An American Editor

September 30, 2013

The Illogical Republican

I know this blog is an editorially focused one, but sometimes there is a need to stray a bit, especially into the world of politics. If there ever was a subject or profession (aside from religion) that was designed to be the slaughterhouse of language, it is politics — especially current American politics.

Sometimes I wonder if there is a difference between irrational and illogical behavior and speech. Unfortunately for America, GOP (Republican) politics smacks a lot of both when it comes to healthcare, especially Obamacare. It is clear to me that none of the pundits are having their pronouncements vetted by a professional editor; they seem to be the ultimate self-editors who are so blinded by their love for their own words that they are unable to see the problems with their word choices.

The GOP and its conservative allies are now running ads asking Americans if they really want their healthcare decisions made by “faceless Washington bureaucrats.” It’s a good question that is made a terrible question by the inclusion of “Washington”. I have asked several GOP politicians what the difference is between a faceless bureaucrat who sits in Washington and works for the U.S. government and a faceless bureaucrat who sits in an office in a large insurance company or in a state capitol? I have gotten no response other than “one cannot trust Washington bureaucrats,” which strikes me as clear avoidance.

Most Americans who have health insurance have health insurance provided by an insurance company or a state government. Very few individuals who actually pay for health care are self-insured. The insurance company tells us what it will pay for and won’t pay for and how much it will pay; no one is simply given an insurance card and told to “buy” whatever healthcare and drugs you think you need and don’t worry, someone else will pay for it.

No, the real difference between Obamacare and the current system of health insurance is that Obamacare will provide insurance to more people at a lower cost, which does not fit well with the GOP’s preferred plan of health insurance only for the well-to-do.

Yet the irrationality and illogicality of the “faceless bureaucrat” argument doesn’t halt the GOP tirade. If it can’t convince you by the bureaucrat argument, it is ready to hit below the belt and scream “socialism”. What could be more frightening to an American than socialism?

When I talk with senior citizens about healthcare, they are unanimous that they do not want the government interfering with their Medicare. Being a Medicare recipient myself, I fully understand that thinking. But when I point out to those who oppose Obamacare that the Medicare (and Medicaid) they praise and do not want touched by government is in fact run by a “faceless” government bureaucracy in Washington, they often seem stunned.

And when I point out that Medicare (and Medicaid) are socialist programs similar to Canada and Britain’s national healthcare plans, with the only difference being that in Canada and Britain the healthcare is for all, whereas Medicare is only for older Americans and disabled Americans, I see surprised expressions. But I also am told, “I don’t care. I don’t want Obamacare because it is creeping socialism.”

Some of the most strident anti-Obamacare Americans are military veterans. A local congressman is a retired veteran and an ardent opponent of Obamacare because it is socialized medicine. I have asked his office to explain how he justifies opposing Obamacare, which makes health insurance affordable and available to more Americans, while supporting expanded Veteran’s Administration healthcare, which is socialized medicine for veterans and which he enjoys at taxpayer expense. I await the answer and suspect I will celebrate my 100th birthday long before I get a rational, logical response (or perhaps any response) from him or his similar-thinking colleagues.

The problem with the message is the lack of understanding of the terms used. To Obamacare opponents, socialism is bad except when they benefit (“Don’t you dare touch my Medicare!”), and faceless bureaucrats are okay except if they can be found in Washington, DC (I wonder where congresspersons can be found?).

The GOP is winning the word battle because those who support Obamacare and national health insurance seem to be incapable of defining and framing the argument. They certainly are incapable of showing the fallacies in the arguments the GOP presents. I am almost (but not quite) convinced that the problem lies in word usage, not in meanness; that is, proponents find it difficult to distort word meanings and thus cannot fight back, whereas the opponents, like the GOP, have no problem assigning alternate meanings to common words in the expectation that people will hear the alternate meaning, not the standard meaning.

The GOP claims (falsely, but that doesn’t seem to matter) that Obamacare includes “death panels.” What the GOP doesn’t point out is that its “plan” is just death itself — no panel whose decision can be challenged and no health insurance to stave off disease, illness, and death.

The irrationality and Illogicality of GOP thinking and advertising strikes me as proof of why editors are needed — no one else seems willing to challenge the misuse of language. The sad part is that America has become a land of me rather than we.



  1. Thanks, Rich, for tackling this important but volatile subject. I am so very frustrated by this whole debate, and perhaps it is the illogical use of language that bothers me more than it bothers other people I know. What really upsets me is seeing how the language now being used in this debate is going deeper and deeper into terms that are not meant just to misinform but to frighten. Look at any Internet discussion of this issue and you’ll find the words tyranny and oppression. I have seen the letters delivered to my Medicare-dependent mother that have convinced her the Affordable Care Act is the “biggest threat to our freedom since the Nazis came to power in Germany.” This actually frightens me as well as frustrates me; I think tossing words like tyranny and Nazis into this debate is the verbal equivalent of dropping a few lit matches into some dry grass to see what might happen.


    Comment by Tammy Ditmore — September 30, 2013 @ 9:24 am | Reply

  2. Rich, are you in the 19th Congressional District? If so, we have the same congressman, and I have had the same frustrating experience communicating with his office on the same issue. Language can be used to obfuscate, and unfortunately that’s what they have done in my dealings with them. How about an aide using language to say a congressman will vote one way, but he then votes in the opposite way? This was for one, specific, recent vote. I’m done talking to anyone in that office, because if you can’t trust the way someone uses words and language to communicate the truth of their actions, you can’t trust anything they do.


    Comment by Teresa Barensfeld — September 30, 2013 @ 10:09 am | Reply

    • No, I’m not in your district. My congressman is a democrat. But it was your congressman to whom I was referring.


      Comment by americaneditor — September 30, 2013 @ 11:22 am | Reply

      • Yeah, I see that your city is divided between two districts. Lucky that your district has the better congressman.


        Comment by Teresa Barensfeld — September 30, 2013 @ 11:35 am | Reply

  3. Your post hits all the fallacies in GOP opposition to the Affordable Care Act, the name I prefer to use. In the right’s ranting about “socialism,” they overlook the phrase “to promote the general welfare.” Your commentary is so good, I want you to send it to the op-ed column of every newspaper in the country. My position from the outset of this health care debate has been to extend Medicare to all Americans. I can say this as a retired Social Security Administration employee. I often feel guilty and also sad for my fellow Americans, because I and my husband enjoy the benefits of Medicare, Blue-Cross federal employees’ plan and the Veterans’ Administration health care. Is this fair? Is this American? I thought all your thoughts when I listened to the video interview of Wolf Blitzer with Michelle Bachman the other day. How could this woman and the other oppositionists for a better America have been elected?


    Comment by oliviadiamond — September 30, 2013 @ 10:38 am | Reply

  4. Language can be a very incendiary weapon, indeed. Perhaps such prose should be classed as a “weapon of mass destruction.” The political rhetoric has been ratcheted up to 11 (the blokes in Spinal Tap would be proud); this is irresponsible, wreckless “governance” at its ugliest–are there no adults left in the GOP? It would be most helpful (as if being “helpful” was even on their agenda) if these slack-jawed politicos would hire writers whose last gig wasn’t dashing off direct marketing jargon for Big Box stores. And it wouldn’t hurt if they brought an honest-to-goodness editor on board. Dream on…


    Comment by Aden Nichols — September 30, 2013 @ 7:08 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: