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President Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA), which requires everyone to purchase health insurance and introduces new regulation of insurance companies, met the determined opposition of the Republican Party in Congress and then faced a constitutional challenge from Republican Attorneys-General on the state level. These were mysterious developments considering the similarity between "Obamacare" and Republican proposals in the 1990s and Governor Romney's program in Massachusetts. The ferocious opposition to the ACA can best be understood if the "Neoconfederate" dimension of today's Republican Party is considered.

What is Neoconfederate politics?

Neoconfederate politics is a theory and practice designed to disable government as an agent of social justice through the marriage of a frozen constitutional jurisprudence, an opportunistic federalism, and the mobilization of prejudice. It is rooted in the Southern experience with states rights as a shield to protect state regimes of worker exploitation and business dominance. Racial polarization sustains conservative power in many Southern states. Slavery has been replaced by low wages, union suppression, and the nullification of federal labor law. This model is not limited to the South. The Chamber of Commerce agitates nationally for a "favorable business climate," which amounts to the same thing.

The Federalist Society provides the fullest expression of Neoconfederate politics. It is a party within the courts. Federalist Society lawyers gave us the endless investigation of President Clinton, the halted recount in Bush v. Gore, the deregulation of corporate money in politics in Citizen United, and the constitutional challenges to the Affordable Care Act. A surprise move by Chief Justice Roberts saved the ACA. He voted to uphold the constitutionality of the ACA in order to protect the reputation if the Court. It was a strategic retreat to preserve future opportunities to advance the Federalist cause through such steps as the curtailment of affirmative action and enervation of the Voting Rights Act.

The Federalist Society was founded with contributions from conservative foundations (most notably Olin). The sum total of their program would be the repeal of the New Deal and Southernization of government policy. The ACA is anathema to Federalist Society leaders. It symbolizes a government that prohibits abuses by the private sector in order to extend opportunities to the marginal and vulnerable, who are inferiors in the Federalist view.

Of course, all of us are vulnerable and we owe it to ourselves to protect the public health, defend and expand the ACA, and expose the Neoconfederate philosophy that underlies Republican politics today.

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