Coffins, Coiled Snakes & Progressives: A South Carolina “Truthful Tuesday” Obamacare Showdown

unnamed-10When the Confederate Flag stands front and center upon your State House grounds, a defiant geopolitical hood ornament for all the world “to remember,” it puts a little edge on your average everyday progressive political rally.

My first memory of the South Carolina State House is hard to forget.  I moved to the Palmetto State in January 2003, the same month that former Governor Mark “Hiking the Appalachian Trail” Sanford assumed his two-term gubernatorial office.  For those who have lost track, Sanford is now a U.S. Representative.  South Carolina’s conservative voters clearly don’t mind being represented by a Christian hypocrite who cheated on his wife before a global audience.

At any rate, I will never forget driving by the State House on MLK Day, January 20, 2003.

That’s odd, I thought.  Why would people be wearing bed sheets on the Capitol steps?  Wait, is that a swastika?  Oh my.

Welcome to South Carolina.  We’re not in Minnesota anymore.

But we digress.  So often in South Carolina, it seems.

However, yesterday’s Truthful Tuesday pro-Obamacare rally in the South Carolina capital of Columbia may represent something of a Gandalf-planted-staff-in-the-ground moment by progressives throughout the state.

Truthful Tuesdays in South Carolina are modeled after the “Moral Monday” progressive protests that began in neighboring North Carolina and which now have spread to Georgia.

Reverend Brenda Kneece, executive minister of the S.C. Christian Action Council, one of the formal conveners of Truthful Tuesday, informed the State newspaper:  “Whatever North Carolina has done in terms of advocating for moral and ethical laws, our state needs to do the same thing.”

The Truthful Tuesday Coalition movement is also convened by a number of other respected progressive groups, including the South Carolina chapters of the National Association of Social Workers, the AFL-CIO, the NAACP as well as the SC Progressive Network and The SC Education Association.

On Tuesday, progressive demonstrators donned black “as a symbol of mourning” to honor the 1,400 people who are expected to die each year in South Carolina, according to the University of South Carolina Institute for Public Service and Policy Research (see State article above), because South Carolina’s political leaders, including Governor Nikki Haley, have refused to expand Medicaid.

Rally leaders laid a white coffin on the State House steps as a grave symbol.  The coffin also served as something of a speaker podium.

The rally cry throughout the demonstration, “Enough is Enough!” was directed straight at South Carolina’s lawmakers, who yesterday banged the gavel and convened the second session of the 120th General Assembly.

Of course, this is the same august body that in years past determined minors can’t play pinball, horses shall not be kept in bathtubs, and citizens should at least obtain a license before firing missiles.

While some of those laws have been repealed (though hopefully not the missile one!), one bill this session is headed for a fast track into the South Carolina Code of Laws.  The bill, known as H3101, is by its very title is designed to:

RENDER NULL AND VOID CERTAIN UNCONSTITUTIONAL LAWS
ENACTED BY THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES
TAKING CONTROL OVER THE HEALTH INSURANCE INDUSTRY

 

Or as CNS News reports:  “In January, when key provisions of the Affordable Care Act go into effect, South Carolina’s Republican-led state Senate is scheduled to vote on fast-tracked legislation that would prohibit all state agencies, public officials and state employees from implementing the federal health care law.”

Governor Haley, who has pledged “to lead a coalition of governors to fight Obamacare,” of course cannot wait to sign her name to said inhumane bill.

Determined to fight the process on this first Truthful Tuesday was Reverend Dr. James B. Blassingame, President of the Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention, who prayed that God would “separate the [lawmakers] from their pomp and circumstance.”

Indeed.  Such would seemingly take an act of the divine.

While the SC Progressive Network and other groups were demanding “that lawmakers stop grandstanding and start governing,” at the same time, State Senator Lee Bright (guess his party) was on hand to lead a charge of conservative activists into the State House to pressure lawmakers to embrace health care Armageddon.

