Against Eric Hobbs On Healthcare

It feels silly to respond to an article this bad from an author who doesn’t seem to have the ability to think coherently, but Eric Hobbs (VP of the Mizzou College Republicans) has a column titled “Liberals Make me Laugh” in the Maneater this week. I can’t address the entirety of the article as there are far too many warrantless arguments made without little to no attempt at spinning a coherent narrative, but I will note that the first half of the article barely contains a single identifiable argument. My best attempt at a translation is that Hobbs makes something like the following claim: It is patently laughable that the Senate Finance Committee vote on health care legislation this past Tuesday was a vote on concepts to be included in a bill to be finished later, as opposed to a bill that had actually been written. Or alternatively, that Senate committees shouldn’t vote on concepts to be included in legislation and should instead limit their decision making to only formally submitted bills. This seems like an impossible standard to hold committee grunt-work too; the purpose and nature of Congressional committees is that they are where legislation gets fleshed out and compromises made. Cutting out that process seems to me to be unwarranted.

But the arguments that Republicans like Hobbs are making seem to me to miss the point; first, they miss an important argument the left makes, and second, they are never couched in any kind of intellectual modesty so that any engagement becomes a confrontation. As for myself, I’m hesitant to come to big picture conclusions about a public option or even the entire thrust of the Democrat push for insurance reform but there is a fundamentally attractive premise at the heart of the liberal desire for universal healthcare. It is that our national policies, both foreign and domestic, often are co-opted by moneyed interests skilled at navigating the halls of power, and that conservative leadership particularly are never identified with the desire to evaluate costs and benefits in a way that speaks beyond the cultures of money and power. Alternatively I could state that the left is far more inclusive in the demands it is willing to be responsive to than the right.  I am particularly fond of citing the statistic from the 2008 Republican National Convention that 1.5% of delegates were black, or discussing the participation of women in the Republican party. The left is willing to ask why we’re willing to make a tradeoff like the decision to go fight a second war in Iraq when the money could be spent with a much more clear return providing healthcare to those who desire it and can’t afford it; the right, as far as I know, rarely crosses this conceptual bridge, eliding the debate with statements about the invincibility of markets and tenuous claims about freedom and national security. The conservative movement ends up crippled by a paucity of ideas and an unwillingness to engage in civil debate.

There is a caveat; the inclusive nature of the Democrat project does not mean that policy is not influenced by moneyed interests, or that populist demands do not get co-opted by the system, or that they are even smart demands to begin with. The attraction of the Democrat project is its inclusivity and that, I think, is a starting point lost on a GOP that insultingly layers its new website with pictures of token minorities.

Note that I’m careful to not assign moral standing to particular ideological stances or real-world actors; I think corruption is an inevitable part of politics, and it is clear that Democrats are just as corrupt as Republicans. But it seems to me that there is inherently more competition in the market for Democrat ideas than there is in the market for Republican ideas; part of the reason is the exclusionary nature of GOP participation and part of it is that the GOP meta-narrative is one that is fundamentally anti-intellectual; as a result, the GOP has lost its intellectual moorings (and most importantly, its intellectuals).

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