Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 29, 2010

THE EFFECTS OF AN EXTRAORDINARY CON.... The NYT had an interesting report yesterday about the kinds of folks who are becoming Tea Party activists, in part because of the difficult economic conditions. The piece noted that during the Great Depression, middle-class families mobilized in the hopes of getting additional support from the government and a stronger safety net.

Now, of course, we're seeing some middle-class people mobilizing for the exact opposite -- they're drowning, but they've been convinced that if the life-preserver comes from the government, they don't want it.

Reader D.D. sent me this article from the Dallas Morning News about how the Affordable Care Act would affect a variety of local families, all of whom have had difficulties with either their health care, their economic conditions, or both. One family, in particular, stood out.

Amy Townsend, 38, of Hurst was preparing last week for yet another round of treatments in her battle against breast cancer.

In addition to steeling herself for possible side effects, she and husband Jesse, 43, were preparing for the possibility that they might have to pay hundreds of dollars, up front, before radiation treatment can begin.

With both Amy and Jesse unemployed, the family buys health insurance through COBRA with a $5,500 yearly maximum for out-of-pocket expenses -- a threshold the family has not yet met. COBRA coverage generally lasts up to 18 months.

"We've got to come up with some money for next week," she said.

Though she still faces medical bills, Amy said she was against the health care act, fearing so-called death panels and government inefficiency. [emphasis added]

To be clear, I'm not picking on the Townsend family here. Amy Townsend is fighting a terrible disease, and she and her family are facing awful circumstances that I can scarcely imagine. The Townsends and people like them are one of the reasons the American Cancer Society endorsed the Democratic health care reform proposal so enthusiastically -- it stands to help folks like this who really need it.

But that's what makes the response all the more fascinating. Amy Townsend appears to have heard the right-wing propaganda, and seems inclined to believe it. "Every government program," she told the paper, "none of them work very well."

The Townsend family is, however, currently getting by on unemployment benefits (a government program), and is holding onto some coverage through COBRA (another government program), which they can afford thanks to federal subsidies (through another government program).

The point isn't to mock the Townsends or to question their judgment. The point is to appreciate the power of conservative political rhetoric in 2010. Many of those who stand to benefit from a stronger safety net have been led to believe they want a weaker one. Many of those who'll finally be able to get better care under a health care system that's been screwing them over have been convinced that they won't, or can't, benefit from reform.

And as a political matter, this poses an incredible challenge for Democrats. Here's a party that identified a problem burdening millions of families, and worked diligently to approve a solution, only to find some of those they're helping declare their opposition to the life-preserver.

The Democratic challenge is straightforward: convince folks like Amy Townsend that they just successfully fought like hell to give her a hand when she and her family need it.

Steve Benen 2:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (68)

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Comments

The GOP has always convinced the middle class to vote against their own self interests.

Posted by: Diane on March 29, 2010 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

During the New Deal, people understood very well that it was the government that kept them from literally starving to death after the god of total non-regulation destroyed the economy. And for a long time afterward, even low-information people grasped that the government has a legitimate role to play in reining in the excesses of the market.

People got it.

They don't get it now. We can blame that on the Wurlitzer, the intense cultural polarization that exists now, the sense of tribalism that permeates the U.S., the death of participatory citizenship, lots of things. But it is really distressing to see how much these people value cherished perceptions over facts, in total contrast to the citizens of 70 and 80 years ago.

Posted by: shortstop on March 29, 2010 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

OK these people need help and I'm all for helping them but if they don't want to be helped and prefer to live or die in ignorance I'm mystified as to how they can be helped.
If a drowning man gets thrown a life preserver and yells I won't take it from no damn communist what can you do.

Posted by: Gandalf on March 29, 2010 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

They don't have to convince her of anything. They have to establish the programs, get her to sign up for them, and then defend them against Republican attempts to destroy them.

Posted by: Christopher on March 29, 2010 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

I'm just hoping one of her nurses or doctors sets her straight during her treatments/visits.

All it takes is one medical professional to say to her and her husband ... you know, this new bill is going to help you.

Posted by: Tang on March 29, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

-Just another example of Reichwing spin, "Who ya gonna believe: me, or your lying eyes?"