If progressives think U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham is an elephantine pain in the neck, consider that State Senator Bright is a Tea Party factor worse—and he’s challenging Graham in the June 2014 Republican primary.

Also hoping to challenge Senator Graham in November is entrepreneur and U.S. Senate Candidate Jay Stamper (D) of Irmo, South Carolina.  When I mentioned to Candidate Stamper that the anti-Obamacare rally on the other side of the State House had fizzled, he laughed and noted that the rain had “knocked out” the Republican rally.  “I don’t want to draw any conclusions, but…  More seriously, what you are seeing here is a lot of justified outrage.  The Republican lawmakers at both state and federal levels, including Lindsey Graham, are blocking health care for the most vulnerable members of society.”

That outrage manifested itself from the coffin podium when SC Progressive Network director Brett Bursey excoriated the General Assembly for suggesting it couldn’t afford Medicaid expansion.  Bursey cited horrible taxation policy in South Carolina, including its ridiculously low tax on luxury vehicles and private yachts and airplanes:  “Speaker [of the House Bobby] Harrell only paid $300 [in tax] for his airplane!”

Another speaker boomed her disgust from the coffin podium:  “Nikki Haley chairs the death panel … And we are going to strike that death panel down!”

Political exasperation was being vented by the milling protestors, as well.  William Hamilton, a Charleston lawyer who does outreach and communications work for the SC Progressives Network Charleston chapter, arrived as part of a three-bus caravan with 200 other ‘Probamacare’ protestors:  “We’re here to tell the Tea Party that the toughest liberals in the nation work under the worst possible conditions in one of the reddest states.  They are your neighbors; this is their home too.  We will not surrender to oppression, ignorance and death!”

Midway through the rally, a man waving a “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flag ran through the middle of the crowd, shouting, “Obama is a traitor!  Impeach Obama!”

Earlier I had spotted the naysayer, who identified himself as Ryan Tarrance of Charleston, South Carolina.  I asked if I could take his picture and follow up with some questions.  He agreed.

Tarrance seemed friendly.  He is married and has two children with another on the way.

I asked him why he had traveled from Charleston.  He replied:  “To support the nullification of Obamacare.  To show my state I care.  To show that one person can make a difference.”

Fair enough.  From there, the interview started slipping away from common sense bit by bit.  I asked him if he had health care.

Tarrance:  “I do, but my wife takes care of all that.  We had the Obama exchange before.”

Really?  You had the Obamacare exchange?  In South Carolina?!  Never mind; next question.

I asked him to imagine life without health care.  He said he wasn’t all that worried; he “didn’t use it too much.”  I asked him whether his wife perhaps used it a bit more, given her previous two pregnancies and her current “bun-in-the-oven” state.

Tarrance paused:  “I think Obamacare seemed good at first.”  Then he explained that the bill became too tall.

I was puzzled, “The legislation is too tall?”

He explained that bills shouldn’t be so long that Americans can’t read them.  I noted to him that obviously some Americans could read the bill, as Americans had written it.  Tarrance then mumbled something about regulation and taxation.

“Oh,” I said, pointing at nearby Gervais Street.  “You mean like all of those burdensome traffic lights and the roads, plus the ambulances, fire trucks and police squad cars that drive upon them.”

“Yeah, exactly,” he agreed.  “Before the Federal Reserve, we had traffic lights.”

Tarrance continued mumbling about capitalism, about not wanting to pay for some stranger’s abortion, about truth being “somewhere in the middle.”  I stopped taking notes, then simply offered that he consider the overall economic success and wellbeing of countries like Canada and the nearly 60 other nations that offer universal health care.

He told me that in Canada, one has to wait months just to go to the doctor.

If only Canada disbanded its central bank, I thought, then maybe it could afford traffic lights.

