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Vail Daily column: Give a heave-ho to ‘hell, no!’

Jack Van Ens

Barry Goldwater (1909-1998), five-term U.S. senator from Arizona, didn’t suffer fools gladly. He snarled at right-wing preachers. They sounded to him like grumpy politicians who squinted at enemies through warped lens.

Goldwater, whose book “The Conscience of the Conservative” propelled him to run in the 1964 presidential election against landslide winner Lyndon Baines Johnson, detested GOP members who had a flair for invective, stifling opponents by yelling “Hell, no!”

“Mark my word,” Goldwater gruffly declared, “if and when preachers get control of the (Republican) Party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”



“The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom,” Goldwater fumed. “I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are? I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism.”

Goldwater’s jeremiad against tart-lipped preachers and politicians echoes a biblical warning. “If anyone thinks he’s religious, and doesn’t bridle his tongue … this person’s religion is vain (empty and trite)” (James 1:26).



Demonizing Obamacare

Republican candidates in the 2014 mid-term elections don’t heed Goldwater’s warning. With evangelists’ zeal, they demonize the Affordable Care Act at its fourth anniversary.



This plan was field-tested in Massachusetts in 2006. After then-Governor Mitt Romney put it in place, the plan’s initial kinks have been smoothed out. Now, an overwhelming number of this state’s citizens benefit from health care.

Using a sassy rejoinder to register disdain the health care overhaul, critics exclaim, “Hell, no!” They don’t want to capitulate to socialism. Their aim is to roll back health care history before 2010 when the U.S. featured “the best health care system in the world.”

Republicans gloss over that the “best health care system in the world” serviced those who could pay for it. High costs prohibited millions of citizens from acquiring coverage.

The GOP has a history of supporting a health care policy similar to the Affordable Care Act.

Before President Obama took office, Democrats proposed a government-run universal plan. Call it “Medicare for all” with a single payer — Uncle Sam. Republicans responded, “Hell, no!”

Before 2008, the GOP promoted a health care plan in which Uncle Sam and private insurance companies worked together. Market driven forces determined competitive prices. Republicans wanted to replace cheap health care plans that ripped off citizens. They advocated compassionate conservatism, which raised a health care canopy to cover the uninsured and 20-somethings who lived at home with parents.

The GOP aggressively defended this plan through the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think-tank. If it acts like, sounds like, smells like and looks like President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, guess what? Hell, yes! Republicans once supported it because they proposed it.

Today, a majority of Americans hold reservations about the Affordable Care Act because of its botched roll-out and promises too good to be true. But the “Hell, no!” crowd cherry-picks history. They down-play expensive health care costs spiraling out-of-control before 2010.

Suggesting the uninsured rush to hospital emergency rooms for medical help is an expensive stop-gap solution. It’s patch-work, offering few long-term benefits to patients with severe ailments. Who gets stuck with huge ER costs? Taxpayers.

“Hell, no!” Republicans don’t communicate with those implementing the Affordable Care Act. Such conciliatory moves would connect them to political opponents. GOP constituencies want blood, not cooperative efforts.

Candidates running in midterm elections might benefit from watching a Woody Allen movie. He directed a scene where some lonely Manhattan men loiter, drinking beer and talking about their isolation. Their voices become noisier. They raise the decibel level, interrupt and yell to be heard.

They vie for attention until disenchantment boils over. Shouting doesn’t work.

This movie scene gets laughs. A cacophony of voices tries to communicate but rarely connects.

The “hell, no!” crowd whips up frenzied voters for what they’re against. Most Americans want to embrace “hell, yes!” cooperative politicians and religious leaders — those who work for the common good and meet citizens’ needs.

The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries (www.thelivinghistory.com), which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive.


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