Posted by: DAY on March 29, 2010 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

There will always be those, few in number we can hope, who can be conned into disregarding their own lyin' eyes and to work hard to their own disadvantage. Most Americans, including those who are sceptical of government run programs, will see the light when the first wave of benefits kick in. This bill won't effect everyone, my wife and I have fine coverage, but we all know someone who will be positively impacted.

Posted by: Bill From PA on March 29, 2010 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

On the one hand, it's very sad and scary how a little corporate PR, applied in a ham-handed fashion, can still be effective enough to get people to work - hard - in direct opposition to their own interests.

On the other, maybe this is just Darwin at work. Marching for the "freedom" to be refused care because it's not in some "shareholder's" interest? Marching so some beancounter can make sure you don't get the care you need? It's just so fucking stupid.

Posted by: Cazart on March 29, 2010 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Diane, very true.

If the Republican Party had not literally convinced millions of people to vote against their own interests, it wouldn't even exist today. The number of people who actually benefit from Republican policies is so absurdly small that the Republics would be a footnote to history if not for deluded working and middle class Americans.

Posted by: Gummo on March 29, 2010 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

The point isn't to mock the Townsends or to question their judgment. The point is to appreciate the power of conservative political rhetoric in 2010.

Maybe we shouldn't mock them (although that's a true "maybe" because sometimes mockery is just what the doctor ordered to break trough idiocy), but we definitely should "question their judgment." These people are maddeningly stupid when it comes to their own interest. Full stop.

Posted by: Jasper on March 29, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

sadly, Ms. Townsend doesn't realize she already faces a death panel: the day her COBRA coverage runs out (unless that big, scary government passes an extension), the private medical care system will do as little as it can to proactively manage her cancer treatment. as a result, her odds of beating the cancer will drop precipitously. like so many others, her best hope of beating the private death panels, the private bureaucracies that are inefficient and "don't work very well" is for government to take her side and level the playing field between her low income family and faceless megacorporations.

the greatest Republican triumph was a poll I saw in December -- barely a year after the Great Deregulatory Meltdown of the economy -- which asked people who they trusted more, government or corporations. Corporations won handily.

all i can say is that people that dumb (talking about the poll respondents here, not Amy Townsend in particular) is that its hard to feel much sympathy for them when the corporations let them down.

Posted by: zeitgeist on March 29, 2010 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Yes and now it appears that Texas has not had as many people answering the census as should have. Texas is getting worried because if not enough people are counted they may get less federal aid.
I sure hope Michelle Bachman's people listened when she said don't fill in the census forms, because she may lose her seat through it.
Also I heard that lots of teabaggers have the time to drive around to these meetings because they are on unemployment & social security.

Posted by: JS on March 29, 2010 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

They don't have to convince her of anything. They have to establish the programs, get her to sign up for them, and then defend them against Republican attempts to destroy them.

None of which the Dems can do if she (and the millions like her) vote against their own best interests and oust the Dems from power.

Posted by: ckelly on March 29, 2010 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

The Democratic challenge is straightforward: convince folks like Amy Townsend that they just successfully fought like hell to give her a hand when she and her family need it.

I'm not optimistic they can do much in the short term. Working class whites (and I'm white, by the way, so I can say what I want, dammit) are burdened by a lot of historical and psychological baggage. Many of them, while perfectly nice people -- real salt of the earth, to be honest -- on a personal level, are stark-raving mad, ignorant, xenophobic racists when it comes to their politics.

I think in the long term the Democrats can win some of them back -- by making Obamacare work.

But in the short term, their best bet is to get their base to the polls, and to pass immigration reform, and to make sure large numbers of said immigrants become citizens.

Things would be grim indeed for the Democrats if it were not for the country's long term demographic outlook. Fortunately for the Democrats, everything becomes a lot easier given the demographic trends (I read that next year, for the first time, a majority of US births will be non-Caucasian).

Posted by: Jasper on March 29, 2010 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

The really weird part is, most of these people seem to have convinced themselves that the government programs they're taking advantage of are somehow not actually government programs. I can see the confusion about COBRA since it would appear to come through one's former employer, but I really don't understand the people who can cry, "Keep the government out of my Medicare!" with apparently no consciousness at all that it's a government program.

