Prof. Lichtenstein Publishes Op-Ed in the LA Times

Historical comparison of tactics used to resist desegregation and Affordable Care Act

OP-ED
Obamacare: New fight, old tactics
Opponents of the healthcare law are following in the footsteps of Southern segregationists half a century ago.

By Nelson Lichtenstein
September 8, 2013
Last month, Americans took pride in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Unfortunately, we are also revisiting a far darker episode in our history, a civil rights-era conflict that tells us much about the hurdles facing President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the most ambitious piece of social legislation enacted in almost half a century.

That episode was the “massive resistance,” a policy pushed by a phalanx of Southern white politicians, journalists and local worthies who organized in the 1950s and early ’60s when the courts, the federal government and the civil rights movement pressed for desegregation of public schools and the end of Jim Crow racism in American life. Rather than consent to the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, which ordered an end to segregation in public schools, Southern governors and legislatures declared that they would refuse to implement the law and, if necessary, close schools. Their policy would later extend to efforts to shut down pools, parks and other public facilities that courts had ordered integrated.

In Congress, the Southern delegation stood firm against federal action in support of civil rights. Across the South billboards went up: “Impeach Earl Warren,” the chief justice who presided over the court’s 9-0 decision in the landmark 1954 case.

Today, the Republican opponents of Obamacare, and especially those hailing from the old Confederacy, have dusted off just about every tactic and ruse once deployed by Southern segregationists. House Republicans have taken 40 votes to repeal Obamacare. But the real battle over the fate of the law will take place at the state and local level.

And, as in the 1950s in the case of civil rights, the Supreme Court has inadvertently given opponents — this time of healthcare reform — a green light. In 1955, the high court declared that desegregation should proceed with “all deliberate speed,” which integration opponents interpreted as permission to drag their feet. In 2012, when the Roberts court ruled that states could reject the large expansion of Medicaid called for in the original Affordable Care Act, virtually every Republican legislature and governor in the South did just that, spurning the chance to enroll hundreds of thousands of their residents in the new federal program.

When Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott sought to expand the low-income insurance program, tea party Republicans called him a “Benedict Arnold” and the state legislature rejected his proposal. Across the South, nearly half of all those denied the new Medicaid coverage are Latinos, African Americans and other people of color.

[for more, click the link below] hm 9/8/13


Post last modified: January 15, 2016