No shots have been fired. No blood has been spilled. But a second Civil War is underway, with a new breed of angry rebels “taking up where the Old Confederacy left off,” said Colbert King in The Washington Post. The Tea Party soldiers of this “New Confederacy” have seized control of the Republican Party, shutting down the federal government and threatening a default on the U.S. national debt unless President Obama delays or dismantles the Affordable Care Act. In a very real sense, “the Civil War never ended,” said Stephan Richter in Salon.com. “The same anti-Union spirit” that led to secession in 1860 still flourishes in the deep red states of the South, which see themselves as nobly resisting the “tyranny” of an illegitimate Northern president. In 1860, it was the end of slavery that the rebel states feared; today, it’s universal access to health care. Both times, these causes symbolized a deeper cultural struggle, with the rebels rejecting modernity as a threat to their very way of life. As Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) puts it, “This law is going to destroy America and everything in America, and we need to stop it.”
Let’s call this hysteria what it is—racism, said Jamelle Bouie in TheDailyBeast.com. It’s no coincidence that 10 of the 11 states of the Old Confederacy have refused to expand Medicaid access under the ACA; as a result of that decision, “the majority of people who will suffer are poor and black.” It’s also no coincidence that states most opposed to Obamacare also are instituting voter ID laws designed to keep poor minorities from voting. The resentful whites who make up the Tea Party “view themselves as besieged by minorities seeking free benefits,” said Andrew Sullivan in Dish.AndrewSullivan.com. They see Obama as a Pied Piper of check seekers, out to strip whites of their remaining wealth and privilege and “redistribute” the spoils of class war to the undeserving, dark-skinned poor.
Nonsense, said Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post. If Republicans’ “frantic fight” against Obamacare seems extreme in its tenor and tactics, that’s because for the first time in our nation’s history, a major piece of social legislation was rammed through by one party, without a single Republican vote. This affront to “constitutional decency” is what caused the Tea Party rebellion. The people in this movement “are sincerely motivated” to stop the growth of Big Government, said Michael Hirsh in NationalJournal.com. Since the New Deal, the federal government “has metastasized like a giant tumor,” and not even Republican presidents have stopped the explosive growth of expensive social programs. That’s why they hate Obamacare. Despite the wild fury of their rhetoric, “the Tea Partiers are not making their deeper grievances up.”
Welcome to “the new normal,” said Dan Balz in The Washington Post. The philosophical and demographic gulf between the two parties has become a chasm, making compromise almost impossible. Republicans are now the party of white, rural voters who live in terror of creeping socialism. Democrats, meanwhile, depend heavily on urban liberals and minorities, many of whom do receive government benefits. These two “competing camps live in parallel universes,” and regard the other side not only as wrong, but as evil. Compromise with the enemy is seen as a fatal capitulation. This bitter paralysis won’t end until voters decide they’ve had enough, and hand the entire “machinery of government” to one party. Until then, we’ll keep becoming a nation of “deeper blues, darker reds,” and perpetual dysfunction.