Leave aside for a moment that the now standard Mitt Romney response to questions pertinent to the American polity is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas conveying absolutely nothing. Also leave aside that the bulk of communication from the rightward end of the political spectrum is a combination of the straight-faced counterfactual, exotic dogma and zombified recitation of truisms from an alternate reality.
Consider a speech or an appearance by virtually any Republican politician or candidate at any level. Concentrate on what you don’t hear. If it’s a lot don’t rush off to an audiologist. We take as a given that liberals and conservatives will have divergent opinions on what they hear in speeches and commentary. Yet anyone making an assessment of Republican priorities based on what typically is or is not discussed will find the exercise helpful.
What one will never hear is a discussion of the ordinary tribulations ordinary Americans contend with daily in the pursuit of health care, often tragically and distressingly so, the countless mundane stresses, the confusion, fear, inconveniences, indignities and shortcomings both the insured and uninsured deal with simply in the course of using the health care system. One will hear no expressions of alarm, much less concern for skyrocketing premium costs over the last decade or longer; nor mention of the fact that Americans spend more than double the percent of GDP on health care than every modernized country with universal coverage, and with indisputably inferior health outcomes. What you will hear is incessant contempt and condemnation for the proposals of solutions by others. You’ll hear vagaries about free-market solutions, but mostly you will hear scorn, demonization and the can’t do spirit, fearful tales of the approaches taken, if you believe Republicans stupidly, by almost every other nation in the world. You will hear a validation of the status quo and almost exclusively the big insurance companies’ point of view.
What one will never hear is a discussion of the confusions, frustrations, deceptions and bad faith consumers encounter regularly dealing with private sector companies or institutions, in particular when dealing with financial institutions, credit cards, or banks. While the ordinary and quotidian problems Americans wrestle with as consumers daily won’t be mentioned in Republican speeches, one will hear diatribes about how insidious every effort to bring accountability to these businesses and institutions are, how efforts to temper abuses are the real problem (regulation, always a bad thing) how the business class and corporate class retain too rarefied and prized a position to be trifled with. What one will never hear is an expression of concern for the shoddy treatment of consumers of products and services, though one will hear an indefatigable defense of those engaged in shoddy practices. One will hear how pernicious government is when it intervenes on the part of consumers; or venom about the supposed malignity and maliciousness of Americans’ own government, and their fellow citizens who comprise its workforce. With no basis in fact, and in fact strongly contrary to both history and fact one will hear of the putative ineptness of government. What one will never hear is laments for the factual and documented ineptness or corruption in the private sector.
What one will never hear is acknowledgment of the existence of, much less an extension of empathy toward victims of pollution, those sickened or killed by it (pulmonary disease directly caused by particulates for instance). One will never hear mention of the victims of environmental disasters harmed by corporate malpractice, those whose lives have been changed forever. There is no room in the Republican speech for these individual citizens or for their freedom to lead safe and healthy lives. In every conflict between the individual citizen and the interests of the corporation or manufacturer or business concern the Republican priority will never be the former: the ordinary individual. What one will hear is perpetual defense of the interests of the polluter, the maximization of the polluter’s profit always the priority over individual interests. Now that is the real definition of tyranny my friends.
I invite one and all, and in particular those elusive, if not mystic undecided voters to listen well and listen hard for that which can’t be heard in Republican speeches. What isn’t there may surprise you, and how much of it even more so. And it will certainly tell you all you should need to know about the priorities of the Republican Party.