The moment from last night that keeps haunting me:
Look: in some ways the honesty is refreshing. Yes, failing to get your own health insurance creates an obvious free-rider problem, and this is at the heart of the health insurance debate. We need to deal with that, and this was one of the more admirably candid moments in the entire years-long debate.
Look: I've long been a skeptic of government-provided healthcare, but I do have a core (maybe Catholic?) belief in helping the sick. Even the foolish sick. And certainly the poor and sick. In my personal life, I have found it morally impossible not to want to help someone stricken with illness, in whatever way I can. I'm sure my own health struggles have impacted this view, as my experience alongside a generation in a health crisis. Do I think we should have done nothing while hundreds of thousands died of AIDS? Of course not. Ditto cancer and all the ailments that flesh is heir to. America, moreover, has a law on the books that makes it a crime not to treat and try to save a human being who walks into an emergency room. So we have already made that collective decision and if the GOP wants to revisit it, they can.
Here's how: offer an honest proposal from the GOP to repeal the emergency room care law. Why not? If you are going to repeal universal health insurance, then make your libertarian principles coherent. And make the case that people unable or unwilling to buy health insurance deserve the consequences. That makes sense. And the question of why Perry or Ryan or Bachmann support this free-rider loophole in contradiction to their principles is one worth asking again and again.
Of course, even if such libertarian purity does make sense, that cannot excuse the emotional response to the issue in the crowd last night. Maybe a tragedy like the death of a feckless twentysomething is inevitable if we are to restrain healthcare costs. But it is still a tragedy. It is not something a decent person cheers. Similarly the execution of hundreds, while perhaps defensible politically and even morally (although I differ), is nonetheless a brutal, awful business. You don't delight in it. And the same is true of torture. Even if you want to defend its use in limited circumstances, it remains an absolute evil, no humane person would want to do it, and no civilized person would brag of it or dismiss any moral issue with it at all. And yet that is what Dick Cheney and Liz Cheney have repeatedly done. They are positively proud of their torture record.
The fish rotted from the head down. Last night, we got a whiff of the smell.