As we walked into the passenger lounge in Chicago’s Union Station on our way home, the TVs were all on “breaking news”–the Supreme Court had upheld the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare” by a 5-4 vote.
There’s much that could be said about the Court’s decision–and virtually all of it has now been said. Initially, most legal scholars had predicted this result, which was dictated by relevant precedent; however, recently, Scalia had gone out of his way to reject those precedents, including his own prior rulings, stirring speculation that the Court might overturn the Act. (Scalia’s behavior, in several recent cases, has been so bizarre as to generate a cottage industry in armchair psychology…with one notable Court observer suggesting that he has “jumped the shark.”)
Lawyers and legal scholars will be in hog heaven dissecting the decision, the dissent, and what many attribute to Chief Justice Roberts’ concern that a contrary ruling would further damage the legitimacy of a politicized Court. I’ll leave those arcane arguments to them. What I have found utterly amazing–and ludicrous–is the public reaction from the right.
It is perfectly acceptable to disagree with the Supreme Court. I do it all the time myself. It is perfectly acceptable to dispute the wisdom of the ACA as policy. I’d have preferred a “Medicare for All” approach myself (although I recognize the political constraints that made such a solution to our health care crisis impossible). But the hysteria that greeted the Court’s ruling is quite simply astonishing. People are threatening to move to Canada (which has truly socialized medicine), comparing Obama’s effort to extend access to health care to Hitler’s Germany…this is the stuff of mass psychosis.
And then there is Mike Pence.
The man who has been blanketing our airwaves with soft-focus, “just a Hoosier like you” thirty-second ads, the man who is skillfully rewriting his own history to obscure his radical persona, just couldn’t stay in (his newly assumed) character. Pence compared the Supreme Court’s ruling to 9/11.
Think about that for a moment. A President and a majority of the legislature recognized that America had a healthcare crisis. Fifty million people could not afford health insurance, while spiraling costs posed a huge threat to the economy. Half of all personal bankruptcies were due to medical emergencies…I could go on, but you know the drill. The President and Congress addressed the problem with a complex piece of legislation.
And this–in Mike Pence’s strange reality–was equivalent to a terrorist attack. Trying to provide universal access to medical care is just like killing 3000 innocent people.
Pence immediately tried to walk this obscene reaction back, by calling it a “thoughtless” remark. As a friend of mine observed, thoughtless is when you forget your anniversary.
In what reality is an effort to fix a national problem, an effort to provide health care to children with pre-existing conditions, an effort to reign in abuses by insurance companies, a national calamity? What accounts for such a bizarre and disproportionate response to a measure that was first proposed by Republicans like Bob Dole, and first instituted at the state level by none other than Mitt Romney?
Someone recently said that if Obama endorsed oxygen, Republicans would suffocate themselves. This irrational response to a piece of well-intentioned legislation would seem to prove the point.