I sighed, thanked him for his time and returned to the Truthful Tuesday rally, where I had a sensible conversation with Dorothea Butts of Columbia, SC, who, unlike Mr. Tarrance, actually knows about her family’s health care situation:  “It’s not right, the divide,” she explained.  She fully supports expanded Medicaid.  Before she and her husband qualified for Medicare, they were paying one-third of their self-employed take-home pay on health care costs.  “We prayed for the day when we would become Medicare eligible.”

Butts gets it and was on hand to support the thousands of her South Carolinians neighbors who, because of Republican politicians, do not have health care.  In fact, the several thousand other folks who showed up for Truthful Thursday get it too.

Tarrance, on the other hand, is just a guy running around with a coiled snake flag spewing Rush Limbaugh talking points.  And South Carolina’s Republican lawmakers have Tarrance, plus thousands of other voters just like him, coiled around their fingers.

 …

Postscript

The White House reports that 24 states are currently refusing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions of uninsured citizens who can’t do a damned thing about it because they’re trapped in states with political leaders like South Carolina’s Governor Haley and State Senator Bright.

By the way, it’s probably just a coincidence that all but two of the former Confederate States are in that Group of 24 refusing billions of dollars in federal funding to improve the nation’s health.

As Truthful Tuesday protestors made abundantly clear yesterday in South Carolina with their symbolic coffin, Americans are now dying because of this disgraceful Republican political rebellion.  More than 27,000 of our fellow citizens, in fact.  Every year.

Since the Affordable Care Act was enacted, just over one-half of the states in our Union have taken one step closer to civilization.  Nearly 60 countries have universal health care, nations such as Israel, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway, the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, Australia.  Pretty nice places, despite what Mr. Tarrance has been brainwashed to believe.

Every Truthful Tuesday protester I met longs for the day that the United States can be added to the list of civilized nations.

2014 matters, folks.  On November 4, 2014, your vote matters like never before.

The countdown to Election Day, or as I have started calling it, Civilization Day, has begun.

Here are some pics I snapped at the rally.  Enjoy!

Arik Bjorn

Arik Bjorn lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the Democratic Party / Green Party fusion candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina. Visit the archive for Arik’s campaign website, and check out his latest book, So I Ran for Congress. You can also follow his political activities on Twitter @Bjorn2RunSC and on Facebook. And be sure to check out more from Arik in his archives!

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  • Pipercat

    A friend of mine was complaining about how she couldn’t get her daughter healthcare from the website. Problem one was her daughter didn’t make any money last year and probably wont this year. Problem two, we’re all in Texas and Nikki and Rick must have been at the same strip poker game when they decided not to expand Medicaid. Yet, guess where the finger pointed…

  • BigTBone

    Arik, I am a resident transplant in SC as well. I’ve been coming here for 3+ decades. My dad’s side is Tennessee born and bred and now populates the Carolinas and I moved down south for college. It’s amazing how this state has slit its own throat- allowing the textile industry to move overseas while bemoaning unions and ignoring corporate greed, the constant election of unqualified, shady characters stuck in antebellum times…

    When Sanford won out over the extremely qualified Colbert-Busch, it further solidified that this state is a haven for misinformed conservatives, christian hypocrites, and yes, racists. But I’m staying. And pushing for more blue.

    • Pipercat

      There is always hope! Here in Texas, Wendy raised more money than Greg during the same period. We’re gonna put up a fight down here!

    • The Author

      Thanks, BigT. There is an old saying that goes, “Communities get what they deserve,” which has been bandied about especially in the wake of the West Virginia chemical spill. It’s a harsh saying, but it’s true.

      The tragedy, of course, is that so many voters are being purposefully deceived against their own self-interest yet have no idea this is the case.

      At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own souls, our own education, our own actions. It would seem that the parable of the Three Little Piggies is much more relevant than anyone of us ever realized as tots.

    • BigTBone

      Wow, you used the actual name of the person and pretended to be someone else. Just like every conservative is pretending to be a human being.

      Congrats on making it through a whole post without mentioning the IRS or Benghazi.

      Maybe next week you can formulate a sentence or two about the ongoing tyranny: “Stop Signs: will Obama’s socialist intrusions never end?”

