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"I hope we shall take warning": Citizens United, Direct Action And HCR

ntoddpax's picture

While we were sitting around drinking Kool Aid, writing agitprop and plotting the demise of HCR, fellow unqualified progressive MBW observed that there's a possibility that the Senate bill could run afoul with SCOTUS if challenged by virtue of the Printz decision over a decade ago.  Rightwingers certainly love that idea, some lefties take issue with it.  I'm not so sure if there's an opt-out or waiver clause whether the exchange provision really falls under "commandeering".

I have previously argued that the Federal government is empowered to provide health coverage, though I once again admit I ain't got conlaw experience.  I'm pretty sure my reasoning stands, I guess so long as there is no requirement for States to implement national policy in the manner Printz proscribes.  Providing for the General Welfare is a powerful thing but it can't intrude on States' prerogatives, which is yet another reason why I'd much prefer something like Medicare for All as opposed to individual and State mandates.

The larger constitutional question on my mind is about SCOTUS' ruling this week on Citizens United.  To me that was the final nail in the "fix it later" coffin.  I just don't see how we're going to get any further reform with corporations free to use their increasing largesse to influence elections even more--unless we agitate more, that is.

Adam Smith observed in The Wealth of Nations:

[The rate of profit] is naturally low in rich and high in poor countries, and it is always highest in the countries which are going fastest to ruin...As [merchants and master manufacturers'] thoughts...are commonly exercised rather about the interest of their own particular branch of business, than about that of the society, their judgment, even when given with the greatest candour (which it has not been upon every occasion) is much more to be depended upon with regard to the former of those two objects than with regard to the latter.

We're certainly going to ruin fast as the rate of profit grows ever higher.  Do we not think insurance companies will exercise their political thoughts--and now unfettered monies--about their business interests rather than that of society?

Fundamentally, a lot of folks trust the electoral process to be the sole mechanism for change.  Despite the Democrats' clearly demonstrated ability to look hapless and ineffective, for some reason party loyalists are desperate to pass the current they don't look hapless and ineffective.  That ship sailed a long time ago, I'm afraid.

Now is the time for bold action by the Majority to show they really are in charge instead of being weak and unable to govern even with a significant mandate.  Polls have shown that a good chunk of the People think the Senate offering doesn't go far enough, which is one component of the Democratic failure to keep Teddy's seat.  Shoving a shit sandwich down our throats isn't going to endear the party to the voters this November, so the worries about looking bad if "nothing" passes (as though there aren't other alternatives like, say...HR676 which is only 30-odd pages, could be read overnight and passed right over the Minority) are a bit confusing to me.

Of course the Majority isn't going to be bold.  Not without our help, anyway.  We need to take the lead and create the space for them to move into.

We do that by saying we will only accept a bill which includes women's health and coverage for all Americans.  We will only accept a bill which includes a public option and doesn't require states to establish exchanges.  We will only accept a bill that lets States establish their own single-payer programs and doesn't entrench insurance companies.

If our demands aren't met, we will do all we can to kill the simulacrum of reform that's being sold to us.  If our demands aren't met, we will push for primary challenges and in November won't support incumbents who voted for the bill.  If our demands aren't met, we will engage in escalating direct action.

I keep seeing a lot of resistance to direct action, which isn't so surprising but still disappointing.  As I've said before, a lot of it comes from a position of ignorance so I try to educate as much as I can without getting overly frustrated (with even less success on the latter than the former).  One of the biggest problems is people seem to think nonviolent direct action only comes in one flavor: big demonstrations with giant puppets and Free Mumia posters (and that ain't a straw man).

From that assumption, many other objections follow.  Marches can't work because we'll never get media attention.  Demonstrations can't shame the people in power any more.  Nonviolence only works against regime and can't bring about social change.

Never mind woman's suffrage, civil rights, collective bargaining...that's all history and Things Are Vaguely Different Now.

All power is derived from consent, whether in a democracy, dictatorship or fascist corporatocracy.  In our environment we have many ways to withdraw our cooperation and exercise our collective power.  We just need to employ some of those Methods persistently.

I started out my renewed series of tactics a couple weeks back with a discussion on withdrawal of funds from financial institutions, which has been used effectively time and again.  Tomorrow in my regular 198 More Sundays post I'll talk more about economic intervention as a tool for change.  In the meantime I echo what Thomas Jefferson once wrote:

I hope we shall take warning...and crush in it’s birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.

It's time to redouble our efforts both through political and non-electoral means.  If we mobilize now to crush the insurance industry's agenda, we can build upon a solid foundation to fight corporatism in other parts of our government and society.  For example, we can learn lessons from this struggle and with our newly energized base of grassroots activists finally get real campaign finance reform that SCOTUS can't toss aside.

The Left is not monolithic--our boon and bane, it seems--so not everybody will engage in, let alone agree on, every approach.  Yet I think we can all benefit from vigorous discussion of how to achieve our common goals by recognizing the value of our diversity, encouraging action over impotence, and respecting each other as allies who might have honest differences of opinion.

So let us take warning from Citizens United and work together for health justice instead of helping our opponents divide and conquer.


(Post at Pax Americana, Dohiyi Mir, Green Mountain Code Pink, Corrente and Daily Kos.)

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Submitted by lambert on

If Health Care Reform had been on offer, I would have been all over it like a cheap suit.

Unfortunately, what was on offer was Health Insurance Reform. Not at all the same thing.

As with PO, with HCR we have a case of reification through acronymization.

ntoddpax's picture
Submitted by ntoddpax on

I caught all sorts of flak at Great Orange Satan yesterday. Most people there are convinced that Congress has an HCR bill on the table. They seem...strident in their belief and think anybody who suggests alternatives drinks Kool Aid, is insane, is stupid, etc.

Oh, and everything's already been said and argued, so there's no point to further discussion. And progs who want more are the problem. And if you don't like the bill you're not even a prog anyway...

Submitted by lambert on

I put this mentally into the same bucket as category confusion between PO and real policy advocacy. My bad.

Kos? Strident? Incroyable...

Submitted by cg.eye on

acronym C.U.N.T now gets all respectable when its insufferable hijinx lead to a SCOTUS decision throwing open the doors for other swiftboaters to get in on the fun? Citizens United my shiny metal ass.

As long as a company's paying, they can produce any lies they want, providing they've got the bank for perfunctory court challenges....