept responsibility for your failures. The siren song of liberalism promises prosperity through the confiscation of the wealth of others because they have wronged us in some way. It sells the snake oil of safety and security in the collective for the small, small price of your individuality.

Do you see yourself as a unique individual and spiritual being first and foremost, or are you black? Are you a unique individual and spiritual being, or are you defined by your sexuality? Are you a unique individual and spiritual being, or are you the static social class known only as “the poor” or “the middle class”? These are the questions modern conservatives must ask voters who don’t see eye-to-eye with them, and at this time in history too many are failing with friends and foes alike.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

6 comments

  1. I think the questions should go a bit deeper. If I am correct, we are the only country that doesn’t have a universal health care system. Why is that? Does it make us superior not to have one or the other countries better that have one?

    1. You’ve put me in an odd spot here, Randy. I’d prefer to stick to the broader philosophical differences between conservatism and liberalism; your question could quickly devolve into a nuts-and-bolts discussion on health care.

      I guess my first response would that I’m wary of any argument that begins, essentially, with: “Everyone else is doing it, so why aren’t we?” Sticking to the themes of this post, at one point in history slavery was the expected norm. It was everywhere, and Western Civilization broke the mold. Sometimes the guy who doesn’t go along with the crowd is the one who is doing the right thing, which dovetails into your second point about the “superior” system.

      Again, I will stick with the themes of this post and discuss it from the perspective of fear. Some people embrace a single-payer system because they fear (understandably) getting sick and not having the resources to provide for their treatment. I suppose my own “fear” isn’t so much about getting treatment as it is about getting quality treatment. In that regard, I would say that the U.S. system, while not perfect, has an amazing track record. There’s a reason why Saudi princes come to America to have complicated surgeries done instead of, say, China.

      For me, I run towards the pleasure of being able to have the health care I want — the health care that fits my lifestyle and my needs — as opposed to some ACME box-o-health-care that I must take or leave as prescribed by a bunch of bureaucrats. Why should I have to pay for a coverage plan that is better suited for a chain smoker who shoves crap calories in his mouth all day when I don’t smoke, I exercise regularly and lead a very healthy lifestyle?

      All systems have flaws because humans are flawed. I think there are plenty of ways to get people who don’t have health care insured without the federal government having to control another 1/6 of the economy.

  2. Hi Doug,
    I’m always like to hear good proposals. What should the GOP or conservatives propose, (or Doug as an individual), that would give US folks who can’t afford health care access? How would they balance getting their proposals passed, with lobbyists from groups like the pharmaceutical companies, Insurance companies, AMA, AARP, etc., having such powerful and influential voices?

    1. The problem with the health care debate is, like everything else these days, we’re supposed to believe that it has to be done in one huge “comprehensive” package. I reject that premise. Why can’t we break down the overall problem into manageable chunks?

      I talked about the The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act here, for example. I talked about how it fell short as it pertains to individuals who originally purchased health insurance on their own and wanted to switch to a different carrier, as opposed to making some sort of transition involving employer-based coverage. Why not have one bill that addresses that issue and then move on to the next?

      Instead (and this isn’t a knock on you per se), we get people who say, “What is the GOP plan?” and then if you can’t extemporaneously give them a plan that runs the gamut as it pertains to all aspects of health care, they say you don’t have “solutions.”

      I don’t know your specific situation, but I’m sure if I sat down with you for any length of time we could quickly figure out why you can’t afford health care and what some steps could be to ensure that you get it. (Medicaid actually exists to help poor people, so that’s another can of worms that can be opened up.) I had a friend years ago who “couldn’t afford” health care. His problem? He spent all of his money on alcohol, video games and clubs. Long story short: we no longer talk. The point is, too many people are looking for a magic bullet for their problems, or they’re not honest with themselves about why they can’t do the things they want to do.

      When I graduated from college I had to pay for health insurance on my own. I lived in a tiny little box in D.C. and didn’t get to have “fun” very often. Why? Because I prioritized buying health insurance ahead of going out to nice restaurants. Years later I challenge anyone to define me as “rich” (I still live in a room the size of my Toyota), but I know that in the long run it will all pay off. Too many Americans live beyond their means and then blame others for the fallout.

      In terms of lobbyists, I also take issue with any framing of that issue as if they’re all a scourge upon the world. There are good lobbyists and there are bad lobbyists. They are individuals who have knowledge and expertise in fields that your average representative is not privy to because we aren’t capable of being subject matter experts in … everything. If I’m going to be crafting laws that affect water quality in my community it makes sense that I would contact lobbyists who know a thing or two about biology. The problem isn’t that lobbyists exist; the problem is that too many Americans aren’t involved in the political process until 3 months before an election, at which point they fall for the “it’s all the lobbyists’ fault” stump speech on the campaign trail.

  3. Ah Doug, the health care bill isn’t going to make people not be able to choose what health care they want. if you’re job is offering you great health care you can keep it. however, this is more for the people that cannot get any healthcare whatsoever, this is for them. people need to pull their heads out of their asses. Romney passed a bill in massachusetts that he tried to then shun when he ran. The health care bill Obama signed into law borrowed heavily from this bill. I refuse to label it Obamacare because we didn’t label Bush, Clinton, Bush laws or bills as BushTax, or ClintonTax etc.

    1. Fact: People are losing their health care already because businesses are dropping plans that are now too expensive. Guess who’s saying that? It’s not me — it’s the Congressional Budget Office. Guess who else knows the “you can keep your doctor” line was political posturing meant to get votes? The Department of Health and Human Services.

      Before I left my last job it was announced that we were going to be paying much more than expected because of the new law, and now at my new job insurance jumped. Obamacare is a bureaucratic nightmare, and even the administration knows it. By their own admission, that’s why they are delaying the mandate for another year (conveniently until after the midterm elections).

      Also, please note that there is a world of difference between a law that is mandated by an individual state and one enacted by the federal government. If I don’t like a state’s laws, I can always leave and go to another state. That is why Texas has record numbers of people moving to it from California. If the federal government mandates you do something, there is no place left to go without renouncing your citizenship. Again, that’s a big difference.

      In regards to labeling the law of the land after presidents: it is done. How many times have I heard “the Bush tax cuts” when the fact of the matter is that those tax rates have been in place for over a decade? When you and I are 40 we’ll still be hearing about “the Bush tax cuts” as opposed to ‘changing the current tax rate.’

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