Am I the only one who’s noticed that conservatives are capable of having a change of heart on a subject, but only after being personally impacted by it? I remember when Republican Senator Rob Portman came out in favor of marriage equality — before the Supreme Court made it the law of the land — and it was basically because as it turned out his son was gay. Some have lamented and mocked Republicans for this phenomenon, but as a reformed conservative myself, I can say that exposure therapy really is quite effective in removing biases and preconceived notions, as well as getting someone to see a perspective on something they might not have otherwise.

Then again, in the case of Ayn Rand devotee Paul Ryan, I have to wonder if he’s capable of having an epiphany such as Portman’s, but this time about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

The ACA is a far from perfect solution to the rising costs and availability of health insurance, but it was a step in the right direction. Republicans have been on a kick to repeal it, and now that they’ll get a Republican in the White House, they should have everything they need to gut the landmark law. Of course, in the mean time millions of people will lose their health insurance, unless the GOP manages to do what they say they’re planning to do and implement Obamacare’s replacement at the same time they repeal it.

I would hope that the optics of tossing up to twenty million people off their health insurance would be enough to stop the Republicans in their tracks, and I think the politics of the this issue will rear its head on them eventually. But there’s a clip making the rounds of Ryan at a townhall hosted by CNN in which he interacts with a former lifelong Republican who says that his life was literally saved by the ACA, and I wish I had confidence in Ryan’s ability to take that very real, very emotional moment, and learn actual compassion from it.

…but alas, it’s not Christmas time anymore, so I don’t know if Scrooge-like miserly Republicans are capable of a change of heart until the spirits visit them this coming December.


In case you missed it, here’s the clip that’s making the rounds. Have a tissue handy because this one may make you well-up like you were cutting onions.

Not only is the man in the clip who tells Ryan he wants to personally thank President Obama a former Republican, he was even a Reagan campaign worker. He’s also just one of millions and millions of Americans who had their lives saved by the ACA. Even as someone who has benefited (very slightly) from the subsidies in my home household, I can say that the law certainly has holes that need to be plugged, issues that need to be fixed. But something that gives this kind of hope to millions of people simply should not be ripped away until something better is ready to be put into place.

The costs of health care were rising exponentially before Obamacare. They have slowed down, and the quality of care has gone up since the law forces a large percentage of the funds health insurance companies take from us to go to direct medical care. No law or program is perfect, but when you take into account how most of us get our insurance through our employers, we are really talking about the poorest among us that will be most impacted.

I’d love to think that Ryan would suddenly remember he’s a Christian, whose religious icon is a dude who healed the sick and fed the hungry for free. I’d love to think that seeing a former Reaganite tell him to his smug fucking face that Obamacare is a net positive would crack the darkness that clearly clouds his vision and heart. But I have no real reason to keep those hopes alive.

Paul Ryan has wanted to end the ACA since it was signed into law. Sure, it was a conservative idea from a conservative think tank and implemented first in Massachusetts by a conservative governor (who Ryan shared a presidential ticket with in 2012). He won’t give up this opportunity easily. Maybe if enough people like the gentleman from the town hall come forward and bombard his office, Ryan might have a change of heart, but I doubt it.

I think the best we can hope for is that enough political pressure mounts on the Republicans that they have to slow down the process. We’re starting to see it already. Maybe if the repeal gets bogged down, the fight over the most important provisions will result in keeping the best stuff about the ACA. Right now it’s the most hope I can muster.

I just haven’t seen much from Paul Ryan that would indicate he’s got the ability to be touched by this experience.

Follow James on Twitter @JamboSchlarmbo.


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