  • strayaway

    “Americans had written it.” Yes, but Senator Baucus credits Lynn Fowler the VP and lobbyist for Wellpoint for being most responsible for outlining the shape of the (un)ACA. If it has problems in its design such as penalties for states that do not comply and bribes for those that comply, it is by design to force compliance. I was reading yesterday about how the Obama administration wanted to punish rural school districts for their states not complying with something, perhaps the (un)ACA. The Agriculture department unsuccessfully tried to get the administration to back off. When the government shut down, there were also various things the administration did to punish Americans (closing parks, veterans monuments, etc.) in an attempt to leverage Americans to support more spending. This is a pattern of the Obama administration; twist peoples arms, kick them off of their health care plans, whatever thuggery it takes to facilitate compliance. Blaming Republican governors for not succumbing only makes sense if this arm twisting duress is not considered. A better criticism of state Republicans would be that they failed to take other initiatives to make health care available and affordable within their own states as Massachusetts and Vermont did. Who needs a corporatist driven federal health care system when states can do a better job more consistent with the 10th? Amendment. (Yes, I know that Judge Roberts ruled that the (un)ACA is constitutional because the government can tax anything it wants anyway it wants)

    • BigTBone

      Obama didn’t kick anyone off their insurance- insurers did.

      Obama didn’t shut down the govt- ted cruz’s crusade did.

      Can you point to a current republican governor that has an approval rating above 40%? Most of the southern ones are in the 30’s at best.

      I don’t want the imbeciles in Columbia in charge of any damned thing. They are painfully stupid and anti-fed, without good reason.

      • strayaway

        The insurers could not offer the same policy prices with all the new requirements. Who set the requirements? Were they too stupid to predict the consequences?

        Cruz spoke against the (un)ACA all night when the Senate would otherwise not be in session. He has one vote, out of one hundred in the Senate. Either way, he did not shut the government down. I didn’t specifically blame Obama for shutting down the government here but yes, he refused on the second round to compromise at all. Republicans wanted to delay implementation of some (un)ACA provisions for a year. Obama would not compromise and the government consequently shut down. When the (un)ACA turned into a disaster and 5M Americans lost their insurance, Obama delayed parts of the (un)ACA for a year. Why didn’t he just do that before so the government didn’t shut down?

        I don’t know the ratings of any Republican governor but I agree with the ones who avoided entanglement with this disaster. If the federal government wants this program, it is able to run it itself as it does the Post Office and Social Security.

    • Robb Thompson

      Do you even read what you type?

      “When the government shut down, there were also various things the administration did to punish Americans (closing parks, veterans monuments, etc.) in an attempt to leverage Americans to support more spending”

      So what you said there is, when the government was shut down (by the Republicans) the government was shut down.

      As for “forcing people off of their health plans”, no reasonable person that I know imagined that anyone other than insurance companies would like any of the non-insurance policies. The easiest solution for anyone who insists on those old policies would be to create a fourth category. You would have gold, silver, bronze, and toilet paper. Then you could go ahead and buy those policies, but don’t come asking for help when they don’t actually pay for anything.

      Because you’ve got a pre-existing condition. It’s called “breathing”.

      • Pipercat

        You know, he’s really proud of his “(un)ACA” pun. Took him days to come up with it…

      • strayaway

        The ACA is societally unaffordable. we are already finding that out. I deem it a lie to refer to it as the (affordable) Care Act, hence the (un). The trial lawyers are still there. Insurance company VP Liz Fowler wrote the bill, so insurance company profits aren’t going down. There are more bureaucrats than ever to pay for. There is more paperwork. Our inefficient health care system was just made more complicated. It strains any logic that keeping the more bureaucrats, expanded insurance company participation, adding thousands of pages of rules and regulation, and all the trail lawyers feeding at the health care trough is going to make health care cheaper. I guess I’m an an atheist or agnostic on this matter and will leave the believing stuff up to you.

