I find it helpful to see the court case as part of a fierce and vital battle over what kind of country we are going to be. There is a powerful, organized, well-financed assault on the modern (post 1929) state and on the advancements in democracy over the past century.
Destruction of the structures for the social distribution of a portion of society’s wealth developed in the Depression, and then even more after World War II, has long been a goal of corporate leaders, and their political organizations have never been quiet about it.
Prop 13 in California was 35 years ago. It was an outlier then, but not any more. Grover Norquist talked about shrinking government to the point where he could drown it in a bathtub years ago. The once hidden centers like the Koch Brothers and ALEC are now open for all to see.
The 1% don’t want any wealth distributed socially, and they don’t want any government obstacles standing in their way of taking it all. They have a head of steam and are not deterred by occasional setbacks or stumbles.
- The shocking attempts to restrict the right to vote are part of it. For those my age this is unthinkable. It took 100 years from 1865 to 1965 to create a semblance of universal suffrage. That very structure is being battered. Voter ID is the 21st century Poll Tax.
- The Citizens United declaration that corporations are people and can directly spend money on elections is part of this. The ruling says unions can do the same. Alas, corporations can spend all they want, while unions can spend all they have. This means it is easier for corporations and harder for real people to be engaged politically.
- The nationwide bi-partisan campaign against public education and public libraries, key components of modern democracy, it part of this full court press against modern democracy.
- The direct legislative attacks on public sector unions are part of it, as well as the coordinated right-to-work drives in the Northeast and Midwest.
- The court ordered end of gun control laws is part of this. Even more, their replacement with Stand Your Ground (License to Kill at Will) Laws.
- The attempts to remove all government regulatory agencies through legislation, court challenges or defunding, and often all of them, are part of this.
The list could go on, and others are urged to help socially construct a fuller description of what is happening.It is useful to see that the Supreme Court battle over the ACA is part of this attempt to delegitimize the modern state much more than a discussion over the best way to carry out health care reform. Ten or fifteen years ago it would have been unthinkable. Every element of the ACA would have been seen as a good or bad political decision, not a constitutional challenge. The mandate was one way among many to do things that all knew had to be done. No Medicaid expansion has ever been challenged in this manner. But that was all before the corporate – right wing felt they had to power for a full-scale attack on all fronts. That the nature of the Medicaid, as defective as it is, is facing its biggest test of legitimacy since 1965 is a sad marker of how far they have come and how much ground has we have lost in a relatively short time. The court case provides another opportunity to shut down the public, social activities of society in the name of freedom.
In this context, overturning part or all of the ACA can best be seen as a political victory for the opponents of universal health care, independent of any analysis of the ACA. It will be bad news. The struggle will continue, but under worse conditions.
Union organizers always say that the boss is the best organizer. And we all say that where there is repression there is resistance.
I think there is more than enough repression around right now, so much that we don’t need any more to come together in resistance.
Nick Unger sits on the National Board of Directors for UHCAN