Michael J. Elston: How to Debate Health Reform with Conservatives, and Not Get Arrested

A recent health care reform debate with a friend got so heated I was nearly arrested for disorderly conduct in my own home!

How can you protect yourself from becoming part of an ugly, national incident?

Do what I did…by printing this wallet-sized (once you fold it) guide to right-wing arguments against reform, and carry it everywhere.

Fortunately, I took notes in my living room, as my opponent pointed and counter-pointed.

When my conservative friend grunted something like “Government–bad,” I asked if that meant he no longer trusts government to defend us militarily. Or to watch our borders, which, by the way, have tightened.

Or to deliver his mail. Or to get his mom’s Social Security check to her on time, every time.

Or to build roads and bridges, which admittedly need some work. Or to make sure Americans get at least a basic education. Yeah, okay, that could be better, too.

So, I asked him this: “You’re saying that, if government cannot address a task with perfection…it shouldn’t even try?” By now, that crease in his earlobe, indicating an eventual heart attack, began to deepen.

And then I asked my conservative friend if he’d willing to give up those things, just to get them out of the hands of the government. He just grumbled.

He insists government can never do anything right, on time, or on budget.

You and I understand his disenchantment. But, unlike him, we’d prefer not to throw out the surgical tools with the medical waste. Certain things, we’d like the government to keep trying to get right.

When my Republican friend inflated his chest and spoke of the need for free enterprise’s role in health care, I asked how he’d feel about “something so important” being run by–say–the guys at GM, or AIG. Or Bernie Madoff. I understand Mr. Madoff is still semi-available.

And when my opposition crowed that the only downside of free enterprise is government interference therein, I firmly argued (but not in a disorderly way) that it was the lack of government oversight that led to the recent near-collapse of our financial system.

And then I brought up Bernie Madoff again. Conservatives hate that, and I thought it might get my friend arrested. Ultimately, I was right.

When he growled that the Canadian system sucks, I told him that’s not what I heard, that the syrup is great, and that nobody said we were doing it Canada’s way, anyway.

My friend smoldered. Those jagged comic-strip lines began to appear around his head.

And when he argued (They do that a LOT) he’s tired of shouldering the roughly four percent of Americans who refuse to work, I reminded him the other unemployed six percent may soon include him.

Unlike my friend, I’d like to know that these hard-working Americans are just as willing to cover my ass, as I was to cover theirs…when I was lucky enough to be employed.

When he argued (See what I mean?) that slackers like myself would rather suckle the government teat than get a minimum wage job, I reminded him the same lawmakers who oppose health care reform, also voted against raising the minimum wage.

By now, my opposition was as mad as a Harvard professor, and I could walk away calmly–without being arrested–knowing logic and reason were on my side.

Although my neighbor and I are both moderates, we both became labeled as liberals,

in the age when everything left of right, was leftist. Hearing the ruckus, and concerned for my well-being, my neighbor called 9-1-1.

Then came the piece de resistance, in this health care debate with my conservative friend: I shouted Madoff’s name again, as the police car pulled away.

According to newspaper accounts the next day, my friend did not take this well.

Not being close to this President, I understand he’s still behind bars.


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