      • Pipercat

        You need to change your handle to Strayawayticus, because you are FALLACY INCARNATE!!! You know, those metaphorical lumps on your head that you get from forever walking onto to the proverbial rake? You get those from assuming that the rest of us are incapable of doing our own research, reading materials related to subjects at hand and being informed to current events. He’s right you know, you don’t read what you write. Elderly people are on Medicare. They already have single payer, so they are not relevant to insurance marketplaces. Sorry, that alone shows how full of shit you are.

      • strayaway

        It really does seem like you are incapable of doing your own research beyond things like DNC or Rachel’s talking points. You seem suspended in a system of beliefs. Yes, I have my opinions based on other than you limited sources. One has to be 65 to be on Medicare, I think, but that does not mean that individuals over 65 also have other coverage in addition to Medicare assuming they have that. Really, Pipercat, such vitriol. I thought you were better than that.

      • Pipercat

        You’re just the gift that keeps on giving. You have no clue where anybody gets their information. There’s a big, big world out there besides Wikipedia. You seem to have no clue about Medicare as well. Add to that your really… really (added for emphasis) bad attempt at condescension actually shows how pathetic your arguments(?) are. That was, and this is, not vitriol. It’s plain unadulterated sarcasm. Alas, I have no malice for you, just pity….

      • strayaway

        I don’t know where they get their information but I do have clues based on comments. So you are somewhat wrong on that point. I am acquainted with Medicare and if you want to take my comment, “One has to be 65 to be on Medicare, I think, but that does not mean that individuals over 65 also have other coverage in addition to Medicare assuming they have that.” to task, which point am I wrong about? Noting your last two sentences. I’m going to stick with “vitriol”.

      • Pipercat

        You’re clueless. You’re just assuming based on your own prejudices and biases. Throw in some your half baked notions and viola!

        What you’re missing, is that Medicare and the supplementals are irrelevant to standard group health insurance. Has to do with tricky things like underwriting, laws, risk pools and mandates.

        You just tried to fallaciously conflate two similar, but very different programs to prove, basically, a bullshit notion. I’m dreadfully sorry you can’t take the heat. Welcome to the real world and you better get a thicker skin. As long as you take condescending tones, supported by sloppy fallacious logic, be prepared to get spanked. Time for your big boy pants and deal with the adults in the room.

      • strayaway

        What you stated in your previous post was, “Elderly people are on Medicare. They already have single payer, so they are not relevant to insurance marketplaces.” I don’t know how you define ‘group health insurance’ a term you have since introduced into the discussion but I do know of people with insurance policies provided by their union employers who also receive Medicare. I guess you had to narrow the definition to make yourself sound more lucid. Also, there are ads for supplementary Medicare health insurance provided by AARP and a number of other insurers. As far as I know, they are available to anyone on Medicare but if you want to claim they are “not relevant to insurance marketplaces, ..um ok.

        And you aren’t condescending? Get real. Talking about spanking and you are the big adult. Enjoy your fantasies. As far as I can tell, you still support policies that stripped 5M Americans of their insurance coverage although maybe a better word for that is “arrogant”. Even the President has backed off under popular demand and “allowed” those people to stay on their old policies.

      • Pipercat

        Robb was only half right, you truly cannot read. Just for reference, I was one of those poor, poor 5 million getting raped by a tertiary insurance company. So bingo, you’re full of shit on that front too.

        That first paragraph is complete hogwash and irrelevant to “The” insurance marketplaces, period. Yet, you keep beating that dead horse.

        The second paragraph is fucking unbelievably stupid. You can’t even accomplish a half ass pivot. Fantasize on this: I had a shit policy. I now have a regular old fashioned policy with actual drug coverage and my Doc was in the PPO (yep a PPO/POS). So what I support is “The” marketplaces. If the other 4,999,999 poor souls still want to throw good money after bad, all I can say is that I hate that for them. One last thing, look up the concept of the third person, you might actually get a clue…

      • strayaway

        Pipercat, I am glad that the dole is working out for you.

