I was digging around in some of the old articles I wrote for the BYU Political Review, and found this gem. I wrote it in 2009, but the argument is still very applicable.
A house divided against itself cannot stand—it never has and never will
We look to the mistakes of the past to learn and become less likely to repeat them.
However, in passing Obamacare, we have made the same mistake that we did in passing the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act. Once again, we have ignored the true issue (federal vs. state priority in governance) and focused on the current big-ticket problem (now healthcare, then slavery).
The Kansas-Nebraska Act was a good idea. The South wanted slavery in the West; the North didn’t. Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas proposed a solution whereby the western territories would vote on the decision by popular sovereignty. Instead of dealing with the real issue of getting Southerners and Northerners to work together, the act postponed the inevitable conflict while raising the stakes. This made the civil war a more bitter fight. Instead of a localized fight between the South and the North in the eastern half of the country, the act included the West. In reality, the act polarized the nation even further. When legislation is used to cover rather than heal deeper wounds, disease persists and a nation ultimately suffers.
Obamacare is analogous to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. For, rather than truly espousing principles of democracy, it paints a façade over them. Forcing people to get health insurance or face tax penalties does not coincide with the actions of a republic. Regardless of whether the nation needs to overhaul or re-assess the healthcare system isn’t the issue; it is the manner in which the legislation was created and enacted which is. Rushed, ill-thought-out and ill-planned, plagued with a series of ear marks—Obamacare does not represent the will of the people, but rather the government’s will forced upon them. The Kansas-Nebraska Act is similar in that the act was ill-thought out, ill-planned and rushed through congress, without recognizing or acknowledging future ramifications. The Kansas-Nebraska Act brought bloodshed to the Midwest, and debates over Obamacare will bring serious conflict to the nation. The degree of conflict has yet to be decided. Obamacare, like the Kansas-Nebraska Act, buries the real problems and contentions of the American people, namely deeper questions as to the nature of government’s role. The issue of strong central identity vs. strong individual rights has been an issue for centuries, but it has become more divisive in recent decades.
Recently, there has been a strong populist sentiment against a nationalist/centralist identity, with people identifying more with community and state rights. Obamacare is a“postponing bill” that will eventually be the catalyst for an inevitable conflict between the American people over state vs. central government roles.
Those opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act were thought reactionary, pessimistic and un-American. Opponents of Obamacare are being treated similarly because the legislation raises questions of the proper role of government in the lives of individuals. The two polarized sides of the healthcare debate are not breeding unification. By ignoring conservatives’ inflammatory temperaments, the Democrats’laissez-faire approach of ignoring the opposition, no matter how moderate, corrodes democracy. The tension between these two forces will inevitably explode. Ignoring the issue of federal versus local governance only increases the number of Americans who mistrust central government.