If they were saying, "I don't want any additional government programs," that might make sense, but they're not. They've decided that unemployment payments, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are somehow not run by the government.

It's just plain weird.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on March 29, 2010 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

I just about guarantee that her process is this: "OK, the government is helping me, but not that much, and my life is still a struggle; what I don't want is for the government to be _more_ generous to people who are suffering _less_ than I am, which is what this law does."

They think there are people out there living a life of ease on government handouts, whereas they have to struggle. "Government programs" is the name for the things that other people out there are unfairly getting for free.

That's what the entire tea party phenomenon is based on. Being pissed off that someone else is getting something for nothing, while you are either _not_ getting it, being made to _pay_ for it, or both. It's basically a political quasi-organization based on urban legends and resentment.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on March 29, 2010 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

This is one of those times when somewhat corny, old-fashioned PR tactics could be helpful. We need Democratic members of Congress around the country making TV appearances where they deliver government checks directly to families in need--and we need those families to tell local TV anchors how they've been suffering and how much the new program will help. Multiply this by a thousand times and it will have an impact on public perceptions.

Posted by: Karl Weber on March 29, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

You may be able to dissuade the Townsends of the world from believing in the death panel BS but convincing them the dems just fought hard to help her and people like her is a lot harder. Mostly because it isn't true. The dems just expended a lot of effort to kill single payer and the public option, either of which is pretty damn popular, because they like money from insurance companies more than they like,well, people.

In other words right now she's on cobra which provides incredibly expensive poor health insurance. In a short time she may be in the high risk pool- which provides incredibly expensive and poor health insurance. And you want to pretend this is some enormous victory on her behalf.

Posted by: Tlaloc on March 29, 2010 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Reading more and more about self-proclaimed tea-partiers, I wonder if this isn't ultimately a failure of the American educational system. Are we sure that all Americans actually understand what the government IS, how it's constituted, etc.? It seems like they don't. Maybe the Dems need to start there: the government is you, and this is what it's set up to do and why.

Posted by: Francesa on March 29, 2010 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

If they were saying, "I don't want any additional government programs," that might make sense, but they're not. They've decided that unemployment payments, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are somehow not run by the government.

My hunch is that they wouldn't deny that unemployment, Medicare, etc. are "programs" run by the "government." But, you see, they're not "government programs," because "government programs" is a euphemism for "welfare" which is a euphemism for "handouts."

In other words, just because something is run by the government and is a program doesn't mean it's a "government program," because that's a politically-correct phrase for them, like saying "mentally disabled" instead of "retarded."

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on March 29, 2010 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

I will again provide a lesson to you about the republican party...

We have two wings to our party. We have the rich wing and we have the reich wing.

My side of the republican party, the rich wing, pays all of the bills. We own the corporate media, we own the supreme court, we own almost all of the republican politicians, and we own a good portion of the democrat politicians.

The other side of the republican party, the reich wing, provides the votes for my side to remain in control. We provide messages to keep them emotionally motivated and intellectually disinterested.

All that we have to do to keep the reich wing in line is yell:
- Abortion
- Gay marriage
- Muslim in the White House
- N*gger in the Black House
- Brown people are stealing your jobs
- Health Care Reform is reparations to blacks
- Health Care Reform will take your benefits and give them to brown people

Fear and hate go hand-in-hand and those of us of the rich wing of the republican party are masters at their usage. We own the media. We own the message. Truth is not relevant and will not be revealed to our reich wing base.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on March 29, 2010 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Craig T. Nelson: They should be allowed to go bankrupt! What happened — we are a capitalistic society. OK, I go into business, I don't make it, I go bankrupt. They're not going to bail me out.

I've been on food stamps and welfare. Anybody help me out? No. No. They gave me hope, and they gave me encouragement, and they gave me a vision. That came from my education.

... maybe it's just me. But I don't think that education thing worked out as well as he thinks it did.

Posted by: Rick on March 29, 2010 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Tang nailed it - Ms Townsend and others need to hear it from someone they'll believe. Medical practitioners, in one-on-one visits, will be the most credible. Clergy members, maybe. When the hairdressers become convinced, we're home free.

Posted by: Ghillie on March 29, 2010 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Are we sure that all Americans actually understand what the government IS, how it's constituted, etc.? It seems like they don't.

