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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 7/1/12

Buzz Windrip is Alive and Well

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  Depending on what you watch, read or listen to, the Supreme Court's landmark 5-4 decision upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare is either an overwhelming victory for freedom that will be the salvation of tens of millions, or a staggering defeat for individual liberty which signals the beginning of the end for America. That the majority decision was written by Chief Justice Roberts comes as a shock; it was largely assumed that he would vote against the Affordable Care Act (ACA).


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   Most -- though certainly not all -- Democrats are hailing the decision as a clear-cut victory for both President Obama and the tens of millions of Americans who currently have no health insurance, are saddled with pre-existing conditions, or are in danger of being "maxed out" on their current policies.  This swathe of America firmly believes that health care is a right, not a privilege.

   At the same time, nearly all Republicans are damning the high court's decision with some sounding a bit like President Andrew Jackson who allegedly responded to the court's decision in Worcester v Georgia (1832) by saying "[Chief Justice] John Marshall has made his decision; now let us see him enforce it." (In reality, Jackson never did).  Unbelievably, there have already been calls for the taking up of arms against the implementation of Obamacare. Paleoconservative chatterboxes like Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage have flatly stated that the only reason Chief Justice Roberts found the ACA constitutional  was that he was on medication which "introduces mental slowing" and "other cognitive problems."

   Despite the court's decision -- which makes the ACA the law of the land -- polls show the American public widely split over the issue of health care: 44% want Obamacare repealed; 37% wish it to remain in place.  It should be noted that included among the 44% are a sizeable number of progressives who never truly supported the Affordable Care Act because, in their estimation, it did not go nearly far enough. To their way of thinking, where single-payer, universal health care should have been the Affordable Care Act's focus, what America got instead was universal health insurance.

   The public's view of Obamacare is rather skewed -- thanks in large part to the nearly quarter-billion dollars that groups like Crossroads has spent on attack ads.  There are millions upon millions of Americans who still believe that Obamacare is socialist; that medical care will now be rationed, cost the taxpayers trillions of dollars, kill millions of jobs and give unlimited power to government bureaucrats who will decide who lives and who dies.  And yet, despite this, a majority of the American public has a favorable view of various parts of the ACA, such as those dealing with preexisting conditions, permitting children to remain on their parents' policy until age 26, and removing lifetime caps.  

  Many view the court's decision as a personal victory for Chief Justice John Roberts and the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) itself.  Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich noted that after so many 5-4 decisions in which conservatives held sway -- including, most infamously, 2000's Bush v Gore and Citizens United v FEC -- Roberts likely "saved the court from a growing reputation for political partisanship."  In the run-up to Thursday's decision, the lion's share of speculation surrounded Justice Anthony Kennedy  -- the court's so-called "swing vote" --  not the Chief Justice.  It was just naturally assumed that Kennedy's would be the decisive vote.  Then too, there was near universal agreement that the decision would hinge on the court's interpretation of the Commerce Clause. Applying what one scholar termed "convoluted constitutional logic," Roberts and the court's four liberal justices reasoned that the penalty to be collected by the government for non-compliance with the law is the equivalent of a tax . . . and the federal government has the power to tax. 

   So in the end, it was Roberts, not Kennedy, and Congress' right to tax, not the Commerce Clause, which would tip the balance . . .

   If America's political culture was peopled by remotely mature adults, Thursday's Supreme Court decision would have been met with a bit of cheering, a bit of groaning, and the understanding that this is now the law of the land.  But our political culture is not peopled with mature adults.  Rather, it is populated with playground bullies and petulant adolescents.  For no sooner had word gone out about the court's 5-4 decision than Governor Romney stood at an outdoor podium and proclaimed that he would repeal Obamacare on his first day in office.  (Someone should explain to him that presidents don't have the constitutional authority to simply repeal the law of the land -- unless they have a huge majority in the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate). Romney, the spiritual father of Obamacare, has yet to say what he would replace it with.  And small wonder, for he really doesn't have a clue.

   One response to the Supreme Court's decision which is gaining supporters sends a horrifying chill up the spine comes from within the bowels of the Militia Movement. Mike Vanderboegh, who calls himself one of the "midwives" of the Fast and Furious scandal (more about that in the coming weeks), is actually advocating armed insurrection.  Vanderboegh is of the opinion that the government has no right to force anyone to purchase anything -- like health insurance -- let alone levy a fine (actually a tax) and then enforce its collection.  Vanderboegh's solution is chilling to say the least:

  "If we refuse to obey, we will be fined. If we refuse to pay the fine, we will in time be jailed. If we refuse to report meekly to jail, we will be sent for by armed men. And if we refuse their violent invitation at the doorsteps of our own homes we will be killed -- unless we kill them first. ... I am on record as advocating the right of defensive violence against a tyrannical regime."

   Before anyone concludes that people like Mike Vanderboegh are on the absolute fringe of American society and are only supported by the seriously delusional, chew on this: Vanderboegh is a prime source and frequent guest on Fox News.  Vanderboegh is not the only one pushing disobedience and insurrection.  Many within the Republican ranks are turning the Supreme Court's decision into the 21st century version of "No taxation without representation!"  . . . and worse.

   Within hours of the SCOTUS's decision, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul announced that:

  "Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be "constitutional' does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional." While the court may have erroneously come to the conclusion that the law is allowable, it certainly does nothing to make this mandate or government takeover of our health care right."

   One fears for the future of politics in this country.  Ironically, while in the process of researching this article, I have been rereading -- for perhaps the 12th time -- It Can't Happen Here" by Sinclair Lewis.  Published in 1935, Sinclair's dystopian satire envisioned in thrall to a homespun fascist dictator named Berzelius ''Buzz'' Windrip. Buzz is a regular guy, personable, plainspoken, "with something of the earthy sense of humor of a Mark Twain . . . a Will Rogers."  Windrip cozies up to the electorate by stoking their disdain for fancy ideas, and encourages them to follow their hearts, not their minds. He appeals to rural white populism, knownothingism, cultural resentment and "good old-fashioned American values."   Windrip campaigns on he calls "New Freedom," which, it will turn out, is essentially a freedom from freedom.  Once elected, all hell breaks loose, because Buzz, it turns out, is really a tool -- and doing the bidding of -- the corporate elite.  By the time it begins to dawn on America what is really going on, it is too late; it has happened here.

   I am not suggesting that Mitt Romney is Buzz Windrip; goodness knows, he lacks the folksy common touch personified by Lewis' everyman.  However, there are hundreds -- if not thousands -- of Buzz Windrips running for various local, state and federal offices all over the country.  Many, if not most, are preaching a "return," a "taking back America" from the hands of "effete intellectuals," "socialists," "atheists," "heretics" and "illegals."  They are railing against the Federal Government, taxes, "socialized medicine" the "Nanny State," Food Stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, abortion and a thousand-and-one other things which they believe are sins against God, truth, justice and the American way.

   Aided by the unstinting largesse of mega billionaires like the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Harold Simmons, Warren Stephens and Kenny Troutt, Buzz Windrip is alive and well . . . and seeking to do one heck of a lot more than just repealing national health insurance.

-2012 Kurt F. Stone

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Kurt Stone is a rabbi, writer, lecturer, political activist, professor, actor, and medical ethicist. A true "Hollywood brat" (born and raised in the film industry), Kurt was educated at the University of California, the Eagleton Institute of (more...)
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