Remember the word we heard when some of us were young (on
the TV show, The $64,000 Question, for example) , the
supposedly longest word in the dictionary? Yes, I am speaking
of “antidisestablishmentarianism.” But do you ever remember
anyone using this word in a real sentence? Not very likely.
But now we can. We have an elected figure at the top of the
political food chain who is practicing it big time. I am speaking
of none other than President Barack Obama. He is practicing
a high stakes “antidiseastablishmentarianism” by resisting
overwhelming public opinion against Obamacare, now the
newly established reform of medical care insurance in the U.S.
The term originated in Great Britain in the 19th century in efforts
to disestablish the Church of England (Anglican) as the official
religion in what are now the United Kingdom and Republic of
Ireland. The Irish did do this in 1871, and later became an
independent nation. Wales disestablished the Anglican Church
in 1920, but remained part of the U.K. Since the English monarch
is also the head of the Anglican Church, the movement continues
to this day.
Since there is no official church in the U.S., the term can perhaps
be applied to the secular head of the American state, the president,
and any policies he establishes through legislation. (Mr. Obama
is also attempting to “establish” a new role for the chief
executive by expanding the president’s powers of “executive
orders” as a way of bypassing the constitutionally enumerated
powers of Congress. Few observers, however, believe he can
succeed in this latter attempt since it would require a
constitutional amendment to establish it.)
Obamacare, on the other hand, is now the “established” law of
the land. It is also a political disaster, immensely unpopular,
and risks bringing the president and his party a massive
political defeat in this year’s national mid-term elections.
The president’s supporters, especially former house speaker
Nancy Pelosi and current senate majority leader Harry Reid,
argue that Obamacare cannot be repealed, but this appears to
be wishful thinking on their part. With huge numbers of
Americans suddenly without insurance, unable to sign up
for mandatory Obamacare, or forced to pay for medical
insurance that is more expensive with less coverage than
their previous insurance, there can be little doubt that
Obamacare could be disestablished.
On the other hand, there are many Americans, albeit a minority
of them, who benefit from Obamacare, especially those
with pre-existing conditions, those who need “portability”
of their medical insurance, and the very poor. Mr. Obama and
his supporters have counted on these Americans to make
“disestablishment” politically impossible. At the same time,
the designers of Obamacare made it necessary for young
Americans, most of whom did not previously buy any medical
insurance, and healthy Americans, most of whom rarely use
their insurance, to pick up the tab for those who will cost the
program the most.
The problem is that young Americans are not signing up for
Obamacare (using a waiver) and many, many healthy Americans
are upset because they cannot either sign up at all, or when they
do, they are paying much more for less coverage.
President Obama is betting that by “doubling down” and
refusing to compromise or retreat on Obamacare he will truly
“establish” it as part of U.S. domestic policy --- his political
legacy, if you will. He might succeed. But first he will have
to keep control of the U.S. senate and keep his opposition from
increasing their control of the US. house. Furthermore, although
he will not face the voters again, his party will nominate someone
to succeed him in 2016. If further revelations about Obamacare
demonstrate its unsustainability, as many have predicted, it is
difficult to imagine the 2016 Democratic nominee, whoever she
or he is, as someone supporting Obamacare
Duke Ellington once wrote a popular song called “You’re just
an old antidisestablishmentarianismist.” Will they be playing
that song again in the next few years?
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All right reserved.