Oh, of course not. No way.

So they basically believe that there's some shadow world where the government doles out goodies, and they're not getting it, and they wouldn't want it anyway, but it sure pisses them off.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on March 29, 2010 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Question is, *how many* voters really feel the way the Townsends do? Really.

Anyone who makes their politics into a form of religion is going to be very, very difficult when confronted with facts that contradict their politics.

That's what Democrats are confronted with. A large number of people who believe Rush and Beck as if they were prophets of a religion. It's completely loony, but that's the problem.

Wouldn't surprise me if people like the Townsends actually were helped by the current HCR legislation, and STILL thought it was a bad idea. That's the power of religion. Our domestic right-wing authoritarians have perfected the art of making politics a religion, quite deliberately, because clearly right-wing policies are death on the middle-class. Play the racist, tribal cards to win power, then fuck over your voters while deceiving them.

It's been one hell of a racket for the Right for the last 50 years and more, and it's not over yet.

And I *do* blame the Townsends, for being easily duped. Whose fault is that? Not Beck's. Not Rush's. That's on the Townsends.

Posted by: LL on March 29, 2010 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

If the Republican Party had not literally convinced millions of people to vote against their own interests, it wouldn't even exist today. The number of people who actually benefit from Republican policies is so absurdly small that the Republics would be a footnote to history if not for deluded working and middle class Americans.
I call it the Lottery syndrome or Everyone in America can become a millionaire. Too bad most low income people don't vote, if they did we wouldn't have to worry about the Republicans.

Posted by: EDR on March 29, 2010 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

If the Townsends don't recognize the current government programs that benefit them now, it's hard to extrapolate they'll recognize any additional benefits that'll come into effect tomorrow. It just seems that the cognitive dissonance will continue unabated... We've seen this repeatedly in what some of us recognize as ironic observations of Tea Partiers, but that doesn't seem to strike them at all. Makes for a weird kinda narrative.

Posted by: mikeG on March 29, 2010 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

This story highlights the core truth about right wing health care rhetoric: it is appallingly immoral. Health care reform could save Amy Townsend's life. Conservative leaders told a bald-faced lie to convince Amy Townsend that health care reform would kill her. That's just rotten to the core.

Posted by: Dan on March 29, 2010 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

I go the the gym and FOX News is on the air 24-7; I go to the nail salon and FOX News is on the air; I go to a Hotel/Motel restaurant and FOX News is on the air; I go to my favorite Mexican Restaurant and FOX News is on the air. It's unrelenting and it's everywhere. The Townsends believe it because that's probably all they hear...and what their neighbors hear...and what their relatives hear...so they believe it.
I run into these people everyday, I work with these people everyday, I play with these people everyday. This is where they get their "fair and balanced" news and this is all they believe.

I wish Mrs. Townsend the best with her fight against breast cancer and I hope she gets help from the new law and other possible sources. A little ironic that President Obama's mother faced the same battle with breast cancer and the healthcare deficiencies in our system. That, in turn, led him to make this the centerpiece of his Administration. Mrs. Townsend, I hope you can reap the benefits.

Posted by: whichwitch on March 29, 2010 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

And if the Republicans succeed and return to power, they'll shred the safety net into confetti, then turn around and say, of course government can't help you, the Democrats gave all your benefits to brown people and the government is bankrupt. It will now have to be run by the rich and powerful, ie. us.

Posted by: dalloway on March 29, 2010 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

An ideologue, with or with out cancer, is still an ideologue.

Posted by: jeff on March 29, 2010 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

You're not going to convince her in the short-term. If its one thing the Republicans are good at, its convincing people to vote against their interests. Typically they do it by turning people against each other, getting them to blame each for their problems, while Republicans are laughing all the way to the bank. Occasionally they'll try the argument that once you get rich you'll really appreciate our policies.

I mean, they even get these numbskulls to vote for the flat tax, which is amazing. They get these middle-class dolts to think that the flat tax is good for them, conveniently hiding the fact that essentially every flat tax proposal raises the burden on middle-class families, cuts services to those same families, and radically lowers the burden on the wealthy because they typically eliminate the capital gains and dividends taxes completely, which is where the wealthy make most of their income. Or as somebody once put it, "are we a country that wants to say that the guy driving the bus should pay a higher tax rate than Paris Hilton?" I'm assuming that isn't already the case.

