Earlier this month the Supreme Court, in a 7-2 opinion, turned back the third major legal assault on the Affordable Care Act, commonly called “Obamacare,” ruling not on the merits of the challenge itself but on the fact that the states and individuals who brought the challenge did not have legal standing to do so.
Those seven justices may very well have done Republicans an unsolicited political favor, saving them from another possible exposure as the autocratic, anti-democratic emperors with no clothes that they are. Should the Republican challenge have successfully persuaded the court that the ACA was in fact unconstitutional, tens of millions of Americans would have potentially found themselves bereft of health insurance, including some 133 million American who have protected pre-existing conditions. Trump and Republicans have long promised an alternative healthcare plan for Americans to replace the ACA but in fact have materialized no proposal whatsoever since the ACA was ratified over a decade ago.
Had the Supreme Court ruling abetted the Republican agenda of dismantling Obamacare, the fig leaf of the GOP’s false promises would have been shredded, exposing in all its nakedness not just Republicans’ utter perfidiousness but their complete lack of concern for Americans’ basic welfare, as well as their guiding principle that the role of government is not to prioritize the meeting of people’s basic needs in day-to-day governing and policy-making.
Republicans have long lambasted the ACA, even if erroneously, as socialist policy, trying to scare Americans, largely ignorant of what socialism actually is, with this political bogeyman that seems to conjure delusions of an oppressive autocratic government take-over their lives. Remember Senator Chuck Grassley’s peddling of the misinformation that the ACA would mean aging Americans would face “death panels” who would decide if they received treatment or left to die?
And, of course, the GOP fueled those protests mobilized by the slogan “Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare!” and refused to inform those protestors in any concerted way that Medicare was in fact a version of government-run health care.
At a 2009 town hall, then-President Barack Obama related, “I got a letter the other day from a woman. She said, ‘I don’t want government-run health care. I don’t want socialized medicine. And don’t touch my Medicare.’”
So, a fair number of Americans have fallen prey to the Republican rhetorical campaign of labeling these policies that serve their welfare as “socialist’” and hence as scary and undesirable.
And yet imagine where so many Americans would be without these “radical socialist” policies. They would be in a healthcare desert, searching thirstily and desperately for the oasis of the Republicans’ alternative healthcare policy that never materializes, that is but a mirage, a delusion.
Of course, Republicans continue to brand everything Biden and the Democrats pursue as a “radical socialist” agenda , from the American Rescue Act that provided relief to tens of millions of Americans in dire need to Biden’s infrastructure plan that similarly plans to address the needs of Americans not just by building roads and bridges but by creating a cleaner and safer environment, improving access to healthcare and education, and making sure Americans’ children receive proper care, among many other elements.
Again, we have to ask, where and in what shape would Americans and the U.S. economy be without the “radical socialist” agenda of the Biden administration?
After all, as relief checks were in the mail, Alicia Adamczyk reported for CNBC, “Almost 30% of Americans couldn’t cover all of their household expenses in late March, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data collected March 17-29. About 18 million adults are still going hungry each month.”
And Republicans still refused to acknowledge the reality that Americans were in dire need and continued to rail against the American Rescue Plan Act as “radical socialism.” Never mind that it promised to reduce child poverty in America by nearly half. We can’t have that kind of “radical socialism” in America.
And heaven forbid we have a government-run, nationally-coordinated plan to address the COVID-19 pandemic as a public health crisis and to distribute vaccinations, as opposed to continuing Trump’s and the GOP’s stubborn denial of the pandemic and complicity in encouraging Americans not to get vaccine in the name of preserving their personal freedom–that dang “radical socialism” that wants to promote Americans’ health and well-being and deprive them of their right to get sick and die and to make others sick!
Would Americans be safer? Would the economy be opening up? Would Americans be able to socialize, gather and go out, without this “radical socialism’?
Last Tuesday in Buffalo, Democratic candidate mayoral candidate India Walton, a nurse and community organizer as well as a self-proclaimed socialist, defeated the longtime incumbent in the primary, putting herself on the brink of becoming Buffalo’s next mayor.
She doesn’t shy away from but rather embraces the term “socialism,” explaining, “All it means is that I’m putting people first. People over profits. I’m representing the working class, the poor, the forgotten.”
Walton has a history of fighting for the rights, interests, and well-being of those in her neighborhood, whether it was fighting for rights to free parking when a large hospital and its employees were over-running the community or fighting for rights of community members, as opposed to outside interests, to determine what happened to vacant land in the neighborhood.
“I have responsibility to this community,” she said. “And, you know, I’m raising my children here. And I know the potential that Buffalo has. And I just want it to be realized. I want every person in Buffalo to have an opportunity to live a decent life. And I believe that under my leadership, that will be possible. We’re going to make that happen.”
Probably not so much.
Walton’s embracing of “socialism,” re-claiming it from the phobic Republican rhetoric, is a model for where our political culture needs to head in shamelessly advocating for people’s basic rights and well-being and for insisting the role of government is to serve the people and their needs first and foremost.
And let’s keep asking ourselves where we would be without this “radical socialism” Republicans want us to fear.
Tim Libretti is a professor of U.S. literature and culture at a state university in Chicago. A long-time progressive voice, he has published many academic and journalistic articles on culture, class, race, gender, and politics, for which he has received awards from the Working Class Studies Association, the International Labor Communications Association, the National Federation of Press Women, and the Illinois Woman’s Press Association.