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Jason Chaffetz Knows Exactly What He's Doing

Don't be fooled by all of the "outrage." He's playing to the base.

This offended a lot of people this morning:

Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) appeared on CNN’s New Day, Tuesday, to defend the Republican replacement for Obamacare that was rolled out to the public yesterday....

Congressman Chaffetz said the Republican plan would require Americans to make their own health choices, a situation he explained in the following way:

“Americans have choices and they’ve got to make a choice and so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest it in their own healthcare. They’ve got to make those decisions themselves.”

You probably regard this as a gaffe. I don't.

Chaffetz knows that the Republicans' plan is going to make a lot of people -- including a lot of Republican voters -- worse off. He knows that some of them will actually understand this in advance. They'll know precisely how the law will hurt them, and some of them will talk about this publicly.

So he wants to tell everyone else that if they hear people complaining about RepubliCare, they shouldn't pay attention, because everything the complainers are complaining about is their own damn fault. Chaffetz (and the other Republicans who pursue this line of attack) don't have to persuade everyone that this is true -- just a significant percentage of their voters.

Those voters are primed to believe this anyway. They've been told by the right-wing media for years that people who want government programs to work are "takers" -- lazy people who won't pull themselves up by the bootstraps. They now have no doubt that this is true, even when they see people needing government services who look like themselves.

But they believe that most people who want government services don't look like themselves -- and this also helps explain what Chaffetz said. I don't think it's an accident that Chaffetz chose a phone to make his point. On a subconscious level, the word "phone" (even "iPhone") in the context of a conversation about government programs makes a lot of conservatives think of "Obamaphones," the subsidized phones for poor people that conservatives have been led to believe were exchanged for votes by President Obama, with the recipients assumed to be overwhelmingly or exclusively black. (A black woman was featured in the video that brought the phone program to the right's attention.) Conservatives also believe that Obama was the first president to provide subsidized phones to the poor (in fact, he was continuing a program started by George W. Bush, a successor to a Reagan-era subsidized-phone program).

Obviously, a purchased iPhone can't be a free "Obamaphone," but on a gut level, the two ideas are connected for a lot of conservatives. So Chaffetz (or whoever urged him to use this talking point) knows exactly what's going on here. The target audience will respond as intended.

Originally published at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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