The most poignant reminder of this paradox was when I was watching Food, Inc. and seeing this poor woman whose kid died painfully after eating an e.coli laced hamburger. She talked about how she always voted Republican, but for some reason never connected her voting for champions of deregulation with the fact that her kid was now dead because the US doesn't really test meat anymore. I wanted to scream, Lady, how do you think we figure out whether meat is bad in this country now? It's your fucking kid that's the tripwire, and guess what, you fucking voted for it, over and over.

I'm not sure there's much you can do about cognitive dissonance, other than to not have it.

Posted by: George P on March 29, 2010 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

William Kristol told the Republicans 17 years ago to kill health care at all costs because if it went into effect, they would lose the middle class to the Democrats for at least a generation. He was right, of course, and when people finally understand what health care reform does, it probably will. But that's why the most relentless campaign of lies and fear have been aimed at the likes of the Townsends.

Posted by: T-Rex on March 29, 2010 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

In the history of the world has any large working class constituency in a representative democracy ever worked and voted so diligently on behalf of the elite and wealthy as so called "Sam Club Republicans"?

Posted by: Archon on March 29, 2010 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, the Republicans have done a great job of selling people on their "government is bad" philosophy, but the Democrats in the same years have refused to stand up and sell the opposite view. They seemed to have just said to themselves that people like Reagon and the crap he's selling so let's pretend we're Republican-lite. Even this health care bill is trying to avoid the "government takeover" arguments rather than having just extended Medicare or another public option. That's really what people want even if they insist on repeating the anti-government stuff. I live in the state where the Townsends do and their view is the commonly-held one. It's wrong and I try to tell people, but I'm easily dismissed because I work for the state health department. And you know, "good enough for government work" is a favorite expression around these parts. I can't understand how people belive themselves to be great patriots yet hate their government. It's very exasperating, but it's because the GOP is all about marketing (they don't have good policies) and the Dems actually seem to think the policies will prevail in this age of marketing.

Posted by: Sagacity on March 29, 2010 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

"The point isn't to mock the Townsends or to question their judgment"
The point is very much to question their judgement based on decades of propaganda that government programs are inherently evil. Obama and most Democrats are making a terrible mistake by not constantly pointing out the error in such assertions and the errors in the policies that got us to where we are today. It is the equivalent of liberal Germans in the 1920's not pushing back hard- even tacitly accepting- the "stab in the back" rhetoric of the far right, that became the accepted rhetoric of the right, then the middle, then... you know how the story ended.

Posted by: gdb on March 29, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Sadly, these people are everywhere. My 87-year-old mother gets daily help - a bit of cleaning, company, and assistance showering - for a capped $100 a month. Without it, she'd have to go to a nursing home. She's survives on an age pension. Since 2000 she's had a hip replacement and several months in hospital with circulation problems in her legs, all paid for by a combination of cheap, government-regulated private hospital insurance and Australia's Medicare.

She hates "socialism" and has voted for the conservatives all her life. When I ask her why, she stubbornly replies: "I've voted for them all my life".

There's no cure for stupidity.

Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on March 29, 2010 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

I just can't find it in myself to feel sorry for stupid people. If Mrs. Townsend is so mind-numbingly dumb that she believes there are death panels in the healthcare bill, then to hell with her.

Posted by: lkt on March 29, 2010 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Sadly, for this poor, ignorant woman, there WAS a Death Panel.
It consisted to Rush, Sean, Glenn, and sadly, herself and her husband.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 29, 2010 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK
I've been on food stamps and welfare. Anybody help me out? No.

That's one of my favorite right-wing-idiot quotes ever. Sadly, it has rendered The Incredibles almost unwatchable for me.

Posted by: noncarb on March 29, 2010 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

This points to two far larger phenomena:
1. The entire society has been brain-washed into thinking that taxation is nefarious. Almost all of our major social ills can be traced to a fanatical devotion to a wrong idea that the government should be starved of resources.

2. "Peasant Conservatism." People with low information and low resources often stubbornly refuse to change their ways, even when those ways are clearly causing more harm than good. From famine in 14th century Europe to global warming, "peasant conservatism" is a real force for mischief in human history.

