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Forest? What forest? All I see is trees.


The vehemence with which a conservative denies the veracity of this particular advertisement is directly proportional to their awareness that it speaks to the truth that occupies their nightmares: that so many millions of people will genuinely benefit from the Affordable Care Act that it’ll become increasingly difficult to elect Republicans. The brown people who once populated their nightmares have been replaced by roaming hordes of healthy Americans who appreciate the legislation that saved their lives. These people will pull the lever for Democratic candidates because they feel indebted to the party. But they’re even more frightened by another group of people: those who have lost loved ones due to dropped coverage or lifetime limits. Why?

Because it’s impossible to defend a system in which corporations invest in the deaths of their clients to the relatives of the deceased. Rationing works according to a terrible but understandable rationale: “You must die so that others may live.” But the current system works according to a singularly grim calculation: “You must die so that others might profit.” That’s not a winning argument and those responding to this advertisement know it. They need to transform its message into something palatable. For example:

Knowing what we know now about the timeline of all this, what’s left of the accusation in the original smear ad? What is it, precisely, that Bain is being faulted for doing or not doing? They shouldn’t have closed down the plant because it was unfair to expect the workers who were laid off to ever find new jobs with insurance? It was negligent not to predict that some workers’ wives might get laid off too and wouldn’t find a new job for years before they became ill? There appears to be no actual policy or business critique here.

There only “appears to be no policy or business critique” because someone’s afraid that confronting it will remind people of the substantial policy and business critiques that are always at play: that relying on an insurance system that’s only affordable when partially subsidized by an employer leads to a situation in which chronic unemployment is tantamount to a death sentence. They can’t even bring up that fact to refute it without ending up defending an untenable argument. So they deflect:

Romney left Bain’s day-to-day operations two years before the evil plant closing. The plant was in financial trouble before Bain ever got involved.

Because if they focus on the specific facts presented in this particular argument they might not be compelled to defend the current system on principle. They might be able to avoid the unpleasant truth that the emotional appeal of the advertisement comes from the manner in which it militates the facts of a life against the callousness of a corporate culture. Remove Bain from the equation and the appeal is no less effective. Conservatives know and fear this: they know that they’ll be running against stories like this and they know that the only humane response to them is to discredit the particulars. If they can convince the electorate that this tragedy didn’t happen as advertised they might not have to discuss the many millions that did. So this argument will be about the administration’s reluctance to distance itself from the advertisement. Or it’ll be about whether Romney’s personally responsible for this man losing his job. Or it’ll be about how unions are culpable in the closing of the plant that employed him.

It’ll be about any and everything except what it’s about: the fact that the impoverished and unemployed have a better chance of living a full life than they did before Obama was elected.

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