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What does the health care reform debate say about party politics in America today? Robert Reich wrestles with that question on his blog, proposing
that they key difference between the Democratic left and the Republican right is that "the left has ideas and the right has discipline." And why would that be?
"Because people who like ideas and dislike authority tend to identify with the Democratic left, while people who feel threatened by new ideas and more comfortable in a disciplined and ordered world tend to identify with the Republican right. Democrats and progressives let a thousand flowers bloom. Republicans and the right issue directives. This has been the yin and yang of American politics and culture. But it means that the Democratic left's new ideas often fall victim to its own notorious lack of organization and to the right's highly-organized fear mongering."
Reich isn't conjuring those characteristics attributed to conservatives out of thin air; there is solid empirical evidence
in political psychology connecting conservatism with a lack of openness to experience, intolerance of ambiguity, a lack of integrative complexity, and high needs for structure and closure.
The political voices on health care we are hearing these days in Middle Tennessee certainly appear to reinforce these distinctions. The latest example: gubernatorial hopeful Zach Wamp's inane comment
yesterday that optional end-of-life planning could lead to death panels "in some circumstances." Wamp says "I just don't understand" why such consultations should qualify for Medicare reimbursement. Um, because lots of poor elderly folks won't get it otherwise?
Perhaps Wamp can use some of the generous federal health insurance he currently enjoys as a Congressman to get himself an integrative complexity transplant.