...what the GOP and conservative leadership did was to refuse to respond to any of the Democrats’ actual arguments or counterargument for their health care reform bill. When the reforms were proposed, they cried “socialism!” and “fascism!” and, eventually, “death panels!” So far, so good, though – by themselves these claims aren’t too much different from implying that Barry Goldwater was a card-carrying member of the KKK with a devious plot to initiate a nuclear holocaust. Where they went off the rails, though, was when they failed to address the Democrats’ calls of “Bullshit!” – calls that usually came with at least some evidence. As soon as the Dems called “Bullshit!” the cowards turned tail and ran from the argument rather than defend themselves. Rather than waving aloft provisions of the bills that at least provided a grain of truth to their hyperbole or refuted the Dems’ own defenses, they just shouted “death panels” as if that were an argument; instead of putting Ruth Ann Johnson, that poor widow from Wichita who’s going to see her Medicare benefits cut, on center stage, they just whined about how those mean liberals are being so uncivil to them; and so on.It's a worthy argument to make and I think Thompson makes a lot of sense. Now, I don't think the Dems were as serious about bringing the GOP on in the health care debate, but then the Republicans were never that serious either.
In essence, from my perspective the course of the debate seemed to go thusly (and remember, I think the health care reform bill that the Democrats passed will cause far more problems than it solves):
Democrat: We have 55 million uninsured in this country who need our health; health care reform will go a long way to solving that problem.
Republican: Bullshit! It’s socialism! And fascism! And there’s going to be death panels!
Democrat: This bill ensures health insurance remains a private sector business. And what death panels? There’s none in this bill. And as things are, we already have death panels – they’re called insurance companies.
Republican: It’s socialism! And fascism! And there’s going to be death panels!
Democrat: Hey asshole, are you deaf? Did you not hear anything I just said?
Republican: How dare you call me a deaf asshole? This is just proof that you are not at all interested in anything that I or anyone of the decent, hardworking real Americans that I represent have to say, you liberal, latte-sipping East Coast elitist douchebag!
Democrat: Aw, screw it. I think we’ll just take our chances with our 60 votes in the Senate.
I dealt with my share of internet trolls both on this blog and elsewhere. You try to talk with them and bring some logic into the debate, but all that the people are interested in is fighting. So after a while, you tired of trying to reason with them and you leave them alone.
The GOP was interested in trying being the troll and leave it to moderate and pro-life Democrats to scuttle the bill. Of course, the moderates and pro-lifers decided to make deals and support the bill and left the Republicans looking like fools.
The fault of the GOP is not in their rhetoric as Mark states. The problem is that this was all they had and in the end it was not enough.