      • Pipercat

        Hey dipstick, I pay for my insurance; moreover, I’ve paid my taxes and have been a net insurance premium provider all of my life. (that means I’ve paid more in than I received in benefits) If you’re too fucking hard headed to look at the big picture and see what is actually happening, well all I can say is I hate that for you too.

      • strayaway

        I’ll stick with what I wrote. It is arrogant to decide that people are better off without policies than the ones they chose. It says that you would rather see people suffer in some cases.Some of those people did have cancer, for instance and now have only choices offered through the government. Elderly people might not need to pay for contraception services or providing for kids who are past 26 years old but under their new policies they will have to. It all adds up. let them decide for themselves.

      • Robb Thompson

        My question had to do with those words of yours that I placed in quotes. So that question stands. When the government was shut down (which was initiated by a Republican Congress unwilling to accept anything but their own proposal verbatim, and extended by their refusing to even consider voting on an alternative proposal that was in front of them for days) you accuse President Obama of “punishing citizens” by closing parks and monuments.

        My specific question was whether you understand the definition of the word “closed”. I certainly do, and I have friends who were dependent on national parks being open, but because they are not government employees they didn’t get any back pay.

        As for your suggested freedom to select only the health insurance that you want, my suggestion would provide for that. The difference is that it would call those policies what they are, and you wouldn’t be able to claim that nobody told you what you were (and weren’t) buying.

        As far as I know, there have never been any general group health insurance policies that allowed a person to specifically pick and choose which coverages they wanted. The 45-and-up crowd subsidized the bones broken in extreme sports and the babies born for the 20-somethings and the 35-and-under crowd subsidized the back injuries and heart attacks for the 50-somethings.

        That’s how group insurance works.

      • strayaway

        House Republicans first passed a budget bill not funding the (un)ACA. The Senate didn’t go for that but there was still time on the clock so that didn’t shut down the government. Next,Republicans offered an alternative proposal scaling down their demands to just postponing major parts of the (un)ACA for a year. Obama refused to even negotiate that compromised Republican position. Time ran out, Obama wouldn’t negotiate, and the government shut down hurting people like your friends.

        The policies I referred to that were closed where largely policies people had had even before the (un)ACA was created. As Nancy told us, we wouldn’t know hat was in it until it passed, That being the case, it would be difficult for either insurance companies or policy holders to know exactly how things would play out.

        People did choose insurance policies presumably bases on what they were able to afford prior to this act. Group insurance is based on whatever policies are chosen. Why should Mormons pay for people who choose to smoke and drink for instance if they had an option of not doing so?

      • Robb Thompson

        I was unaware that there was special Mormon insurance.

        I do know that my annual group insurance signup had questions for smoking, and that a “no” answer on the question provided a credit against my premiums.

        As for refusing to negotiate, President Obama learned from the fiscal cliff “negotiations” that they were anything but that. That particular precedent was set by the Republican Congress long before. Also, when the Senate offered to discuss negotiations more than a dozen times leading up to the shutdown and they were refused, it became very hard to believe that the Congress was suddenly in the mood to talk.

        Why should there be any negotiations anyway? The law had been passed and signed three years prior to the shutdown. The Supreme Court had even ruled that it was constitutional, so with all three branches of the federal government having had their chance, what was left to negotiate?
        The Republican Congress had their chance to negate the ACA, in fact they had over thirty chances to do so.

      • strayaway

        I don’t know if there are Mormon policies either but if a group didn’t want to be covered for things they don’t need, policy costs can be cut.

        Going back a bit further, president Obama promised that he would abide by the decisions made by the Simpson Bowles committee regarding slashing the federal deficit. He had a change of mind. Republicans weren’t even negotiation a budget cut that would meet Simpson Bowles standards. I am disappointed that they weren’t. All laws, governments, nations, and empires eventually end. Sequestration was settled law too. I don’t see where the (un)ACA is exempt from changes or elimination either.