Why miss an opportunity to inject racism accusations into a highly charged debate like health care reform that was recently signed into law by President Barack Obama given the opportunity?
Melissa Harris-Lacewell, also of The Nation Magazine, in appearance on MSNBC's March 24 "Countdown" found away, without exactly calling detractors "racists." After the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed by Obama, 14 states filed suit against the federal government. The suit challenged the bill because it suggests the federal government has overreached with this legislation.
Harris-Lacewell was asked by fill-in host Lawrence O'Donnell if there were elements of race, since "you hear the epithets, it raises that question." She told O'Donnell it does because it invokes memories of what the Civil War is believed to be about - the power of the federal government versus the power of the individual states.
"It does and because it looks like the turn of the century film ‘Birth of a Nation,' 1915, which looked back on the period of Reconstruction, when the anxiety was different kinds of people holding public office - this idea that somehow the country had been lost and the fact that all of this had been backed up with the states' rights language, the same sort of secessionist language we hear going on, that we see in the lawsuit, pushing back and saying the federal government doesn't have the right to tell us what to do, that is actually what the Civil War was about," Harris-Lacewell said. "It was about establishing that the federal government does have the right to make policy for the nation."
However, this is a gross oversimplification of the lawsuit. Although it is states filing suit against the federal government, it isn't purely an issue of federalism, as Harris-Lacewell comments suggest. It charges that the federal government has far overstepped its enumerated powers.
"The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage," the lawsuit states.