The middle finger of Beth Harwell

Today was about the middle finger of Beth Harwell.

After hundreds of phone calls to her office asking her to support Insure Tennessee….

After texts and emails asking the same thing….

After 20 billboards being put up all over the state asking her to speak up for the uninsured…..

After countless appointments from all kinds of people at her office asking her to speak for Insure Tennessee….

After demonstrations in or at her office door asking her to walk in the shoes of the uninsured……

After public polls and virtually every newspaper, every civic organization, every business organization, every everything in Tennessee coming out in favor of Insure Tennessee…..

After all these things and more Speaker Harwell finally spoke today.

My language is probably unnecessarily crude and for that I apologize but her response when stripped to the basics was simple. She showed us her middle finger.

She held a news conference today to announce that she was appointing a task force to address the issue of health care access for the uninsured based on conservative Tennessee principles. Based on the context of her remarks conservative Tennessee principles mean doing less things for less people and making sure nobody got anything they didn’t deserve. She appointed 4 of the most extreme anti Insure Tennessee members of the House to the task force. The verdict, to put it mildly, is in far before the trial.

Governor Haslam….. I am not sure why he was there. He stood over at the end and when Speaker Harwell let him talk said that all he really wanted was something that worked and then he basically said that Insure Tennessee was no longer an operative possibility.

It was for all intents and purposes the burial of a program that would have given insurance to 280,000 Tennesseans without any expenditure to the state. It would have maintained the rural health infrastructure. It would have created jobs. People who would otherwise die wouldn’t have to die. It was a burial of hope for some that can no longer wait. It was a message to many people who for the first time in their life were trying to share their thoughts, their cares, their values with their government that they were not needed, not wanted, and should go home and be, “good citizens.” It was an act of violence. One citizen got up and asked about the 280,000. He was taken out by security. His words going out the door…. “Health care postponed is justice denied….”

I tried to talk to people about my feelings but was so mad I am not sure I even made a little bit of sense.

A friend pointed out something I had totally missed. Insure Tennessee is no longer “Governor Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee” and I swear I wonder if that was not part of the problem to begin with. He is so remarkably ineffectual that anything he claims as important may be dead before you know it.

It is now our program… our principles… our vision… It is ours to plant… ours to grow. Diane Nash was one of the leaders of the student sit ins in Nashville in the 60s. She told one friend that if they had waited for what politicians “could do” we would still be segregated.

The speaker has spoke and the governor’s plan is probably dead. But maybe a movement has moved to a new maturity. It is a people’s movement, not defined solely what politicians can or will do. It is a movement for justice. It is a movement that says everyone matters and no one is disposable. It is a movement pro living. It is a movement about Tennessee for all Tennesseans.

The speaker had spoken. She awaits our reply.


7 thoughts on “The middle finger of Beth Harwell”

  1. I am amazed that I still have the capacity to be amazed at the callous heartlessness of many legislators–often bible-thumping legislators–who never read the parable of The Good Samaritan, or missed the part about those who “passed by on the other side.”
    Maybe they understood”my brother’s keeper” to mean “keep them bound by poverty and need,” we’ve got ours!

  2. This is a new, radical right-wing Tea Party General Assembly that got slipped in on us while we weren’t watching. They will destroy Tennessee and Tennesseans with every step they take. It is incredibly important to vote them OUT next chance we get.

  3. I believe you are mistaken, and I suspect it is because you are politically naive. Political reality is such that conservative legislators will not change their votes on Medicaid expansion in Tennessee without 1) time to reconsider; 2) Obama being out of office; and 3) most importantly, face-saving cover to do so. This task force provides both time and a way to save face and explain their change of mind. Given the nature of our elected legislators and our state, this is the only way to achieve the Medicaid expansion you claim to want So, you should support the task force and be patient. What you want is on the way…

  4. From losing the civil war to integration of our schools took just about 90 years. From the SCOTUS ruling integrating schools to the first black students entering a “white only” state university took 10 years. Social Security Act passed 1935 under FDR; Medicaid passed 1965 under Johnson; ACA passed 2010 under Obama; Medicare expansion to states went into effect 2015 under Obama. Anyone see a pattern here? Democrats in office? Time lapse of nothing under Republicans? and lots of people died who did not need to. this has nothing to do with needing time to adjust and everything to do with overcoming denial to EQUAL TREATMENT AND EQUAL RIGHTS under the law. Then there was the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. All under Republican presidents but all have both houses of Congress controlled by Democrats. A pretty telling history all round… so don’t hold your breath waiting for a bunch of Republicans to change their stripes…

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