Right now, we are witnessing an epic battle for the future of this country. And depending on how this battle turns out, America will either fulfill the ideals of its founders and become a society that works for everyone or surrender to the billionaire hustlers who want to destroy everything the Founders stood for.
The origins of this existential battle are pretty simple. Throughout this country’s history, believers in two different visions of what American society should be have duked it out over every single aspect of public policy.
On the one hand, there is the vision of America as a “we society,” a society that recognizes certain things, like health care or education, as basic rights, and agrees to provide these things in common to everyone, regardless of race or class.
This vision was shared by most of the founding fathers and by people like president Franklin Roosevelt, who proposed a Second Bill of Rights in his 1944 State of the Union address that would have made economic rights like education, housing, and Social Security protected under the Constitution just like the rights to free speech.
“We society” Americans believe that we’re all in this together and want to create a country that ensures that everyone can, if they wish, enjoy “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” They believe the best way to do this is to use government to regulate business and to provide things, like healthcare, that the free-market makes too expensive for everyday people to afford.
The other vision of society that has shaped this country’s history sees America as a “me” society. Believers in “me society” America, like the Tea Party’s favorite “philosopher” Ayn Rand, want individuals to get as much wealth as possible, even if doing so comes at the expense of the economy, the country, and even the planet.
The best way to do this, believers in a “me” society say, is to shrink government and let private enterprise or private charities provide services, like education or healthcare, that everyone needs to survive.
The richest .01 of Americans are natural defenders of a “me society.” That’s because doing so works to their benefit, and they frankly don’t give a damn about the rest of us. If they get sick, they can afford the best hospitals; if they have a kid, they can send them to the best schools. All they really care about is protecting their wealth, and they do so by lobbying for policies that deregulate big business and big banks.
Today, the difference between “me society” and “we society” America is probably best represented by two wealthy donors: George Soros and David Koch. Both men are multi-billionaires, but use their wealth to fund organizations with very different values and goals.
While Soros sends money to groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Council of La Raza, groups that ensure that our country provides equal opportunities for all, Koch and his brother Charles send their money to groups like the Heartland Institute and Mackinac Center, groups that work to dismantle protections for middle-class Americans and lobby for policies that benefit the corporate elite. Soros donates to programs which cut into the power of the wealthy and improve the lot of average Americans; the Kochs donate to programs which increase the power of the .01 percent.
It’s become almost a cliché for Democrats and Republicans to use the Kochs and Soros as bogeymen representing each other’s parties, but there’s a reason for this: their political activities show the divide between the goals of “we society” and “me society” America, goals shared by our two major political parties.
And right now, the number one goal of billionaire “me society” America and its front group, the Republican Party, is to sabotage Obamacare. That’s why the Tea Party, on behalf of its wealthy backers, has shut down the government: it wants to make sure that Obamacare never goes into effect.
“Me society” billionaires know that if Obamacare goes into effect and succeeds, then it will be game over for them and everything they support. Americans will realize that government works. If people start buying insurance at health exchanges and that insurance is cheaper and better than expected, then Americans will discover that Obamacare isn’t some evil socialist scheme, but a rational solution to a basic fact: people need health care and the government is the only institution capable of making sure they can get it at a fair cost.
The “me society” billionaires fear that once Americans understand that, they’ll start to see through all the Republican Party’s other lies about the dangers of government regulation of the pharmaceutical industry, the oil industry and Wall Street.
And those same “me society” billionaires know that once Americans see through those lies, they’ll stop voting for Tea Party crusaders and start voting for people who actually care about the good of society as a whole. They’ll vote for people who believe in America as a “we,” not a “me” society. And once that happens, any political advantage the “me society” once had will vanish, just like that.
Back in 2009, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, a Tea Party star and the current president of the Heritage Foundation, said that President Obama’s push for a new healthcare law would be Obama’s “Waterloo,” a reference to the 1815 battle that marked the end of Napoleon’s reign as conqueror of Europe.
He told a conference call of conservative activists that, “”If we’re able to stop Obama on this [health care reform], it will be his Waterloo. It will break him and we will show that we can, along with the American people, begin to push those freedom solutions that work in every area of our society.”
DeMint was right, in a way. Obamacare is a Waterloo of sorts. But not for the President. It’s a Waterloo for the Republican Party and the “me” vision of society it represents. Because if the Republican Party loses on Obamacare, it loses everything. It loses the right to say, as Reagan did, that government is “part of the problem, not part of the solution.”
Ignore all the tough talk from John Boehner and Ted Cruz. Republicans are terrified. And they’re going to lose.