James Morone believes that one of the most surprising elements of the recently passed healthcare reform is that it goes against the old saw that “it takes a movement” to enact significant social legislation into law. Addressing the annual meeting of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Morone – an author, lecturer and chairman of the political science department at Brown University – said “That’s what’s so surprising about this. The movement was on the other side.”
In a lecture titled “Health and Politics in the Oval Office”, Morone said the unflinching Republican opposition to President Barack Obama’s healthcare vision reflects a pattern that has recurred ever since President Theodore Roosevelt initially proposed reform in 1912. Morone believes it says something crucial about Americans’ attitude towards government. “Healthcare gets Americans screaming. Why? Simple. Americans don’t like government and healthcare is lots of government,” according to Morone. “But there’s something funny about the American fear of government, because it doesn’t seem to apply after it goes into effect.”
Morone cited the example of Medicare, which faced robust opposition in Congress when the legislation was approved 45 years ago. Today, Medicare is one of government’s most popular programs. He forecasts that the same will happen with healthcare reform, which could become a significant political liability for Republicans who voted against the bill.
As to state attorney general challenges to the legality of healthcare reform, Morone was dismissive. “The states are not allowed to nullify federal law. We fought a Civil War over that. I think the case is settled,” he said.