To: Chris Matthews of MSNBC
Last night, on Rachel Maddow’s show, you came to the conclusion that southern conservatives oppose President Obama because of hate. I am a 52 year-old white male from the south, who generally votes conservative, but I am not a racist — I was baptized by an African-American pastor, who also presided at my wedding — and I don’t hate the President. I just disagree with him on many of his policy positions.
You came to your conclusion while discussing Sunday’s Million Vet March at the World War II memorial, where there was one man with a confederate flag. Many who own such flags say they keep them as a symbol of heritage and independence, not in support of slavery and racism. I’m not saying that is right or wrong, just that we don’t know the man’s heart on that issue. Either way, he was only one of thousands of people who attended the rally. His flag doesn’t justify condemning the rest of the crowd, let alone everyone who opposes the President.
The anger that you saw among others at the event was not driven by hate but by indignation. The National Park Service, a department of the Executive Branch under President Obama, had erected barriers at an open air memorial. It was an apparent attempt to create a backlash against the Republicans over the government shutdown. Those barriers did not have to be erected. The public outrage was understandable, especially when coupled with the Defense Department’s recent refusal to pay death benefits to families of soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan. This should have been the story. Instead, the story centered only on the one guy with a confederate flag, and the anger of the crowd as if it had no justification.
The shutdown itself occurred because we have divided government. Many in the media have expressed dismay that there is opposition to the President and his health care law, since he was elected not once, but twice. A majority of House Republicans were also elected twice, in 2010 and 2012, chiefly due to a majority of the American people being opposed to “ObamaCare.” Those of us who voted for Republicans were concerned that the new health law would hurt middle class people. The facts are bearing that out.
I am a self-employed attorney. My wife worked nights as a nurse while I was in law school. I took on $65,000.00 in school debt to make it through. The reward: I don’t have to answer to a boss, just my clients. That used to be the American dream. However, it feels less and less like a dream since I pay for my own health insurance. I just received a letter from Blue Cross Blue Shield telling me that my current plan has been canceled and my monthly premium will go up from $588 to $897 for a plan with a high deductible. The letter stated that the increase was due to the Affordable Care Act, and that I have to pay more to help cover the uninsured and those with pre-existing conditions. Essentially this is a tax on the middle class, a redistribution of what wealth I have. Maybe NBC pays your health insurance. I have to pay my own. What happened to the President’s promise that I will save $2500.00 and be able to keep my current plan?
There are so many other ways we could have addressed the uninsured and pre-existing conditions: expanding Medicare with full federal funding for the states, direct government subsidies helping everyone pay their premiums as they do in Germany, and why not throw in some good GOP ideas for keeping costs down like interstate competition between insurance companies and reasonable tort reform? We could have paid for health care reform through tax reform. A frank national discussion in tough times might even have gotten the majority to support an increase in the amount of income that is subject to payroll tax. Instead, the Democrats imposed a massive new bureaucracy, with individual mandates, enforced by the IRS, without a single Republican vote. If I hate this, does it mean I hate the President? No. I hate the fact that he addressed a real problem with a bad solution.
The House Republicans wanted to defund the Affordable Care Act. I appreciated that, as I want it repealed and replaced, but that was an over-reach since the Democrats control the Senate. The GOP soon backed off that position, attempting merely to delay the individual mandate for one year. Prior to the shutdown there was bipartisan support for such a delay. Once the shutdown began, the left labeled that position “terrorism” and “insanity” borne by “hate” and “racism”.
It is all too easy to dismiss the reasonable grievances of the opposition by vilifying them personally. Not only is it unfair, it’s unproductive. If you really want the country to come together: acknowledge the real concerns of those you don’t agree with, engage them in dialogue without condescension, consider their recommendations, try to win them over, attempt to find reasonable common ground, and don’t attempt to judge hearts — that is God’s province alone. I will do my best to do the same.
Banner Elk, NC