When the ‘Party Line’ Crumbles

“If you’re poor, stop being poor.”

Aasif Mandvi closing in a crumble

Just so were the words of Todd Wilemon, Managing Director of NYSE Euronext, speaking with The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi March 6, 2014. Aasif, in his brilliantly nonconfrontational way, had just returned from a visit to the “third world” of Knoxville, Kentucky, and was interviewing Wilemon, whose point was that the Affordable Care Act — well, he termed it “Obamacare” — would destroy humanity as we know it. Or something.

Mandvi was pointing out that poor people can’t afford health care, which is what Obamacare is designed to correct, and that’s when it happened.

Wilemon starting spouting the party line, that people who can’t afford health care “have made that choice” and that they “like a free lunch.”

To be fair, Wilemon’s exact quote, at this most illuminating of moments, was, “I’ll be honest. If, if you’re poor, stop being poor. You know, get a GED, have a job for over a year.”

That was the moment, the exact moment, when the party line disintegrated, when it became abundantly clear that party lines, whether they’re from the left, right, or center, can’t stand up to accuracy, to actual truth (as opposed to “truthiness“), when those lines are just plain wrong.

The look of a crumbling party line

When you look objectively at party lines without a moral high ground, when you poke them the right way, they crumble. And the person holding to that line, holding fast to it, like a rusty guardrail on a sinking ship, finds that the rail can’t support him, that it collapses, throwing the poor lunk into a clarity he knew all along but was afraid to acknowledge.

At least when Wilemon crumbled at one point, he recognized it. Mandvi had asked,”What if everybody got really great health care?”

Wilemon paused, trying on the one hand to agree that everyone should get great health care (the moral high ground), while on the other holding tight to the party line that says giving great health care to the poor (read: Obamacare) will lead to chaos.

You could just see Wilemon crumble, like a Vegas hotel imploding on a summer day. Mandvi let him crumble a bit before saving him with, “I’m just kidding. We have to keep things competitive, right?”

Then Wilemon smiled, they high-fived, and moved on.

Gotta love a good crumble.

Aasif Mandvi interview with Todd Wilemon

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