Of course, none of this means we shouldn't do everything we can to save these folks -- of course we should. But it ain't gonna be easy...

Posted by: Jim Pharo on March 29, 2010 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know the details of the AHA, but would it even cover the Townsend family immediately? I thought most of the provisions didn't even start until 2014.

Posted by: st john on March 29, 2010 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Sometimes it's hard to save people from themselves.

Posted by: johnnymags on March 29, 2010 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Noncarb: I worked with Craig T. and I can tell you from firsthand experience, he's (a) dumber than dirt, (b) hates people who are smarter than he is, (c) is worth about $50 million because the writers he tortured kept "Coach" on the air for many seasons, (d) is a classic "kiss up, kick down" kind of guy, who oozes charm around the studio moguls and abuses the staff and crew on his shows. In short, he's the perfect teabagger -- a guy who's got it made and can't find it in his tiny heart to be a little generous to those less fortunate.

Posted by: dalloway on March 29, 2010 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

most people seem to hate other people more than they care about themselves.

Posted by: AJT on March 29, 2010 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

You are absolutely right Steve!

I would only add, not only win the communication war but also don't let the GOP off the hook on this one. They're dumb and the GOP prefers it this way. Call it like it is.

Posted by: Chris- The Fold on March 29, 2010 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Similar type story in the Atlanta (AJC) paper over the weekend. This one a 35 yr old female working in the medical field but without insurance and against the HCR legislation because of not wanting a "government handout." Georgia is overrun with the typical southern conservative voter. Low-middle class but so filled with Fox and Rush they wouldn't vote their interest if it ran them over.

Posted by: moonlightgraham on March 29, 2010 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

There's no cure for stupidity. -Squeaky McCrinkle

Oh, but there is. What there isn't is an excuse for it.

Posted by: doubtful on March 29, 2010 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

C'mon - Amy Townsend is a white person from Texas! Need we say more???

Posted by: TCinLA on March 29, 2010 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

I'm reminded of the anecdote telling of the religious man whose boat has capsized and is drowning at sea. When the rescuers arrive, he refuses their help, saying, "God will save me, not you!"

Posted by: JWK on March 29, 2010 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Dalloway said:

Noncarb: I worked with Craig T. and I can tell you from firsthand experience, he's (a) dumber than dirt, (b) hates people who are smarter than he is, (c) is worth about $50 million because the writers he tortured kept "Coach" on the air for many seasons, (d) is a classic "kiss up, kick down" kind of guy, who oozes charm around the studio moguls and abuses the staff and crew on his shows. In short, he's the perfect teabagger -- a guy who's got it made and can't find it in his tiny heart to be a little generous to those less fortunate.

Hear! Hear! Absolutely right! That's also from personal experience, and from the personal experience of everyone I know who ever came in contact with that idiot, including two rightwing moron "actors" who thought it was going to be really fun to work with him (and found out otherwise really fast).

Posted by: TCinLA on March 29, 2010 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

"C'mon - Amy Townsend is a white person from Texas! Need we say more?? "

Yes you do. She is related to a black person in Massachusetts!!

Posted by: gdb on March 29, 2010 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

The best explanation for the incomprehensible stupidity is just racism, isn't it? The Townsends view "government" as a force whose purpose is to transfer resources from people like them to "Others." Others, of course, being those who are not in the white middle-class fundamentalist southern Baptist Tribe. Government is taking from us and giving to Them. That white resentment has fueled the Republican party for 40 years! It is what is fueling Glenn Beck and the Tea-party today.

From the perspective of people like the Townsend's the government IS the problem, and they have lots of evidence for that; first the government insisted on equal rights for people of color, then they desegregated the schools and initiated affirmative action; then they made the murder of unborn babies legal; then they declared war on Christians (banning prayer in school, traditional Christmas carols, the 10 commandments in courthouses.) Not to mention the whole pacifist, hate-the-troops thing. Is it any wonder that Amy Townsend worries about death panels?

It doesn't help that the news networks often choose African-Americans as their HCR spokespersons. So who is enthusiastic about HCR, who is going to benefit from it? You think that the Amy Townsends of the USA don't respond to that dog-whistle?

