Wednesday, March 21 , 2018, 10:19 am | Heavy Rain Fog/Mist 54º


Susan Estrich: On Health Care, Civil Discourse Turns Ugly

We can't let our differences destroy us if we want any kind of meaningful reform

America has two problems to deal with in the health-care debate, and only one of them relates to health care. The other is our increasing inability to have a conversation with one another without screaming, vilifying, threatening and boycotting.

Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich

It’s getting scary out there, and I’m not just talking about death panels or whatever they are.

I’m talking about the civility that is the essence of democracy.

Liberals and conservatives have been busing people to one another’s events since I started working in politics. They’ve been hiring professionals to promote “grassroots” involvement since long before the Internet made it easier. Are the protests at staged events staged? Maybe. Who cares?

Nancy Pelosi was plainly wrong to attack the protesters as “un-American.” The White House strategy of dismissing them has long since been proved unwise.

But that’s no excuse for turning civil discourse into something ugly.

Increasingly, I find myself hearing from people who say they hate President Barack Obama. And Pelosi.

Not disagree with them. Not plan to vote against them.

Hate them.

There are serious and credible stories about the increased threats to the president’s safety.

Of course, it’s not just the right doing this. Just the other day, a friend asked me whether I had read the disgraceful op-ed by the founder of Whole Foods in The Washington Post. Actually, it was in The Wall Street Journal, and I had read it. While I took issue with a number of points in it, I was actually pretty interested in how he manages to provide health insurance for his workers.

Then I read that because of the article, his stores are being boycotted. How dare he offend his liberal customer base? Hello? Liberals should boycott a business that provides health insurance to its workers because its founder doesn’t agree with the Obama health-care plan? And then maybe conservatives should boycott businesses run by Obama supporters. And then what? Warring grocery stores? It would be silly if it weren’t so serious.

Obviously, there are town meetings where no one screams, and they don’t get covered on television. You can always blame the media for covering us when we’re at our worst, but that’s the nature of the beast.

It’s a reason for everyone to lower their voices, lower the temperature and resolve that, one way or another, our differences will not destroy us. It’s also the only way we stand a chance of working through any kind of reform effort that will be acceptable in the long run.

— Best-selling author Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her.

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