Stone: Gee … remember the Constitution?
October 2, 2013
OK, everybody, how about a little history?
Who remembers Egypt?
No, not the Egypt of "I am the Lord thy God who brought thee out of the Land of Egypt, out of the House of Bondage." We're not going quite that far back.
And no, not Little Egypt, the belly dancer who gained international fame for performing what they called the "hoochee-coochee" at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. (And who, they say, gave Mark Twain a heart attack with her dancing in 1898.)
No, sadly, today we're going to talk — at least a little — about the Egypt from just a couple of quick outrage/scandal cycles ago: the Egypt that tossed out Mohammed Morsi, its duly elected president, and installed an Army general in his place.
Surely you remember that little episode — unless you're fiercely dedicated to not remembering the past so you can gleefully repeat its mistakes with a clear conscience and a blank mind.
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I know: Outrage/scandal cycles flit by so fast that it's hard to get them fixed in your memory before the next one shows up, saliva flecked and screeching, wearing a fright mask and waving a bloody flag.
But what I'm thinking about today is the raging that went on about whether to call what happened in Egypt a "coup."
Of course it was a coup. The results of an election were overturned, the constitution was ignored, the government was changed, and the ousted president wound up in jail. But the U.S. didn't want to call it a coup because once we used that particular word, we were legally required to cut off all our funding to the new post-coup government.
And Republicans were shrieking in horror, claiming that President Obama (for political reasons) was refusing to recognize the obvious fact that what happened was a coup.
OK. Enough history for now.
I only brought it up so we can talk about the attempted coup that's going on right now, right here in the U.S. of A.
Coup? Damn right.
As I write this column, we are teetering on the edge of a government shutdown — with an even worse crisis over paying our bills looming just another few weeks down the line — because a small minority of a minority party, representing a tiny sliver of this country, is trying to overturn the results of a national election.
We Americans love to brag about our exceptional nature, about being the oldest democracy in the world, about our superbly stable government.
But now a small handful of rabble is trying to destroy all of that.
Let's stop for a moment to review.
Republicans are desperately opposed to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).
Fair enough. They are, of course, absolutely entitled to their desperate opposition.
But they are fighting against the following facts:
The law they oppose was passed by a majority vote of both houses of Congress.
It was formally approved by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Under the Constitution of the United States of America (and we do all remember the Constitution, don't we?), that should be the end of the argument. The only constitutional means of overturning that law is by winning elections, changing the government and getting a new majority that will revoke the law.
That is how democracy works.
In fact, the Affordable Care Act — approved in 2010 — was a major focus of the 2012 presidential-election campaign. And, in that election, the president who supported that law was solidly re-elected, while the Democratic Party retained its majority in the Senate.
Again, that's how democracy works.
And by the way, those who like to pick their moment and cherry-pick the opinion polls claim that a clear majority of Americans oppose the Affordable Care Act and that, therefore, those valiant Republicans are doing the people's will.
Now, even if that were correct, there would still be no difference between what they're doing and what the Egyptian military claimed it was doing: representing the "will of the majority," regardless of actual — you know — election results.
But, in actual fact, the actual poll results show that a sizable portion of those who "oppose" the health care act are "opposed" because they want it to be even stronger.
So a clear majority are in favor of government-supported universal health insurance.
But, again, talk of polls is irrelevant, because we are talking about a coup, an attempt to use non-constitutional means to overturn the results of proper constitutional actions. Period.
And it is grimly ironic that the people who support this attempted coup are the ones who love to scream the loudest about the Constitution.
But now here they are trying to overthrow the Constitution.
Let's step back for a moment.
I am obviously (obviously!) your stereotypical liberal. I supported — and still support — Obama (although I wish he were a little more liberal). And I believe that everyone in this great nation ought to have access to affordable health care.
At the same time, I realize that others disagree with my opinions and that there may well be solid, reasonable arguments against the Affordable Care Act.
But right now, none of that matters, because we had the debate and we had the elections and they lost.
Bottom line: They lost.
And now a small group is trying to use non-constitutional methods to get what they couldn't win through the electoral process.
Well, according to a recent article by Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker (yeah, I know — New York — but facts are facts), 80 members of the House of Representatives are pushing the movement to destroy Affordable Care by refusing to fund the government.
Those 80 Republicans (according to Lizza) represent a total of 58 million constituents. That's less than 20 percent of the country. They received a total of 14.5 million votes in November out of a national total of 118 million votes cast in House elections. That's less than 15 percent of the total vote.
But they say they'll destroy the national economy if they don't get their way.
And I say that's a coup.
Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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