By Marilyn M. Singleton, MD, JD
As I physician, I proudly recited and adhere to the Oath of Hippocrates, which commands physicians to “use treatment to help the sick according to [their] ability and judgment … and [to] abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm.” Physicians don’t all think alike—medically or politically—but when a patient’s health is at stake, we find a way to work together for the patient’s best interest.
In 2016 a bipartisan Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, ostensibly designed to speed up research and drug approvals. They should have legislated a cure for a highly contagious disease that infects politicians in staggering numbers: chronic, relapsing, terminal hypocritical churlishness (the “Disease”).
The current acrimonious and vitriolic hyper-partisan rhetoric is making our country sick.
When the Republicans did not support the Affordable Care Act they were heartless dunderheads who wanted to see women and children suffer. It was irrelevant that the law had serious flaws that have now fully manifested themselves. In a tit-for-tat fashion, the Democrats have made it clear that they will obstruct President Trump’s efforts irrespective of whether doing so harms the American citizenry. There is no question that the value of a two-party system is exposure to a spectrum of ideas and opinions. However, dissent for the purpose of partisan posturing must not blind our legislators to novel solutions in America’s best interest.
In honor of Black History Month, let’s look at the different responses to racial insensitivity. Joe Biden was rewarded with the vice-presidency for his ringing endorsement of Obama: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Part of former Senate majority leader Harry Reid’s assessment of candidate Barack Obama’s chances to win the presidency was that he was “light-skinned” and had “no Negro dialect”? Was he censured? No. Did he have to resign? No.
At the 100th birthday party for Strom Thurmond, a 1948 (anti-integration) Dixiecrat presidential candidate, former Senate Republican leader Trent Lott praised him, saying South Carolina proudly voted for him. He was forced to resign his position. However, Democrats heaped praise upon Hillary Clinton’s “friend and mentor,” Robert Byrd who was unanimously elected the top officer in the local Ku Klux Klan unit. Bill Clinton dismissed the Klan membership, saying “he was only trying to get elected.” In December 1944, Byrd wrote to Senator Theodore G. Bilbo, “I shall never fight in the armed forces with a negro by my side … Rather I should die a thousand times… than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels.” Moreover, he launched a 14-hour filibuster and voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Republican Senator Everett Dirksen is credited with rallying enough senators to allow the bill’s passage.)
The Democrats tout themselves as the advocates for black people, but have allowed politics to trump exploring new ideas. Although the large majority of black parents support increased educational options, including traditional public, public charter, and opportunity scholarships to attend private schools, the Democrats thrashed Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos for her support of school choice. Senator Cory Booker while Newark’s mayor promoted Ms. DeVos’s ideas on school choice to improve Newark’s failing schools. Stricken with the Disease, he conveniently had a change of heart.
In 2016, Senator Booker felt “blessed and honored to have partnered with Sen. Sessions” to pass legislation honoring those who participated in the 1965 Voting Rights March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, with the Congressional Gold Medal. But a year later, Booker chose to testify against Sessions’s nomination for Attorney General. Senator Tim Scott’s endorsement of Sessions netted him being called (among many other N-words) a “house negro” and “a big ‘Uncle Tom’ piece of fertilizer,” and “a black man who is racist.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren expressed her peace, love, and teamwork by tweeting, “If Jeff Sessions makes even the tiniest attempt to bring his racism, sexism & bigotry into the Justice Department, he’ll hear from all of us.” Senator Charles Schumer ungraciously said that Sessions’s confirmation “turned my stomach.” Kerry Kennedy of the Robert Kennedy Center for Human Rights said that the Senators who voted for Jeff Sessions absolutely were racists.
It is unsettling that “racist” has become the new synonym for a political foe, or simply someone with whom one disagrees. Derisive name-calling is an unprincipled substitute for honest discussion.
The apparent game plan to cut the new administration off at the knees may backfire. We don’t want to discover that their operation was a success, but the patient died.
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