The current debate over health care has nothing to do with health care, any more than the TARP debate was about the economy. This is about one thing and one thing only: the GOP's apoplexy over losing power, and their pathological desire to get it back. They despise Obama's popularity, they detest his intelligence, his compassion, even the smile on his face. This is 21st-century Clinton hatred with a side order of racial resentment. Thinking there was ever any chance at bi-partisanship was as reality-challenged as picking up a rattlesnake thinking you could tame it as a house pet.
The GOP's goal from the second the president took office was to bring him down. Their strategy: Operation Monkeyshit. Just like a monkey in the zoo will wildly fling his shit at tourists, the GOP started flinging their shit with the sole intention of diminishing the president's popularity, tarnishing his image, and hurting his brand, all to lay the groundwork for the 2010 midterms and 2012 presidential elections. Tea parties. "Mortgaging our children's future." "The TARP didn't work." "Death panels." "Killing grandma." Birthers. "He's going to take your guns and house terrorists in your neighborhood." "He's weakening the country." "He's going to give Bin Laden the keys to your city where he will take your job and sleep with your daughter."
Now it's the professional tailgaters in town halls holding Hitler signs, screaming about Fascism and Socialism -- as if they could either define those ideas, or spell them. It's Rove 101. Take your opponent's biggest strength and turn it into a weakness. John Kerry the veteran fabricated his injuries. Obama is Hitler.
Of course it's insane, but getting out the hicks provides the sound bites for the party's media flacks and congressional representatives to hit the talk shows and smugly fob off these contrivances as spontaneous expressions of national outrage, as opposed to insurance- and drug company-created street theater. As if a few hundred illiterate screamers in a nation of several hundred million constituted a popular uprising. People with legitimate concerns don't reach for Hitler signs and mob chants as if the increased volume gave them some sort of collective higher intelligence. These are not outraged citizens. These are the great unwashed with too much free time on their hands, and access to their children's crayons.
The GOP has no platform. They don't care about the economy, unemployment, jobs, the deficit, the wars, or their cost either in dollars or human life. Just witness their current leader -- Mr. Potato Head look-alike, Michael Steele -- and his reaction to a woman in a wheelchair talking about her medical horror story. His response was pure Republicanism: disdain in the face of human suffering.
All these people care about is regaining power by diminishing the president's image, and defeating his every initiative. And to accomplish that they will throw all the shit they have to. The health care debate is just the latest venue. But unless the president calls them out and takes them down in his speech to Congress, the shit-flinging will continue. Unfortunately, as has been pointed out too many times, historically, Democrats just don't know how to fight. They think this is a dinner party discussion, faculty mixer, or a robust exchange at a debating society, where your opponent is the "loyal opposition." This is not a debate. It's not a salon. It's a street fight.
Case in point: Dr. Ezekial Emanuel, recently replying to Palin's comment tying him in to "Obama's death panels" saying: "there's no basis for that claim either in any of my writings or the legislation. It has no grounds in reality. It's surreal and Orwellian, the idea that this legislation or my writings suggest that her son Trig shouldn't get health care."
His comment was eloquent. Passionate. And filled with the appropriate moral outrage. But "surreal," and "Orwellian" are lost on the people who need to get the message. All Democrats, up to and including the President, have got to begin using the right words: these are lies. They're not "gross exaggerations," "myths," "fantasies," "fabrications," or "hyperbole." They're lies. Lies so sinister that they've got the very people who might benefit from universal health care carrying signs and screaming what is essentially: "Don't help us! Don't give us choices! Let us suffer and die the way we were meant to - poor, destitute, and being denied coverage from our insurance companies!" (As a side note the town hall screamers, heed the sage advice of Dean Wormer: "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.")
The glow of last November's victory faded before anyone could get too intoxicated over a Democratic mandate, or lost in the illusion that the GOP was going to roll over and die. Sure, they lost, but only because they were sunk by the weight of their own incompetence as the economy careened toward a meltdown and McCain took out his trusty revolver and repeatedly shot himself in the foot. He tried the flag-waving bullshit: "The state of our economy is strong." Didn't work. He tried the patriot game: "I'm suspending my campaign for the good of the country." Didn't work. He stunt-casted a GOP MILF and smirky, ambitious moron as his running mate. Worked for a second with a post-convention bump, then ran aground in the wake of her profound stupidity. Obama's victory was directly proportional to McCain's implosion. These people won't make the same mistake twice.
To the blue dogs in the Senate and the progressives in the House: Start working on intra-party bi-partisanship. Get united, and start kicking the GOP in the teeth. Get mean. Get ruthless. Twist their arms or break their kneecaps for the good of the country. They want to slit their wrists, hand them the knife. Beat them senseless with the best bill you can get. Do it in the memory of Ted Kennedy, but with the balls of Lyndon Johnson. What's the point of gaining power if you don't know how to wield it? Not every Republican great white hopeful is going to get busted with an Argentinian mistress. Get it together, now. Unless anyone's in the mood for President Romney. Or President Bachman.
Follow Ian Gurvitz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/igurvitz