Perhaps the most ubiquitous argument coming out of the right wing in response to the Supreme Court upholding the insurance mandate goes something like this: If the government can force us to buy health insurance, they can force us to do anything! Freedom is dead! Bruce Bartlett offers an obvious response on his Facebook page:
A government with the power to force us to buy health insurance can also force restaurants to serve black people.
And in fact, hasn’t this been the standard argument all along? There is a long history of this kind of right wing hysteria, going way, way back. The same argument was made against social security and medicare — if the government can force us to pay a tax to provide for retirement and health care, they can force us to do anything. The rhetoric was absolutely identical to the rhetoric used by conservatives and Tea Partiers today. To hear them tell it, social security and medicare was a communist idea that was all but a surrender to the Soviet Union and would turn America into a social nightmare. It hasn’t, of course.
Look at the arguments against the Civil Rights Act in 1964. If the government can force us to serve black people, or ride with them on the bus, or to let Jews into our stores, they can force us to do anything! It destroys religious freedom! It will turn America into a communist country! Guess what? They’re now making the exact same argument against the same protections for gay people — all while pretending that they didn’t really mean it 50 years ago, that they’re all in favor of equality for those people, but this time it’s really true that we’re on the verge of dictatorship if we treat gay people equally.
On Planet Wingnuttia, we are perpetually on the brink of losing our freedom. Each new step toward equality, each new advancement in taking care of those who need it the most, is the lynchpin that destroys the republic and turns us into a dictatorship. And every time they’ve been wrong. Every. Single. Time. And that does nothing to keep them from making the same arguments all over again, disappearing their past predictions down the memory hole.