One of the more interesting right-wing tropes in the health-care debate is the constant rallying cry that if the government can make you buy health insurance, next thing you know they will make you eat broccoli. Finer minds have explained what a nonsensical analogy this is, but what strikes me is how banal the right wing’s dystopian vision has become. For a movement that once spun lurid tales of jack-booted government thugs taking your guns, forced broccoli is pretty weak tea.
If you asked me to what I would fear most following a right-wing takeover of the government, I’d probably say “I’m afraid the government would invalidate my marriage, separate me from my family and deport my son.” I don’t think that’s likely, but if you asked me to spell out my nightmare scenario it would look like that. I’m sure others face even more frighteningly plausible consequences. What I’m pretty sure is that none of us fear being made to eat broccoli.
This gets at something very salient about the current incarnation of the conservative movement. When asked to imagine their darkest fear, the bottom of the slippery slope, the hell to which our handbasket is speeding, they end up with a cruciferous vegetable. These are comfortable people playing at being oppressed, slumming in a Disney version of a totalitarian state where the mean liberals regulate your toilets and mandate your side dishes.
This isn’t fear, it’s the resentment of people with a pathological sense of entitlement, and it drives an insanely disproportionate response to even the mildest governmental interventions. The slightest suggestion that they consume less energy or drive smaller cars or use more efficient toilets is interpreted as an attack on their way of life, eliciting howls of self-pity. Never have so many, with so much, been so afraid of so little.