In the words conservative feminist blogger Jenn Q Public:
Proponents of liberal health care reform deliberately lured a bloodthirsty vampire over their thresholds, and now they’re shocked – SHOCKED – to find they have fangs buried deep in their necks. I’m not one to blame the victim, but it sounds like they might be getting exactly what they were asking for.
This sums up the entire conservative response to liberal complaints about Stupak-Pitts in a nutshell. 'Stupid liberals wanted fascism and now they are complaining about it.'
This, of course, is not an argument at all. It's an ad hominem attack that allows the actual points of debate to be entirely ignored. I'm not entirely sure, however, whether this is premeditated or whether it is intended as a genuine argument.
The left and the right, after all, have fundamentally differing views of the proper definition of 'government.'
The conservative view of government is that it is an inherent entity of its own, with specific coercive and authoritarian traits that define it. Government cannot exist without those traits, goes the right wing argument, and is something else entirely without those traits. Hence the need for a small government with specific and strictly defined areas of authority.
The liberal view of government is that government is representative of the people who elect it and that it has an obligation to pursue, protect, and ensure their interests, opportunities, and rights. They believe that government should be able to do what needs doing, in the best interests of the people, as long as the rights of the people are protected.
The emphasis is important. Liberals do not believe in the 'unlimited' government that conservatives often claim they advocate nor in 'fascism' (not even the terribly misdefined 'fascism' of conservatives) or 'socialism.' Liberals believe in responsible, effective government as a necessary component of civil society.
There needs to be a balance between the power of the government to do what needs doing and the protections in place to prevent it from ignoring all responsibility and simply using coercive force to do its will. The irony is that it is conservatives who have continually advocated the use of coercive force by the government to do their own will both at home and overseas. Corporate conservatives want the US military to enforce their business interests. Neoconservatives want American empire. Religious conservatives wish their religious mores enforced as law. All of these require the expansion of government power, not its contraction, and all are far more dangerous to the rights of individual Americans than health care reform. Yet they crow over Stupak-Pitts as some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy of government run amok. They rarely acknowledge the far greater danger of irresponsible demagogues advocating for real fascism from several directions at once.
While not precisely a 'liberal' myself (if anything, I am well to the left of most American liberals), I certainly support health care reform. Like liberals, I believe in responsible government rather than the unfettered government alternately feared and worshiped by conservatives. I certainly don't care for Stupak-Pitts and think it a horrible mistake, both politically and morally.
From the quoted article:
'When you invite the government to become more deeply involved in health care, you’re also inviting greater government interference in personal choice. Medical decisions become political decisions. That’s how it works, and it’s why philosophical opposition to the growth of government isn’t the crazy-eyed wingnuttery progressives make it out to be.'
Once again, rather than discuss the real issues at hand, we see an evasion of the topic with a statement about those stupid liberals who keep inviting the monster into the closet. The automatic assumption that responsible decision making and rational thought go out the window once one decides to create health care policy means that liberals have no right to complain about the policies that result from reform.
I can't speak for 'liberals', but I don't consider 'philosophical opposition to the growth of government' to be all that terrible. The government is one of several potential threats to individual freedoms. There are real risks to government expansion that must always be weighed carefully. I am no statist, I am a philosophical anarcho-socialist. What I consider 'wild-eyed wing-nuttery' is the belief that the private sector can take care of all of society's needs if civil society abdicates its own responsibility for its own needs. To reference a favorite phrase of the Anonymous Liberal, one cannot rely on the underpants gnomes to take care of the poor, elderly, and sick if we do not do so as a society. When one puts 'philosophical objection to the growth of government' over the economic and physical well-being of Americans, one has crossed the 'wing-nut' line. When one's personal concern for having to wait longer in the office for service prevents one from wanting others to have that same access to medical care then one has crossed an even darker line: one is no longer merely a wing-nut.
This brings us to the ultimate issue regarding Stupak-Pitts and health care reform at large. The government works for us. As conservatives are so fond of saying, American tax-payers pay a great deal of money to the government every year. If an automobile mechanic you were paying to provide proper maintenance and upkeep on your car deliberately used substandard parts and you were injured in an auto accident as a result, the depraved indifference law means that the auto mechanic is guilty of a felony.
Stupak-Pitts is a deliberate act of depraved indifference on the part of a bipartisan conservative coalition.
Everyone should complain about that.