The First Draft: Healthcare, anger and race

September 16, 2009

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is due to release a proposal Wednesday for reforming the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system, giving a boost to President Barack Obama’s top domestic policy goal.

Or maybe not.

USA/Baucus has been working with two fellow Democrats and three Republicans — the so-called Gang of Six– to produce a bipartisan healthcare compromise. None of the other healthcare reform bills introduced so far have had Republican support.

The question is whether the Baucus effort will win over some Republicans. So far even the Republicans negotiating with him have shied away from pledging to vote for the measure.

Opposition to healthcare reform, and other government initiatives, has become increasingly bitter in recent months.

Town hall meetings produced outpourings of anger. Representative Joe Wilson shouted “You lie” at Obama as he addressed a joint session of Congress. The president’s decision to speak to students on the first day of school prompted some to keep their children home.

The Washington Post reported on the issue Wednesday, saying around the Capitol the previous day “at any given moment, someone was expressing outrage — or counter-outrage.”

Former President Jimmy Carter told NBC News much of the anger was racially motivated.

“I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man,” Carter said in portions of an interviewed aired Wednesday on the “Today” show.

Carter, who sat down with NBC ahead of his 85th birthday Oct. 1, said the country had come a long way in its racial attitudes, but the “racisim inclination still exists.”

“I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of a belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It’s an abominable circumstance and grieves me and concerns me very deeply,” said Carter, a Georgia native.

The White House has generally tiptoed around the race issue, but Carter’s comments pushed the debate into public view.CANADA/

Republican pollster Frank Luntz told NBC the anger was not racially motivated, but rather a fear of the future and concern their children will be worse off than they are.

“The anger is not directed just towards Barack Obama. It’s directed towards members of Congress, it’s directed towards the Senate, it’s directed towards the media, towards unions, towards institutions that we feel have failed us,” Luntz said.

But Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University sociologist, said it was clear racism was a factor, citing those who challenge Obama’s birthplace or objected to the president speaking to schoolchildren.

“How much evidence do you need,” he said. “It amazes me that white Americans are incapable of acknowledging what is before our faces.”

Obama meets with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Wednesday. Talks are likely to focus on the slowly recovering global economy, trade issues provoked by U.S. “buy American” rules and the environment.

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas (Baucus speaks to reporters after Gang of Six meeting Tuesday); Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Harper and other Canadian officials outside the Canadian Embassy in Washington Wednesday)

5 comments

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This is the first bill that has a mandate to NOT allow funds for abortion,irrespective what the president has been telling us!Democratic congressman Stupak a pro lifer has asked this on all the other bills,but on each occasion his request was turned down by speaker Pelosi to substantiate this.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

the healthcare system is the most important in united state

I haven’t had a chance to read the entire Baucus/compromise health plan, nor the entire original Democrat health plan, but realize the a long hard fight yet remains. Unfortunately, no matter how good any proposed plan is, or how beneficial to the majority, a small vocal and virulent minority will continue to try and sabotage any universal health plan. Misinformation such as the red herring that the first bill continue death panels (shame on you, Sara Palin!), will continue to be promlugated by individuals and groups who’s only concern is that their pockets remain full.

I don’t know that we will ever achieve complete equity across all economic/race/sex barriers, but at least Mr. Obama is making a sincere effort. He made promises to place America and it’s people’s well-being first. He is trying to fulfill those promises. If the special interest groups and their Congressional lackeys could be put in their proper place (not in control), some of the things he wanted to provide for this country could be accomplished.

Posted by Hope Samworth | Report as abusive

TC another reason i am against the government all included health care ,is because i live in LA ,CA I have insurance the carrier is Kaiser Permanente ,yes the ones who gave Octomum free care.I phoned on the 4th Sep to make an appointment to see a doctor the appointment was today Wed at 11.15am .They phoned me twice once last night at 8.30 pm to verify that i would turn up.I took time off work ,at8.15 this morning they phoned and cancelled,and the next open appointment to see ANY doctor would be at the earliest oct 6th that is 5 weeks.Can you imagine what would happen if everyone had coverage,it could take 6 months to see a doctor.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

Brian. As I have been saying all along, be careful what you wish for (not you…everyone who supports this monstrosity…). The American people are clearly against this government fiasco mucking through congress. But I don’t think this government cares one bit…

Posted by TC | Report as abusive