Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot
Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.
Many people think of the right’s Obamacare hatred as an outgrowth of straightforward partisan and ideological truths. Movement conservatives broadly oppose the idea of taxing wealthy people to subsidize the lower and middle classes. They don’t like regulating the private sector very much either. Add in the political incentives they faced to uniformly oppose President Obama’s agenda, the zero Republican votes for the Affordable Care Act, and you’ve planted seeds of lasting hostility.
But the hostility has become so deeply rooted that it now stands on its own, detached from the ideological and partisan antipathies that gave rise to it.
It has forced conservatives to blind themselves to the law’s positive, unobjectionable qualities, and police those within their ranks who dare to acknowledge them.
Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall called this reactionary phenomenon Obamacare McCarthyism. It ensnared Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., who’s running for Senate in 2014 and had the temerity to suggest that Republicans shouldn’t just idly mock the law when it stumbles. A few years ago, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wy0., said he liked the concept of insurance exchanges — which are crucial components of GOP-backed Medicare privatization proposals and other conservative reform ideas — and now a hardline super PAC is using his words against him, as if he’d called for the creation of a public option.
But on the battlefields of partisan warfare, this sort of post-principled contempt, combined with the inception of benefits, has turned the fight over Obamacare from a dispute over first principles, into a culture war, in which signaling matters more than tactical victories.
The repeal campaign — once marked by earnest and sustained efforts to wipe the law off the books — has all but burned itself out. But the law remains a potent political organizing force — a rallying cry Republicans believe they can use to channel the right’s Obamacare obsession into voter turnout.
An astute friend remarked to me on Tuesday that the GOP’s position on Obamacare is coming to resemble its position on abortion in one key way: loudly, consistently, uniformly opposed, but ultimately not really driven to eliminate it. The backlash they’d face would be brutal, but they might stand to gain by fighting it on the margins and keeping the issue alive.
The comparison holds at a state level too. The most effective Obamacare saboteurs have been GOP governors and legislatures who resisted the opportunity to create their own exchanges and have refused to expand Medicaid with federal dollars, as the law allows.
More generally, conservatives are wielding Obamacare the way they wielded culture war issues in the 1990s. The particulars are enormously different, but the political objectives are similar: pick an issue that both unites conservative voters and appeals to the discontent of moderates and use it first and foremost to fracture the Democratic coalition.
I don’t think they’re going to fracture the Democratic coalition. But I can imagine the issue remaining an effective mobilizing tool for an otherwise agenda-less party through the end of Obama’s presidency.
Of course, the culture wars of the ’90s didn’t all unfold the same way. Abortion and gun rights have proven to be more durable polarizing tools than immigration and gay rights.
My suspicion is that over time, as Affordable Care Act beneficiaries become friends, neighbors and family members of the law’s most ardent foes, hostilities will wane. The word “Obamacare” will have much less unifying power on the right when the law has 30 million beneficiaries than it does with 1 million; and liberals will protect it from broader attacks on social insurance programs with relish, just as they use conservative Medicare and Social Security privatization proposals to their political benefit.
But the bitterness won’t just disappear. We’re a long way from Southern governors clamoring for the Medicaid expansion, or building their own exchanges, let alone directing their own constituents to enroll on Healthcare.gov. And that’s a huge bummer for uninsured people in those states who hoped Obamacare would work as well for them as it’s likely to work in the rest of the country.
Brian Beutler is Salon's political writer. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @brianbeutler.More Brian Beutler.
Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China
Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti
“Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA
Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.
Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada
Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway
Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.
Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.
Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million
Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.
Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon
Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.
Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico
Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.
Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.