Once up on a time Orrin Hatch was a reasonable conservative, someone willing to cross the aisle and work with Senator Kennedy, for example, to move legislation good for the country.
At one time he praised Kennedy as "a United States senator who was dedicated to the last to advancing the vision of America that he held so dearly." And that vision included universal health care. That is why it is so sad to see him violate his personal principles to accommodate the demands of the bottom-of-the barrel Tea Party in Utah. Let no one doubt that what Hatch did was, as he understood it, necessary to do to placate this ugly crowd.
Seeing that he was being challenged from the Far Right, Hatch was quoted in an interview as saying the president's health care law was "an awful piece of crap." It must have burned his throat to say it, but say it he must to please the Tea Party in his state. As Bachmann and Palin would say, "he manned up."
There are many on the Left who would silently agree with Hatch, but they also know that this historic law has been a long time coming and while it isn't perfect or even satisfactory to some, it does address the essential problems of health care in this country, say what you will. If all the provisions succeed, we will have a semblance of equity and financial solvency in health care.
What Hatch chose to do in speaking as he did not only belittled him personally, it illustrates what intelligent and perfectly reasonable public servants have to do in this political climate to continue to serve. John McCain has done the same thing in Arizona and as a result bought himself another six years in the Senate, where he now has the most conservative record in his party. I wonder how he sleeps at night.
The centerpiece of the new law, as we all know by now, is the requirement for everyone to buy health insurance or pay a fine. The issue for the Far Right is the unwillingness to assume responsibility for other people, particularly people unlike themselves. Some have even said that racism lies at the core of their objections.
When the law goes into effect, we will all be responsible, and the responsibility will come out of our own pockets, just the way it does now to pay for public education. It is not even known by most that a new American nation was the first in the world to provide for public education. In his essay entitled "Education," Ralph Waldo Emerson had this to say:
Therefore I praise New England because it is the country in the world where is the freest expenditure for education. We have already taken, at the planting of the Colonies, (for aught I know for the first time in the world,) the initial step, which for its importance might have been resisted as the most radical of revolutions, thus deciding at the start the destiny of this country,- this, namely, that the poor man, whom the law does not allow to take an ear of corn when starving, nor a pair of shoes for his freezing feet, is allowed to put his hand into the pocket of the rich, and say, You shall educate me, not as you will, but as I will: not alone in the elements, but, by further provision, in the languages, in sciences, in the useful and in elegant arts. The child shall be taken up by the State, and taught, at the public cost, the rudiments of knowledge, and, at last, the ripest results of art and science.
And soon, we trust, the same can be said of health care, not provided by the State, but by the principle that all Americans, rich and poor, will be nearly on equal footing in being secure in having medical care when it is needed. As Emerson said, it is the destiny of this country. The sad thing is that we are the last civilized country to accept that responsibility.
So stand up straight Senator Hatch and remember who you are.
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