Republicans are very good at making Americans feel bad.
And the best way to make Americans feel bad is to make them afraid. Very afraid.
The battle over the Affordable Care Act is the best example of Republicans using fear to scare Americans away from the real facts, with breathlessly hyped misinformation, not labeled as such in conservative media. The recent Supreme Court decision to uphold the constitutionality of the individual mandate and the entire "Obamacare" plan should have finally put an end to three years of Republican attempts to defeat the bill. Instead, they are now claiming that the plan increases taxes on the middle class, when in reality, the ACA offers billions of dollars of tax credits for middle-class families and small businesses. And only about 1 percent of Americans will be receiving penalties for not buying health insurance.
Republicans never looked at the debate over the Affordable Care Act as a chance to make Americans feel good. It was solely an unhealthy obsession to defeat President Obama. That is why, to this day, there is no comprehensive Republican healthcare plan, that addresses the 30 million or more Americans without access to affordable health care. Tort reform and buying insurance across state lines are just Republican talking points, not a serious healthcare plan.
Instead of offering solutions, they made stuff up. First, they conjured up the myth of "death panels," and then the notion that Obamacare was socialized medicine. What could be scarier than death and socialism? Except that neither was true. The Affordable Care Act is simply a continuation of our private insurance healthcare system, and expands the already existing Medicaid program. Doctors still work privately, not for the government. But to hear some Republicans tell it, a socialist president threw out our entire current healthcare system in favor of a government-run program. Which to many sounds a lot scarier than the truth, which is how Republicans rally public opinion to their side.
The Republicans' latest scare tactic, attacking the individual mandate, is a bit odd since the individual mandate came out of the conservative Heritage Foundation, and was a key part of the Republican alternative to the Clinton healthcare plan in 1993. And even stranger is that the Republican nominee for president actively supported the mandate in Romneycare, the Massachusetts model for Obamacare, and said so himself as recently as 2009. As Congressional Republicans call it a tax increase, Romney's top advisor says that Romney's individual mandate was a penalty, not a tax, echoing the Obama administration. Expect Romney to come out and flip-flop his way out of this by claiming the individual mandate is a penalty on the state level, and a tax on the federal level.
Of course that doesn't make sense, but neither does anything the Republicans have said about the Affordable Care Act.
The most recent example is Senator Rand Paul's statement that "Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be 'constitutional' does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional." And when it comes to the Constitution, nobody knows better than eye doctor Rand Paul.
Why do Republicans use scare tactics and misinformation to defeat a healthcare plan that will finally bring near universal coverage to Americans as well as a host of other major improvements?
Because, as John McCain said in a debate four years ago, Republicans don't consider healthcare to be a right, as Democrats do. But Republicans think they have the right to use fear instead of facts to defeat healthcare reform.
And that's not healthy for our country.