The Democrats won and the Republicans lost. That, in a nutshell, is the bottom line. After 15 roiling months of bitter and divisive debate, the nation’s first African-American president, Barack Obama, in harness with the first female Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, made history. It was, as the frequently excitable Vice-President Joseph Biden put it, “a big fucking deal.”
The United States has been struggling for 98 years to enact health-care coverage for all. And while “Obama care” still will not extend to an estimated 15 to 17 million of the nation’s citizens, it is a pretty good start.
Ninety-eight years is a long time. The Republicans, a handful of conservative Democrats, and the tea-bagger crazies have been lying through their teeth in their attempts to convince the American people that health care for all is a dangerous and ill-conceived idea.
Republican turned Bull Moose progressive Theodore Roosevelt first proposed national health care in 1912. In the years that followed, his cousin, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, championed the cause; so did presidents Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton — all to no avail. America may be a deeply conservative — at times even reactionary — country, but sooner or later it gets things right.
Obama’s health-care bill, however, is not an end; it is a beginning. Political life has been forever altered. Republican vows to repeal the measure are hollow threats.
There is little doubt that the Democrats will give up seats in the upcoming mid-term elections. The majority party historically loses leverage two years after winning the White House. But even if the Republicans were to regain control of the House of Representatives (a not unreasonable bet), it is unlikely that they will achieve the 67 votes needed in the Senate to override Obama’s sure-fire veto of any attempt to nullify health-care reform.
What about the lawsuits filed by 14 state attorneys general — 13 Republicans and one Democrat — that seek to have the law declared unconstitutional? The answer is a bit murkier, although most legal experts warn that the Supreme Court is traditionally reluctant to overturn acts of Congress. The fact that no such challenge was even attempted here in Massachusetts, ground zero for health reform, also might speak to such a challenge’s viability.
Further complicating this ploy of unconstitutionality: the provision it seeks to strike down, which levies fines on those who are required to enroll in health care but refuse to do so, does not take effect until 2014.
Would the Supreme Court act in real time to nix something the legislative branch requires in the future? Common sense and precedent would suggest no. But the knuckleheads who constitute the five-justice conservative majority in the court already demonstrated their willingness to defy common sense and congressional intent when they ruled that corporations can make unlimited political-campaign contributions.
Although the fight has not gone out of the Republican snakes, the ground has shifted underneath them.
A day after the health-care bill passed the House, a CNN poll found that a majority opposed it. Twenty-four hours later, a USA Today and Gallup poll reported 49 percent considered it “good” and 40 percent “bad.”