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Health Care Debate Loses Coherence

09/03/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The descent into complete incoherence among conservatives -- especially on talk radio -- has become widespread as the health care debate intensifies. The once Mighty Wurlitzer is wheezing and groaning.

New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg calls reform opponents nihilistic, but eschatological would not be far off the mark.

Obama and the liberals are coming and they're bringing health care. The end is near.

The guest host for Sean Hannity's radio show on Friday all but warned that America is about to be overrun by the Red Menace and the Yellow Peril. I expected to hear that the show's sponsor was the John Birch Society.

A caller to a drive-time talk show in Charlotte complained Friday that America is headed towards a British-style system of health care. Smokers and the obese will be ineligible for some medical procedures, he warned. They will be labeled selfish for trying to "glom off everybody else in the country."

And you remember when conservatives thought stopping people from "glomming" off government programs was a good thing.

Another caller lost his business and had no health insurance. He was afraid that liberals in Congress might actually help by providing it. Diabolical.

The host agreed and comforted him, saying how many e-mails she'd received from listeners who had lost jobs. They feel that they've failed and let down their families. She wanted struggling listeners to know that it's not their fault. They are not alone.

A lot of people out there are hurting, she explained, and politicians are not giving them enough attention or -- wait for it -- help.

Letters to the editor against health care reform in the local paper, a friend notes, are filled with nouns and verbs, but fewer and fewer coherent sentences.

Conservative cursing over health care and anything Obama has become a kind of speaking in tongues -- words without meaning uttered just to vent a diffuse, impotent anger. And because they like the mouth feel.

Socialism. Big government. Dictatorship. Europeans.

One suspects, however, that behind much of the "Don't Tread On Me" rhetoric directed at Obama is a spluttering "... but, but, but, you're black!"

To give them credit, among the tea party crowd there are some who are sincerely libertarian. They believe adamantly that America should be built around libertarian principles and/or obeisance to Ayn Rand's objectivism.

But there are others -- and probably a majority -- who adopt the low taxes and small government formulations of Heritage and Cato and cloak themselves in the flag and the Constitution to lend respectability to a vision of America that is not so much democratic as tribal.

When they say, "I oppose big government and high taxes," what they really mean is, "I don't want any of my tax dollars helping anyone who is not from My family, My friends, My neighborhood, My church, My ethnicity, or who doesn't share My opinions."

Even if a reformed health care system might help them and their families, if it might also benefit anyone they don't recognize as a member of their tribe, the answer is not just no, but HELL NO.

E pluribus unum is Greek to them.