The tea party: Decreasing the surplus population since 2009.
Many remember the moment when it was said that Rep. Alan Grayson had gone too far. The speech that signaled that he had far exceeded the reasonable political bounds of his swing district and had violated the supposed normative decorum of the hallowed House of Representatives. The Republican Party was in the midst of telling anyone who would listen just how sinister the Affordable Care Act was: how it would impose socialism upon America, ruin free enterprise, and empower government panels to selectively allow grandmothers to die when they had outlived their usefulness to the state. That was how they characterized a plan that would expand insurance coverage for tens of millions, ban rescission of coverage, and stop treating womanhood as a pre-existing condition.
Grayson had a different characterization of the so-called Republican plan for healthcare:
Don't get sick. And if you do get sick, die quickly.
This gave the DC chattering class a massive case of the vapors and resulted in calls for Grayson to apologize. Grayson did apologize, of course: to those who have died because they lacked health insurance.
Until last week, Grayson's speech about Republican perspectives on health care could theoretically have been considered a rhetorical exaggeration. But not any more. It's now a simple fact that a good number of tea party voters actively like to see people die. It doesn't matter if they're innocent or guilty. It doesn't matter if there were circumstances beyond the control of those they hope will soon be deceased. It doesn't matter if sane public policy could have prevented them from dying of a painful disease. They just need to die. And die quickly.
At the recent so-called tea party Debate co-hosted by notorious liberal media organization CNN, Wolf Blitzer posed a question to Rep. Ron Paul. He asked who should foot the bill for an uninsured young man who somehow suffers a catastrophic illness or injury and needs intensive care. Paul gave a general reply that nonetheless implied a terrible conclusion: that by being uninsured, the man intentionally took the risk and shouldn't expect society to cover the risk. Showing more tenacity than many might expect, Blitzer followed up asking specifically what Paul seemed to imply: that society should simply let this hypothetical person die. Paul may have hedged his bets when presented with this stark choice, but the handpicked, specifically invited members of the tea party audience certainly felt no such obligation. Seemingly several audience members shouted agreement with Blitzer's intentionally outrageous premise: that society should punish this young man for his moral failure to purchase major medical insurance by simply letting him die.
Now, it is spartan at best to actively wish for someone to die when their only crime is a failure to plan for unexpected medical catastrophes—assuming, of course, that our hypothetical healthy young individual were actually able to afford insurance. But a moralizing, hardcore devotee of the cult of personal responsibility could theoretically advocate that this individual was simply paying the price for his lack of vision. But the truth is, the tea party death cult really doesn't care whether any personal responsibility was involved or not, just as long as someone dies. Case in point: Gov. Rick Perry's execution record.
Gov. Perry, it seems, likes to kill people convicted of capital crimes. Since Perry took office, 234 convicts have been put to death by his signature. Now, one could say that Gov. Perry is simply performing his duty to the justice system, but most human beings would lose sleep over the thought of signing the warrant that will make another man die. Gov. Perry is not one of those human beings. Not only does he not lose any sleep over his executions, the tone with which he talks about his state's record on capital punishment bespeaks pride, as if it's an accomplishment:
In defending the Texas death penalty, Perry said at the debate, "if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is you will be executed."
The tea party, not surprisingly, shares Gov. Perry's sentiments. At the recent GOP debate at the Reagan Library, Brian Williams was about to ask a question about Texas' record on capital punishment, but he didn't get the chance to do so without interruption:
"Governor Perry," NBC's Brian Williams said to our governor, "a question about Texas. Your state has executed 234 death row inmates (since Perry took office), more than any other governor in modern times. Have you ... "
And before Williams could transition from predicate to question the audience spontaneously applauded the facts about Texas and the death penalty.
Tea party supporters, as well as those who support the death penalty, might simply say that conservative audiences are tough on crime and like candidates who share those values. But the truth is, many of Perry's supporters simply like to see people get executed, whether they're guilty or not—something that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison found out when she tried unsuccessfully to challenge Perry in the GOP gubernatorial primary. See, one of the executions over which Perry lost not a second of sleep might well have been that of an innocent man: Cameron Todd Willingham, whose conviction relied on scientifically invalid fire science.
It wasn't just that Rick Perry refused clemency to Willingham despite the doubts. In subsequent years, Perry essentially shut down a commission approved by the legislature to study this case and others like it. In any other era in American politics, executing a potentially innocent person and then hamstringing the commission designed to investigate the case would be a political death sentence. But not to the Texas-style Republicans that form the heart of tea party values:
Multiple former Hutchison advisers recalled asking a focus group about the charge that Perry may have presided over the execution of an innocent man – Cameron Todd Willingham – and got this response from a primary voter: "It takes balls to execute an innocent man."
It takes balls to kill an innocent man. What really matters in an executive isn't whether or not they have a problem with killing innocent people; the most important thing to the tea party is whether a candidate has the balls. The lethal injection of innocents is just collateral damage along the way to a determination of a tea party candidate's testicular fortitude.
But not all injections are created equal. There are some that the tea party death cult has strenuous objections to. Not surprisingly, they're the types of injections that prevent people from dying.
One of the stranger highlights of the recent tea party debate centered around Perry's overturned executive order requiring pre-teen girls to be vaccinated against HPV, a virus that can often lead to cervical cancer. Perry, it seems, has no problem with life-saving injections if they can benefit his campaign chest and favorite lobbyist. But to the extreme hardcore social conservatives like Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Sen. Rick Santorum? This was a horrible thing to them, because it meant that young women might feel less disinclined to have sex if they were at less risk of death as a result:
The objections to routine HPV vaccination cluster in a few areas. First, it is alleged that removing medical penalties for sexual contact — in this case, HPV and cervical cancer — will encourage sex. A protective shot given to a girl on the verge of sexual maturity, in this view, may be taken as permission for experimentation.
The fiscal wing of the death cult may want you to die quickly if you cost too much by being uninsured. The social conservative wing, however, wants to make sure that if you're a woman who dares to have sex, the possibility of a painful, bloody death from cervical cancer remains explicitly on the table. Members of rational society, like Michael Gerson of the Washington Post, realize just how depraved this mentality is:
The more disturbing moral failure concerns any parent who would entertain this argument. Try to imagine a parent-daughter conversation about sexual restraint and maturity that includes the words: “Honey, I’m going to deny you a vaccine that prevents a horrible, bleeding cancer, just as a little reminder of the religious values I’ve been trying to teach you.” This would be morally monstrous. Such ethical electroshock therapy has nothing to do with cultivation of character in children. It certainly has nothing to do with Christianity, which teaches that moral rules are created for the benefit of the individual, not to punish them with preventable death.
So remember: if you're a woman who gets cervical cancer because it was immoral to vaccinate you and you don't have insurance, just die quickly. The tea party death cult wouldn't have it any other way.
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