Obamacare Upheld: Everyone Relax
Photographs by Liz Gorman
The Supreme Court blinked. It looks like Obamacare is here to stay after all.
Speaking as someone a good deal left of liberal, I don’t quite know how to feel about it. Hurray? I think?
Don’t let anyone fool you: Corporate America is more than happy with Obamacare. We're now required by the state to buy the shittiest, most overpriced consumer product in American history. Obama built the barrel, we’re the fish, and Aetna is the grinning teenager standing over us with a loaded Glock.
But even with the tepid healthcare reform, the American ruling class—as paranoid as it is powerful—detects the faintest whiff of socialism. As any Democratic Party hack would inform you, there really is a significant possibility that health care in this country could become notably less shitty.
Sure, health insurance companies will still make out like bandits under Obamacare, but without it, they’d be enshrined as de facto feudal lords, taking us even closer to the Yakov Smirnoff reality we’re quickly approaching: in America, you insure health insurance company rather than the other way around! Which is how the American ruling class and conservatives like James Poulos from the Daily Caller, Hannity to my PCP-enhanced Colmes, would like to keep it. And that’s where the justices of the Supreme Court step in.
Jello Biafra once said that a judge was nothing but a lawyer who met a politician. District court judges buddy up to state senators. A SCOTUS justice is a lawyer who has made an unholy blood-oath to serve the American ruling class. He dabs his hands in his enemy’s viscera and streaks his fingers across face. He is the holiest of America’s holy warriors. Upon his ascension, the SCOTUS justice places a silken pouch in the palm of his chosen handler. Inside? His honor’s own severed testicles, sterilized and threaded onto a golden chain--proof of his undying fidelity.
It’s always been this way. Even the oligarchs think they’re scary. Peel back the ceremonial garb and legal arrogance and you’re left with the pale, flabby bodies of the ruling class’s last line of defense.
Once upon a time, progressives understood this. But in the last few decades, the left developed an unhealthy infatuation with the Supreme Court even as it slaps down democratic reforms. They see the most vicious justices—Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito—as interlopers in an august institution.
What they don’t understand is that insanely right-wing reactionary decisions are the historical norm for the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has given the thumbs-up to slavery (Dred Scott v. Sandford) and internment camps for American citizens (Korematsu v. United States), “whites only” public facilities (Plessy v. Ferguson), child sweatshop labor (Hammer v. Dagenhart), contracts forbidding workers from joining unions (Adair v. United States). Thumbs-down for minimum wages for women (Adkins v. Children's Hospital) and public school integration (Milliken v. Bradley). And just over a decade ago, they managed to steal a presidential election for a right-wing golden boy (Bush v. Gore).
Sure, not all the justices are crazy. But the liberals—Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan—are there mostly to mop up the blood and tsk, tsk the five shock-troops to their right.
So why are American liberals so confused about the very nature of the SCOTUS? Because, like conservatives, they have an unhealthy relationship with mid-century America.
Capitalism’s run itself up against the rocks? No problem! Let’s forge a Newer Deal, build a Greater Society, says the liberal.
During the Liberal Golden Age, from 1953 to 1969, Chief Justice Earl Warren led the most liberal SCOTUS in history—that “activist” court we still hear so much about from right-wing dweebs like Comrade Poulos.
So despite the fact that some of the most vicious, right-wing ghouls in American history ran the court from its inception in 1789 to today, liberals are still nostalgic for those 16 glorious years. But the fact is: the court liberals were strong because liberalism was strong. And liberalism was strong only when the left was strong. And the left was strong when organized labor was strong.
I hate to say it, but Obamacare is the best we’re gonna do for a while. And if you’re feeling kind of mixed about it, have a laugh at the expense of the right-wing nuts off crying in the corner. They’re nursing one hell of a case of blueballs. They were sure that they’d win this one.
One argument against Obamacare I hear from my fellow pinkos: “Once things gets bad enough, they’ll be forced to give us Medicare!” I hear this shit this on the left all the time. It’s called “the vulture theory of socialism”: the worse things get, the better. Anyone who thinks that the American political elite couldn’t possibly sit back and watch the health care crisis get worse and worse clearly hasn’t been paying attention. It’s been a crisis for at least a decade. They were never going to cry "uncle" as long as corporate profits continued to soar.
The sad truth is that mass-crises don’t transform the people into polite little Danish socialists. Crises make people paranoid, scared, mean and greedy. They become obsessed with the crumbs they have left—and are ready to fuck anyone that tries to lay their hands on them.
So pop a cork: the American Right was defeated. And we all know how fun it is to watch them blubber. Yeah, the health insurance industry is happy to keep Obamacare. But powerful industries don’t always know when they’re headed for the chopping-block--especially if its years or decades down the line.
Whether Obama likes it or not, health insurance is now officially on its way to becoming a public good. Maybe we’ll live to see it.
Connor Kilpatrick is the managing editor of Jacobin Magazine.