Posted by: PTate in MN on March 29, 2010 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Tempting to let them be stupid and reap the consequences -- but unfortunately, until they all move to Alaska and secede, they vote and we're stuck in the same system/country with them.

Posted by: pea on March 29, 2010 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Great comments everyone.

I'm thinking that Guvmint programs like Social Security and Medicare and COBRA and unemployment insurance and Worker's Comp etc. become part of the woodwork over time for the not-particularly-analytical. And these programs have established something of a baseline security for people, as they were intended to do. Also the ability to loan yourself money with your credit card when you're flat. So the, um, "peasant conservatives" don't have the feeling (and for the unskeptical thinkers, it's all about feeling), like their counterparts in the 30's, that if they get in some kind of economic trouble they are totally screwed. So they are more apt to swallow this right wing ideological crap.

Posted by: emjayay on March 29, 2010 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

"The point isn't to mock the Townsends or to question their judgment"

I disagree
She should be mocked...and vilified
Cutting off your nose to spite your face isnt just counterproductive, its also the act of a hateful, spiteful person

"The best explanation for the incomprehensible stupidity is just racism, isn't it? ... Government is taking from us and giving to Them"

yep, and if it takes crushing medical debt to ensure that "they" dont get nothing from "us" people like the Townsends are happy to slice off thier noses

Posted by: jefft452 on March 29, 2010 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't know the details of the AHA, but would it even cover the Townsend family immediately? I thought most of the provisions didn't even start until 2014.
Posted by: st john on March 29, 2010 at 3:40"

You are correct. Whether they want it or not, Obamacare won't be helping this family until 2014.

Posted by: minct on March 29, 2010 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

ACA will help this family. They may not have the best policy on COBRA, but it's probably better than what they could find on the private individual market right now. Under ACA, they can now stay on COBRA longer than 18 months; they can stay on COBRA until they get employer sponsored health insurance or until the health insurance exchanges go into effect (whichever is earlier).

Posted by: LJG on March 29, 2010 at 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

I have to agree with Francesca @ 2:39....a lot of this is directly attributable to our failing public education system. Many school disticts no longer require civics in order to graduate HS, and many of those that do make it a 2nd semster senior year class which most students blow off.

I'm sure that if you surveyed the educational level of Tea Partiers you would find that many of them have little or no college education, and some probably didn't even finish high school.

Posted by: mfw13 on March 29, 2010 at 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

Keep the gummint out of my Obamacare!

Posted by: Rip on March 30, 2010 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

"It's your fucking kid that's the tripwire, and guess what, you fucking voted for it, over and over."
Posted by: George P on March 29, 2010 at 3:12 PM

"And I *do* blame the Townsends, for being easily duped. Whose fault is that? Not Beck's. Not Rush's. That's on the Townsends."
Posted by: LL on March 29, 2010 at 2:46 PM

"There's no cure for stupidity."
Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on March 29, 2010 at 3:24 PM

Of course there is, but it's a harsh one: in nature, the cure for stupidity is death, first for the individual, then eventually for the species.
One of the things that makes us "civilized" is that we don't (to the extent possible) let nature run our lives like that. We generally try to help people avoid paying the price for their stupidity, and we generally try to lower the rate of stupidity in the populace.
But as others have pointed out, we've clearly failed to do so for far too many people -- and we're all paying the price (though, clearly, some of us are paying a higher share than others).
But I have to say, after thirty years of watching willfully stupid (not to mention selfish) people empower the very forces that work against them (and us) in every way, I'm out of patience, and I'm more than out of sympathy. I have always had, and still have, the greatest possible sympathy with people who know their limitations and work as well as they can (which may be very little in some cases) to overcome them. I'll do anything and everything I can for such people, and will forgive them almost anything.
But for the willfully stupid, and especially the ones like the Townsends, the ones who go out of their way to avoid knowledge, and who continue to believe what are demonstrably, provably, undeniably, and blatantly evil, selfish, deceitful people and enterprises -- AND who are even now still making it impossible for our country, and 300 million fellow citizens (not to mention the whole world), to get out from under the obvious, immense, and inescapable damage wrought by the people and powers they've supported -- for them, I've got nothing left but disgust, revulsion, and a very great desire to see them do what their Republican, corporate masters also clearly want them to do: slave for their profits until they're no longer able, and then die. Fuck 'em. They've brought it on themselves, and the sooner they stop bringing it down on all the rest of us, the better off everyone will be.
That is the cure for stupidity, and if we don't let that cure take effect, we will all continue to pay the price for it.

