SC GOP has nothing to fear from Obamacare

On a previous post, Burl brought our attention to an item on Daily Kos, under a picture of Nikki Haley:

Even in South Carolina, a state hostile to Obamacare expansion, hundreds of thousands of people are benefiting just from greater awareness of existing government programs for which they do qualify. And while most of those beneficiaries are children, those children have families who would appreciate access to similar services, if only Republicans would get out of the way.

But South Carolina is solidly Red, right? Romney won the state by 11 points, right? So it doesn’t matter! Except that in raw totals, Romney won by around 204,000 votes. And Republicans assume (perhaps rightly) that every Obamacare beneficiary will become much more favorable toward the government. And if you start thinking government can help you, Republicans don’t stand a chance….

That’s why Republicans continue to fight tooth and nail against Obamacare, from seeking its repeal to sabotaging its rollout. It’s an existential crisis. The more people benefit, the harder it will be for them to argue that government is irreparably broken and must be drowned in Grover Norquist’s bathtub.

Yeah, well…

I don’t think that’s right. That sounds like a liberal thinking wishfully.

Nationally, maybe Republicans worry about that. And it’s the kind of thing the Mark Sanfords of the world — the serious, more theoretical, pre-Tea Party libertarians who think in terms of a historical, apocalyptic dialectic in which democracy is doomed once people figure out they can vote themselves benefits — also fret over.

But as long as the following two conditions remain, the SC GOP as a whole has nothing to fear:

  • The GOP continues to attract most white voters in the state.
  • White voters outnumber black voters.

That’s because of a couple of characteristics commonly found among white South Carolinians: For centuries, the surest way to get their blood boiling has been to suggest that someone out there (i.e., the federal government) is messing in their business, trampling on their prerogatives. (How else do you think so many thousands who did not own slaves were persuaded to fight in the Confederate cause?) Add to that a deep resentment — that is certainly not confined to SC whites, but is a characteristic many of them share — at the idea that some undeserving someone is getting something, and they, the deserving salt-of-the-earth people, are paying for it.

Now someone’s going to get bent all out of shape and say I’m calling good, conservative Republican folk racists. But I’m not. Review my words. In fact, I’ll assert that even if more whites than blacks benefit from new health benefits, these attitudes remain the same.

What I’m describing are a couple of widely held political impulses, neither of which is inherently racist (even though those issues have gotten tangled up in race through our history). Both attitudes can be strongly defended, even though, with my communitarian leanings, I tend to portray them negatively.

The urge to self-determination is a natural impulse of the human soul. “State’s rights” may have gotten a bad rap historically because of its association with segregation, but the idea itself — that as many governmental decisions as possible should be made on the most local levels — is a sound one, closely related to subsidiarity, which I extol.

And there’s nothing wrong with not wanting one’s tax money wasted. If benefits are indeed going to “undeserving” recipients, then it’s only human to resent it.

The way race comes into my calculation arises simply from the fact that generally speaking, those two attitudes are more often found to motivate white voters than black voters.

Am I wrong about that? I don’t think so. Near as I can tell, whether these factors are openly acknowledged or not, both parties tend to operate on the assumption that these things are true…

1 thought on “SC GOP has nothing to fear from Obamacare

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    I just ran across this post from three years ago, and I found it really interesting. And yet, not a single comment.

    What’s wrong with you people?

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