In Health Debate, GOP Plays the Slavery Card–and Loses

By Michelle Chen Dec 08, 2009

Conservatives on the Hill were shocked–shocked!–when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid compared conservatives’ obstructionism on health care reform to resistance, in an earlier era, to the abolition of that "peculiar institution." "Outrageous!" cried Rush Limbaugh, following up with a somewhat condensed history of the GOP: "Harry Reid knows the Republican Party was born in the fight against slavery." While Reid is certainly guilty of hyperbole (for starters, the public option is not about to divide the Union), there’s certainly plenty of ugliness being bandied about on both sides of the aisle. And as usual, the right wing is hardly entitled to throw stones in this fight. Media Matters offers a handy round-up of slavery references that conservatives have aired to plead victimhood and demonize their oppressors–also known as people who hold opposing political views, believe in evolution, and/or display moderate awareness of racial and economic inequality. Drum roll, please…

Read the full post here. The sad thing is, despite the imbecility of these arguments, the GOP wins either way. The goal isn’t rhetorical coherency, it’s to simply stop things from getting done. And both Reid’s comments and the reaction show that plugging into visceral racial anxieties is a perfect way to smother intelligent discussion.