A fast-moving line of violent thunderstorms known as a derecho hit Washington after nightfall the day after the Supreme Court upheld most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But nature’s wrath was nothing compared to the rage of tea partiers as the president they have vilified from the outset was handed a big win by Republican-appointed Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s four liberals.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) said, “Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be ‘constitutional’ does not make it so.” Mississippi Tea Party Chairman Roy Nicholson said, “The all out oppression of all people has begun. … In such cases submission is treason. … To resist by all means that are right in the eyes of God is not rebellion or insurrection, it is patriotic resistance to invasion.”
The founder of New Hampshire’s Merrimack Tea Party, Mike Malzone, said he hoped the five justices in the majority “get colon cancer.” Indiana Rep. Mike Pence (R), who is running for governor, compared the ruling to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Right-wing radio host Michael Savage attributed Roberts’s action to “cognitive problems” caused by his epilepsy medication. Roberts showed no cognitive problems when he joked that he would spend the summer in an impregnable island fortress.
This flood of lunacy and bile highlights the seizure gripping the Republican Party, which has slid into an unhealthy alliance between partisans whose ambition trumps principle, and nativists whose hatred of our biracial president forces the rejection even of Republican solutions once Obama embraces them. The gleeful Republican cry that the law’s “free rider” penalty is a tax ignores the fact that most people won’t owe it because they have health insurance. Nor does it conceal the incoherence of Mitt Romney demanding repeal of a law virtually identical to his own signature achievement as governor of Massachusetts. (As Louisiana’s Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal blurted out, it’s “Obamneycare.”)
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) plans a repeal vote without offering any alternative, giving Democrats a chance to stress the benefits that the GOP would take away. Those benefits were always more popular than the negative brand the Big Lie campaign about “death panels” succeeded in attaching to ACA as a whole. Already in early June, a New York Times/CBS News poll found that 52 percent of Americans think ACA is about right or does not go far enough.
Far from embodying the 2008 Republican slogan “Country First,” so-called conservatives, by replacing the normal wrestling match of governance with sheer obstruction, have helped a lunatic fringe’s denial of Obama’s legitimacy to metastasize into an assault on the legitimacy of any effort to “promote the general Welfare” per the Constitution’s preamble. The Republican governors of Texas, Louisiana and South Carolina, “lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification” (as Dr. King said of Alabama’s George Wallace in 1963), vow not to implement the law’s health insurance exchanges.
The ACA battle reminds us of the friend that women and minorities have in this president. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at the first White House Conference on LGBT Health in February, “The Affordable Care Act may represent the strongest foundation we have ever created to begin closing LGBT health disparities.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said after the Roberts ruling, “Being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition.” The right’s “You’re On Your Own” dogma treats these as bad things, even as congressional Republican champions of self-reliance enjoy their taxpayer-subsidized health care.
As we celebrate our republic’s birthday, Obama has the wind at his back. The Wagnerian dramatics over his ACA victory can serve as a caution to independent voters about the madness of the GOP as it drifts further from the governing center.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.