According to an article in The Hill this morning, seven states–Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and Wisconsin, all headed by Republican governors–have decided to opt out of the provision in the Affordable Health Care Act that expands Medicaid. Another eight–Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, all of which except Missouri have Republican governors–are leaning that way. If it weren’t for the fact that some real people are going to continue to suffer hardships unnecessarily, this would make for an interesting experiment. Who will fare better, in terms of health, in terms of economics, and in terms of politics: those governors and states who take the money, or those who leave it on the table?
There are too many variable to make a good prediction, to be sure, but it says here that the Republicans will suffer. It feels too much like what Pete Wilson did in California in 1994. As an article in the current issue of The Economist reminds us, Wilson, a capable, savvy Republican governor in the conservative Reagan mold, “pushed aggressively for a law to deny public services and benefits to California’s growing number of illegal immigrants. This tarnished the Republican brand among Latino voters, many of whom might otherwise have been well disposed to a party with a pro-business, pro-family message.” As the article points out, no Republican currently holds statewide office in California, and no Republican has been elected to the Senate since 1988. Only 19 of the state’s 53 congressmen are Republicans, who have also lost their majority in the state assembly. Latino voters, obviously, remembered who tried to help them, and who sought to stigmatize them.
Yes, arguing by historical analogy is a fool’s game, but I can’t see how this decision to opt out is going to lead to the big Republican restoration. Quite the opposite, I believe. The poor, the working poor, the working class who are always just a prolonged illness or injury from a place on the welfare rolls–they are going to know that people like them in some states are a lot better off than they are, and the explanation for their suffering and anxiety will be obvious. The Republicans might have a shot, of course, if Joe Stalin was still parading ICBMs through Red Square or Osama bin Laden was still treating us to performances from Club Tora Bora, but there is nothing happening right now that is going to enable Republicans to Booga Booga the electorate into voting for them. They can’t pull a misdirection. The party that wants to deny health care to the working poor is the party who wants to preserve tax cuts for hedge funds operators. Their candidate is the multimillionare Mitt Romney, who famously said that he didn’t “care about the poor” because the poor would be taken care of, a covenant he has entrusted to lipless Mitch McConnell, who wants to repeal the health care act and replace it with something in which insuring 30 million uninsured people “isn’t the issue.”
When Terry Francona was the managing the Boston Red Sox, he was asked his reaction to some early season defeat. He wasn’t inclined to put too much weight on any one game, he said, but you did have to “respect the loss.” What a great phrase. There are reasons why a team loses. Sometimes it’s a fluke, sometimes it’s bad luck, sometimes it’s an uncharacteristic failure at an inopportune moment, and sometimes the other guy cheats. But game in and game out, the outcome has to do with one team’s weaknesses and the other team’s strengths, and until you understand that–until you respect the loss–the loser will just keep losing.
The Republicans lost the election of 2008, they lost the health care debate in Congress, and they lost last week in the Supreme Court, and still they do not respect the loss. Now a bunch of their governors are going to opt-out of expanding health care to the working poor just to make sure that everyone grasps just how un-American they are. Well boys and girls, welcome to the Hotel California.