Health Care

Where’s the passion?

A health-care forum yields little drama, while a workshop on the domestic partnership law proves—too pragmatic

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Danny Tarkanian takes a question from an audience member during a health-care town-hall meeting at the Starbright Theater on August 20.
Photo: Richard Brian

I. “America is a country where they have freedom of speech but everyone says the same thing.” –Alexis de Tocqueville

The theater is buzzing. There are hundreds of people lined up to see the Republican challenger to Harry Reid, the sharp-suited son of basketball great Jerry Tarkanian, Danny, stand onstage before the red-velvet curtain at Starbright Theater and hit this note two dozen times: “I believe health care decisions should be left to the individual, and the government should stay out of them!”

Applause applause applause goes the suburban foothill retiree audience, which has indicated through boos and yeas that mostly, it doesn’t want health-care reform, not if it means something socialist will happen. Plus, there’s been talk of death panels, although no one seems to know precisely where this idea emerged, but they suspect it’s buried in the thousand-page bill like a socialist Trojan horse. At this stage of democracy, it is only slightly important that we know what we’re talking about, but more so that we talk, that we hold signs and emote, wear Harry Reid stickers or pass out opposing fliers that say Reid spends too much time “kissing Obama’s butt.” High-minded dialogue.

Guided by the innumerable broadcasts of heated town meetings that went before them, they know the drill: Stand up, tell an awful story about government and/or health care, scoff and look for oneself later on TV. At this meeting, when a politically liberal woman who has multiple sclerosis cries, and the mic-toting, audience-traversing hostess interprets her words—“It’s not the rich, it’s not the poor, it’s the middle class” who suffer with today’s health insurance—the room deflates. This town hall’s drama cannot exceed this moment, and what’s left, one fears, may be 40 minutes of the handsome man onstage saying nothing, brilliantly, again and again—“I believe economic success is because of free-market capitalism.”

There is, thankfully, a brief resuscitation when a gubernatorial candidate appears onstage in his scrubs: Republican Dr. Joe Heck has rushed directly from the ER, an hour ago, and apologizes for not changing into a suit.

II. “But what most astonishes me in the United States is not so much the marvelous grandeur of some undertakings, as the innumerable multitude of small ones.” –Alexis de Tocqueville

It’s hushed. People are waiting inside the Gay and Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada for a workshop about using the new domestic-partnership state law, which goes into effect October 1. Thirty or so people are lined up outside the meeting room: Some know each other and greet with a hug, most are coupled, some wear wedding rings. There’s a poster that says “Celebrate Diversity” and a bowl of condoms on the reception desk, next to resource brochures.

As the group moves inside a small, white-walled conference room, there’s a palpable joy—people are about to gain rights previously denied them, a rare and beautiful sight, like a comet—but the event is practical; an attorney is here to navigate the statutes. A harrowing thing, that. It’s the next stage of democracy: sorting out what you passed, figuring out how it will work. There are several workshops planned.

Before you dive in, family attorney Jim Davis tells the group, get a prenup. This is the real thing. Where there is domestic partnership, and union of property, there is the dissolution of domestic partnership. Doesn’t get much more American than that. Be smart, he cautions, and welcome to the world of community property.

After Davis wends through the how-to, an ACLU representative steps up. “I’m here to tell you what you didn’t get. It’s a state law; the federal government will not recognize your domestic partnership in Nevada.”

III. “In a revolution, as in a novel, the most difficult part to invent is the end.” –Alexis de Tocqueville

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