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Sen. DeMint of S.C. Is Voice of Opposition to Health-Care Reform
Peggie Jenkins, 57, a machine operator at a large bakery here, said Obama's health-care plan "inspired me. . . . He's trying to help all the people, especially the ones losing their jobs. I don't listen to all that negativity out there."
DeMint, 57, who before entering politics owned a small marketing business and struggled to negotiate affordable health-care coverage for his dozen or so employees, said fixing the system has been one of the main causes of his career. But he considers Democratic plans a threat to freedoms Americans treasure.
Since arriving in Washington in 1999 as a House member, DeMint has been on a crusade against the bureaucracy of the federal city. He sought to abolish the federal tax code and once staged a rally in his home town of Greenville, where he tossed all 17,000 pages of the Internal Revenue Service tax code from a hot-air balloon.
"I'm working with a lot of people up here [in Washington] who don't really understand the health insurance market," he said. "I don't think anyone in his Cabinet, or Obama himself, understands the business. I've been around doctors all my life.
"We need some real health-care reform," he added. "So, Mr. President, get your hands off of my health care and let's make health insurance work better."
James L. Guth, a political scientist at Furman University, said of DeMint: Health care "in many ways kind of crystallizes all of the concerns he used to start with. His first campaign slogan was 'Bring Freedom Home,' and he sees all of these government programs as a gradual encroachment of American freedom."
Some medical professionals here in Lexington County agree.
"Whenever I mention it to patients, they are afraid," said John G. Black, a longtime internist at Lexington Medical Center and president of the South Carolina Medical Association. "You could go to any state in the union and you could find patients and physicians who are afraid they will lose freedom in making medical decisions."
In other pockets of the state, the reaction to Democratic proposals has been strong, too. At a recent town-hall meeting in suburban Simpsonville, a man stood up and told Rep. Robert Inglis (R-S.C.) to "keep your government hands off my Medicare."
"I had to politely explain that, 'Actually, sir, your health care is being provided by the government,' " Inglis recalled. "But he wasn't having any of it."