By Robert Scheer
Oct 8, 2013
Before he was disgraced into resigning his presidency over the Watergate burglary scandal, Richard Nixon had successfully engineered an even more odious plot known as his Southern Strategy. The trick was devilishly simple: Appeal to the persistent racist inclination of Southern whites by abandoning the Republican Party’s historic association with civil rights and demonizing the black victims of the South’s history of segregation.
That same divisive strategy is at work in the Republican rejection of the Affordable Care Act. GOP governors are largely in control of the 26 states, including all but Arkansas in the South, that have refused to implement the act’s provision for an expansion of Medicaid to cover the millions of American working poor who earn too much to qualify for the program now. A New York Times analysis of census data concludes that as a result of the Republican governors’ resistance, “A sweeping national effort to extend health coverage to millions of Americans will leave out two-thirds of the poor blacks and single mothers and more than half of the low-wage workers who do not have insurance, the very kinds of people that the program was intended to help. …”
Why anyone who claims to be pro-life would want to deny health care to single mothers is an enduring mystery in the morally mischievous ethos of the Republican Party. But the exclusion of a working poor population that skews disproportionately black in the South is simply a continuation of the divide-and-conquer politics that have informed Republican strategy since Nixon.
The game plan of gutting the Affordable Care Act despite its passage into law and before its positive outcomes are demonstrated can be traced to a “blueprint to defunding Obamacare” initialed by the GOP conservative leadership under the aegis of Heritage Action for America. Ironically that is the political front of the Heritage Foundation, the leading GOP think tank that is credited by some architects of Obamacare as the initial inspiration of their health care program. The difference is that whereas the Heritage Foundation was pushing a mild health care reform based on increased profit for private insurers, as in the plan Mitt Romney introduced in Massachusetts, the Republicans object to the provisions in this president’s program that broaden access for the needy.
They were abetted in this decision by a Supreme Court ruling last year granting the states the option of not expanding Medicaid to cover the uninsured under the new act. As a consequence, 8 million of our fellow Americans with annual incomes of less than $19,530 for a family of three have been prevented from obtaining the health care coverage that we as a nation decided to grant them.