We can all stop pretending continued Republican anger about the Affordable Care Act is news. Some figured a Supreme Court ruling would settle things. And since the GOP said it was unconstitutional with the same fervor as people who’ve read the Constitution—it was easy to assume a decision from the nine justices in the highest court in the land—regardless of the outcome—would chill them out.
They would say things like “We are a nation of laws.” Things they say when they agree with the law—however unjust it may be (i.e. immigration).
No instead there are calls for revolt. The perennially reasonable Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) said in a written statement: “Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be ‘constitutional’ does not make it so.” And then added, “The whole thing remains unconstitutional.” Which is akin to saying just because something is a law doesn’t make it legal. Or just because they have hair on their face doesn’t make them mammals. The court, not some junior senator from a small state, ultimately decides what is or what is not constitutional. But unconstitutional is the word conservatives use for illegitimate. In chess this move is called flipping the board over and stomping away.
But it also feeds into the right-wing narrative that they are history’s most frequent victims. To them, the more egalitarian the country becomes the more persecuted conservatives are. The sentiment can be traced back to 1845 and the founding of the Know Nothings, a nativist group concerned the country was being overrun with German and Irish immigrants. The current tea party finds its sympathies much more inline with the Know Nothings than anyone who ever threw tea in the Boston Harbor. They’re each backlash movements sparked by “change.”
The Know Nothings became split on the issue of slavery and in the southern states morphed into what we identify as the Confederacy. Here you have a region of the country that quite literally fired the first shots of what was to be the bloodiest war in American history and to hear them tell it, it was the “war of Northern aggression.”
The Civil War for many didn’t settle things so why would we assume a 5-4 decision could?
Conservatives are still mad about the New Deal, even though it worked to pull the country out of the Great Depression. They’re still miffed about women suffrage, the Civil Rights Act and Roe v. Wade. In fact any movement forward giving more people more rights and greater acceptance is a point of contention with conservatives. Gay rights is framed as Christians losing their rights to vilify whomever they want. Women not being forced to pay for birth control out-of-pocket is the government restricting the freedom of religion institutions to dictate policy to the government.
Conservatives in the current incarnation of the Republican Party think rights are a zero sum game. If one group gains acceptance, it means another falls out of favor. The cornerstone of trickle down economics is that a rising tide raises all boats—but not when it comes to social change in the right-wing mindset. Then there are winners and there are losers. And conservatives on some level have to lose to prove their preexisting condition: They’re not bullies but martyrs—always hanged in the public square for their belief that only they should benefit from the Bill of Rights.
The Affordable Care Act is a law of social change. It insists on greater equality for women in health care. It stands up for the sick over the bottom line. It’s a step forward for human rights (finally) in our medical system. And it mandates personal responsibility (as with most laws). It’s far from perfect, and as with anything it can stand improvement—but does that make it an affront to Republicans?
In a word: Yes.
It’s health care reform policy, Republicans, going all the way back to Nixon, have touted as a way to avoid socialized medicine in America. So naturally its implementation is a major loss for their team.
Now more Americans can get private medical insurance and insurance companies have to spend a higher percentage of premiums on actual health care—but most importantly conservatives get to be the victims of “a communist plot to kill our freedom.”