The Wrong Other: Republicans and American Health Care

A juicy headline by Adrianne Jeffries for The Outline:

Republicans are here to disabuse you of the notion that elected representatives actually read bills.

Written in response to the recently approved revision of the American Health Care Act, this title comforts the (most likely left-leaning) reader in its snidery and irony. Citing only three individuals as having not read the bill (over two hundred voted for it), the first paragraphs extrapolates in order to construct the Big Other, i.e. Congressional Republicans. The last half describes how minuscule the amount of time it would take to read the bill.

The presentation can be summarized as thus:

Congressional Republicans will not spend even 76 minutes to ensure the health of their own constituents.

There are two important issues occurring within this summation, common in the pitfall of constructing a Big Other for a reader to react against.

  1. By conflating three Republican examples with Congressional Republicans, Jeffries has created an ungraspable entity (Other) that the reader cannot effectively act against.
  2. Constructing Congressional Republicans as the Big Other serves to distract against more important Others that have allowed for the revisions to even exist (congressional incontinence, mangled capitalist ideology, nature of the elected official).

Given these two issues, Adrianne Jeffries has made an article made for passive scoffing rather than inciting action or healthy outrage: one cannot act against “Congressional Republicans”; one can provide snickery to a large and undefinable Other, paralyzed the the sheer size of its ambiguity.

Yet one can act against the three individuals mentioned (John Shimkus, Tom Garrett, Chris Collins), making a difference one district at a time. By contacting these individual congresspeople, one is doing the basest form of activism: speaking one’s mind to one’s supposed representative in a peaceful and succinct manner.

Jeffries’ article has also paralyzed the reader into believing that the revisions to the health care bill as a product of there being a Congressional Republican. Never mind the twenty Republicans that opposed (did they read the bill?), or that there is even the hint of wanting to roll back what some deem to be a human right. There are ideological forces at play that will not be explored by describing 76 minutes as “three-and-a-half Seinfeld episodes”.

Jeffries’ “Big Other” is limp, nebulous, and one – if eliminated – would perpetuate itself in several other forms. Congressional Republicans are neither the sole nor primary issue of this health care bill revision. It extends into the voter base, the culture of D.C., the innate difficulties of singular leadership, and of a futile ideal that capitalism can ever become less corrupted than it is now. These should be the topics for inciting action, understanding, and hopefully much less passivity.

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