As a liberal myself, I was amazed by the obtuseness of the liberal reaction to Sarah Palin’s “death panels” quote. They fell into a trap because all too many were blinded by their class-conscious, snobbish disdain for Palin, who, whatever else you think of her, is one cagey operator.
And in doing so they allowed that one brilliantly crafted propaganda phrase to undo the chance for some necessary health care reforms (portability of coverage, no disqualification for previous conditions, eligibility to some plan for all, subsidized coverage for the impoverished uninsured).
They couldn’t believe that Sarah Palin was capable of something as canny as that deadly “death panels” phrase. They couldn’t see that it was a metaphoric shorthand for something real. Instead they thought she was too dumb, that she meant it literally (to have seen the potential for rationed end-of-life care in the bill), and instead indulged in an orgy of disdain for her “crazy,” “ignorant” “lies” and malicious misrepresentation.
No! “Death panels” was a Lenny Bruce black-humored kind of line and she proved herself far hipper than the terminally square liberals who didn’t get it. And who started an ill-conceived war on the phrase which most of the country, when the facts came out, saw as meretricious or ignorant on the liberals’ part — with good reason. And caused ordinary citizens to turn against the whole cause of health care — really it should be health insurance — reform.
Liberals should have responded the way my friend Joe Conason (and a few other non-snotty liberals) did, by pointing out that we already have death panels of a sort: the ones manned by the insurance companies who ration and deny coverage for the sake of their profit margins. Would government rationing be better? It might be less greed-motivated, but maybe not. There at least should have been a discussion of the real issue of health care rationing.