Posted by: smartalek on March 30, 2010 at 2:15 AM | PERMALINK

We might consider the idea that this pro-corporate brainwashing exists in the near vacuum created by the weakening of campaign debates (in combination with the weakening of MSM generally).

http://www.opendebates.org/

Posted by: jhm on March 30, 2010 at 7:14 AM | PERMALINK

Makes me wonder whether the GOP wouldn't do better in 2010 by simply reving up the wurlitzer to take credit for the ACA and run on their new-found record of reforming health care. Their followers would apparently come along and they might do better peeling off persuadable independents and Democrats.

Here's an ad: Call Speaker Pelosi today and tell her to keep her hands off of pre-existing condition protections.

Posted by: hoi polloi on March 30, 2010 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

From Shortstop above:

"They don't get it now. We can blame that on the Wurlitzer, the intense cultural polarization that exists now, the sense of tribalism that permeates the U.S., the death of participatory citizenship, lots of things. But it is really distressing to see how much these people value cherished perceptions over facts, in total contrast to the citizens of 70 and 80 years ago." I agree with his and more. And tribalism is the default position once the Enlightment has been squashed. One wonders how much this is the result in part of people getting their information from TV (and now the Internet) and not books, newspapers, and magazines.

As Bob Somersby notes routinely on the Daily Howler, why should we expect people like the Townsends "to get it" when they have been drowned in memes the last 40 years about how "Government does not work" by both Conservatives and Liberals. On the so called Liberal and MSM venues of mass media, like MSNBC and CNN, there is total focus either on the tribal "fun" stories, such as Senator Ensign or the latest RNC escapade in a S & M bar, or government misadventures and failures. You don't see stories about how Government works to protect people and provide a better life (there is a episode in John Ford's the Grapes of Wrath where the Jodes stop at a Government run camp that has sanitaion, schools for the kids, and dances every Saturday night - we don't see that type of thing in popular culture anymore). The Washington Monthly had a story about how much of the inequality and poor economic performance of the last 30 years has been the result of growing monopolies and oligopolies restraining trade and suppressing competition. In the period of 1900-1940 such an article would have been in a mass market publication and dozens would have picked up on the theme, and not just be found in a little niche (my apologies to the Monthly, but is the fact.) Instead, the theme heard daily, without much evidence ever being offered, is Government programs don't work and are usually absurd. John Stoessel has made an entire career of it.

So maybe we ought to start explaining to people like the Townsends that they have been lied to and we have let them down by not challenging the lies and in some cases amplifying them.


Posted by: rickstersherpa on March 30, 2010 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

You're a much nicer person than I am, rickstersherpa. (Not that that's a terribly high bar.)
I hope you're right and I'm wrong.
But it's not at all clear to me that it would even be possible at this point to change the perceptions of the 20% of the voting populace that might be persuadable -- not in an environment in which all of the mass media are in corporate and corporatist hands. (I can't even listen to NPR anymore w/o going off on a rage jag.)
And even if it is possible, who's to do it? Obama? Congressional Dem's? Nader? I don't even know which of those is most laughable.
God, I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by: smartalek on March 30, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Lack of quality education makes people stupid.

Posted by: roo roo on March 31, 2010 at 7:14 AM | PERMALINK

I just can't find it in myself to feel sorry for stupid people. If Mrs. Townsend is so mind-numbingly dumb that she believes there are death panels in the healthcare bill, then to hell with her. proveedores chinos

Posted by: Carlos on May 21, 2010 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

I am Amy Townsend who was quoted in this article. The healthcare reform bill has passed, and I am about to lose my COBRA coverage next month (It's going up to $800/mth and we probably won't be able to afford to keep it).

Explain to me exactly how the bill is going to help me? I see no benefits for my scenario other than the removal of yearly caps and lifetime caps. If there is a way it can help me, I could really use it at this point!

Posted by: Amy Townsend on May 23, 2010 at 3:46 AM | PERMALINK
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