The candidates blew the emotional turning point in Monday’s CNN/Tea Party debate. Blew it. Big.
Before we go into that, hear me out on the pressure on those candidates.
Lights, Camera, Panic
Imagine being on a stage. Searing white brightness reduces your range of vision to a few degrees of arc. You hear hundreds of people making the sounds that audiences make, but you can’t really see them.
Before you are journalists bent on catching in a gaffe, or unprepared, or vulnerable. On either side of you stand your ideological soul mates. They, too, stand ready to skewer you with your own words.
I only marvel that people can even speak in that circumstance. So what you’re about read does mean I could do better. I couldn’t.
Still, when you take the stage, you better be ready. And Dr. Paul and his colleagues were not.
Let Him Die?
The turning point in that debate involved Dr. Paul. He had the opportunity to champion his greatest cause—liberty. He missed it. The rest of the Republicans missed it, too.
Clarence Page recounts the moment in today’s Chicago Tribune:
Moderator Wolf Blitzerasked Paul, a medical doctor and fierce libertarian, if a seriously ill young man who had decided on his own to forgo health insurance suddenly needs expensive hospital care, should the state pay for it?
Paul, shaking his head, lectured, “That’s what freedom is all about. Taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to take care of everybody. … “
At that point Paul was interrupted by a burst of applause from the tea party-filled audience.
“But congressman,” Blitzer persisted, “are you saying society should just let him die?”
“Yeah,” shouted at least two voices in the crowd. But Paul, to his credit, said, “No.”
So who pays? Paul asserted that in his experience, friends, neighbors, churches and charities step forward to help.
Society vs. Government
Here’s how the scenario might have played out.
In answer to Blitzer’s second challenge, “are you saying society should just let him die?” Paul might have made a crucial distinction.
“Society, Mr. Blitzer, is not government; government is not society. Throughout the vast majority of human history, in fact, society was the unwilling slave to its unwanted government. The history of man is a history of cruel domination.
“Two hundred thirty years ago, something changed. On this continent, away from their masters, society woke up and said, ‘my only master is God.‘ That society broke the chains that bound it to its European masters and formed its own government—a government subservient to the people.
“Now you ask, ‘who pays for the sick who cannot pay for themselves.’ Well, we do. But not through some massive bureaucracy as far from Santa Monica as Philadelphia is from London. Instead, we, the people who surround our sick brothers, take care of him. This isn’t a Pollyanna dream; it’s the only way a free people can exist.
“Can we just abolish all of the systems and services that Washington has forced upon us over the decades? No. The good society that once occupied this land is a shell of its former self. Most of us have lost the capacity to completely care for ourselves, much less caring for others.
“Corporate officers who believe their only job is to amass and hold ridiculous wealth, corrupt union bosses who exploit the hall to build their mansions, and ordinary citizens who turn a blind eye to the decay and want all around them—these are all the products of a government that over-reached its purpose. Excessive government pacified us into the callous, hollow people many have become.
No Off Switch
“No, Wolf, we can’t just flip the switch on the federal programs that sweet-talked Americans out of their humanity. We need to wind them down as we, the people, restore the dignity, honor, and nobility we once carried.
“No, we’ll never reach every person—there will always be pathological money whores who exploit society. Like everyone else—everyone except the exploiters—I want government there to stop them.
“But I don’t want government to be the charity ward. If you proxy out your decency, your proxy, not you, enters the Pearly Gates.
“Finally, no, our society should not stand around and watch a man die. But now it does. We expect somebody to do something about this. We wash our hands and say, ‘it’s government’s job.’ We seem to to have forgotten that, on this continent, the government is me.”
The After Party
The purpose of The After Party is to live that answer. We must mend the tattered fabric of American society. We must learn how to offer our services and accept others’ hand. Relying on government aid dispensed by a paid bureaucrat is demeaning. Accepting the loving help of a stranger is the essence of humanity.
Twelve months from now, for thousands of participants in The After Party, government programs will become a superfluous waste of time, money, and energy. We will be a force for good that no government can challenge.
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