U.S. independence did not come as a result of a political revolution. Americans just thought that it was unfair that people in power that lived across the ocean did not know them well enough to require the submission of their lives to British judgment.
Americans liked the idea of taking the institutions they inherited from the mother country and modifying them to suit their social, economic and political circumstance. The so-called revolution in this country was more about people wanting to manage their own affairs and not necessarily about wanting to revolt against the basis of their political heritage.
America’s goal after 1776 was to improve on what was given to them. They never intended that their revolution would throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.
Octavio Paz, the great Mexican thinker and Nobel Laureate, made a similar point in comparing how Mexicans and Americans deal with important affairs. Mexican tendencies include changing everything regardless of the merit of the previous practices while Americans look to take what is already built and improve on it.
While not a surprise given our current social and politically divided reality, the 2016 presidential campaigns caused somewhat of a jolt by featuring leading candidates on both sides of the aisle that talked about revolutionary changes to a country they felt was going in the wrong direction. On one side, you have Bernie Sanders proclaiming the need to diminish the power of the rich that he sees as an oligarchy that both caused and benefited from the Great Recession and on the other, Donald Trump wanting to throw out the Washington political insiders and “drain the swamp.”
Sander’s revolution would take the “private” out of the public-private partnership that is ObamaCare and convert it into a government paid civil right. President Trump has already attempted to eliminate ObamaCare and replace it with TrumpCare and make it look like a revolutionary act.
It is getting to the point that eliminating ObamaCare and not replacing it would in fact be a revolutionary act as the Affordable Care Act is fast becoming institutionalized to the point that many Americans, especially the elderly and the aspiring middle class, see it as an essential part of their lives. The institutionalization has gotten so far that the replacement bill carried by the Republican leadership divided the Party so much that they could not produce the votes to pass the legislation in the House.
The great division in the Republican Party that led to insufficient support for the TrumpCare bill in the House of Representatives confirms the difficulty associated with eliminating something that has been part of our national life for some time. It is not in the American character to throw out something as important as this institution.
It is true that the current insurance program is under performing, has a lot of problems and poses a major economic challenge for the country. It is also true that these things can be fixed provided there is the will to do it.
The problem that cannot be fixed is that after almost 100 years of American presidents and others trying to achieve a political consensus for universal healthcare, it came to a Black president to achieve that signature legislation. For those that are White first and Americans second there no fix to that.
To do away with an institutionalized Affordable Care Act is a revolutionary act. Fixing the current national insurance program is more within the tradition of improving our institutions and our lives.