On November 21, 1999, the New York Times wrapped up the legislative session with an article on the lack of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans. Each party blamed the other for partisanship. Republican Representative Dick Armey of Texas accused House Democrats of stopping every piece of legislation whenever possible so that they could run against a “do-nothing” Congress: “They disclaim partisanship as if they’re perfectly innocent.” Missouri Democrat Richard Gephart responded, “The answer to that is ‘rubbish’…” He “ticked off a list of Democratic priorities, from overhaul of the campaign finance law to regulation of health maintenance organizations to gun control. He then accused the Republicans of intransigence.” This article illustrated the rancor between the parties through quotations of the congressional leadership. As each side sniped at the other, it proved its point.
MacGregor suggests that Republicans reached out to work with Democrats who were intent on not just killing any conservative proposition, but killing the party. Although Democrats were not the majority party in the House, they did have the veto power of a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, to fall back on.
While the traditional caduceus features two snakes coiled benevolently around a winged staff, MacGregor’s caduceus has five tying up John Q. Public, biting both the donkey and the elephant, and threatening one another. This drawing critiques the rancor between Republicans and Democrats over healthcare reform.
On March 27, 2010, Congress recessed after passing healthcare reform legislation. Opposition to the healthcare law was both vocal and physical. The New York Times reported, “Republican lawmakers proudly took to a House balcony to fan the anger of a throng, some of whom spit on Democratic members and shouted racist and homophobic jeers.” Threats of assassinations prompted the Senate sergeant-at-arms to caution those returning to their home states to “remain vigilant.” After characterizing the mood of the nation as “Armageddon,” House Minority Leader John Boehner said of the emotional fall-out, “I know many Americans are angry over this health care bill.” In addition, Tea Party activists stated plans to confront Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in his hometown of Searchlight, Nevada in order to express their displeasure with the vote.
MacGregor suggests that at the time of the healthcare reform vote, there was significant rancor by both sides over the issue, and in the middle of the fracas is the “everyman” John Q. Public. Moreover, two years later, and after the Supreme Court upheld the reforms, support for each side was still evenly divided. On July 4, 2012, the Times stated that Americans were just as divided over healthcare reform as they had been when it passed in 2010.