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Middle America's anger has a new focus: Healthcare as a basic human right

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After the US election, many media hailed a New Age of the Angry White Male. "Why 2016 is the year of the angry white male," said one Fox News headline. 

"With President Donald Trump, Angry White Guys Win Again," said the Gentleman’s Quarterly header. As GQ writer John Devore put it right after the election, "An authoritarian ethno-nationalist has been elected president. If you are not white, straight, and male, do not come here. If you’re already here, keep your head down."

Some voters ate up the rude, divisive Republican election campaign. Some folks liked  #45 precisely because of his brashness, his disregard for conventions, his willingness to speak bluntly -- and his willingness not to speak out at all when his fans got carried away. When his fans bashed protesters at rallies, 45 offered to pay their legal fees if they were arrested.

In the U.S., the "angry white man" shtick has been a political staple for a couple of decades now. Rush Limbaugh voiced white male rage on radio and Bill O’Reilly acted it out on Fox News. Of course, they are both disgraced now, Limbaugh for opiates and O'Reilly for harassment.

As soon as they knew the election results, worried commentators warned that angry middle Americans might seize the opportunity to vent their grievances. Sure enough, within the first two days after the election, USA Today reported, "...Swastikas and graffiti declaring 'Sieg Heil 2016' were reportedly spray-painted in South Philadelphia. 'Trump!' was scrawled on the door to a prayer room used by Muslim students at New York University. A gay pride flag was burned in Rochester, New York. And the apparent effigy of a black man was hanged above the entrance to a coffee shop in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, dangling from the end of a rope...."

Although hate speech and hate crimes remain more overt than under President Obama, public attention has swung around to Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act.  Suddenly middle America’s anger has a new focus: Healthcare as a basic human right. Youtube offers more than 235,000 videos of tumultuous Republican Town Hall meetings, and the number grows daily.

"I am an angry constituent," one woman told Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton. "You work for us!" Without the ACA, she said, three members of her family would be dead. In Kentucky, Republican House leader Mitch McConnell faced angry crowds both outside and inside the hall for his first constituents’ meeting since the election. "If you can answer my questions," said the woman with the mic, "I’ll sit down and shut up like Elizabeth Warren."

In Florida, party chairman Bill Akins was booed out of a Town Hall for repeating the lie that the ACA requires every 74 year old to face a "death panel" and justify their continued existence. The meeting full of seniors shouted him down.

In Texas, the crowd grew so rowdy that Rep Pete Sessions warned that politicians wouldn’t want to meet with them again. To which the crowd responded with a chant: "Do your job! Do your job!" When Sessions responded inadequately to a presentation, the crowd chanted, "Vote him out! Vote him out!"

In Iowa, voters chanted "Your last term."  In Nevada, Sen Dean Heller tried to fudge an answer about high risk pools and the crowd chanted, "Yes or no? Yes or no?"

"No cuts to MedicAid" chanted 50 disability protesters while the U.S. Capitol Police carried, pushed and dragged them away from Mitch McConnell’s office, leaving drops of blood on the marble House floor.  

Although Republicans have benefited from voter anger until now, it appears that the tables have turned. Town Hall videos show a furious U.S. public, motivated by attacks on healthcare, waking up to the whole range of U.S. government attacks on essential services, from Planned Parenthood to education and voting rights.  

White male rage isn't cute any more, or even titillating. This week, seven Republican Senators immediately slammed 45's personal comments about morning talk show co-host Mika Brzerzinski. Such pettiness on the president's part doesn't play well in Peoria, or Fort Wayne, or Amarillo -- especially when he's kicking 24 million people off healthcare insurance.

Hell hath no fury like parents with high-risk children or relatives, who spend their own lives keeping their loved ones alive, and who know without doubt that they or their loved ones will die without the healthcare that nobody can afford on their own. As the Republicans are finding out, white male tantrums over losing privilege are pale shadows of a mother's rage at a deadly and unnecessary threat to her children.    

Image: flickr/mobili

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