Is it really arguable that conservatives oppose democracy? If you know history, you already know that opposing democracy has long been part of the nature of conservatism. It's an authoritarian ideology and people expressing their will by voting is offensive to conservatives. We see it now all over the country where suddenly conservatives feel empowered-- by Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema-- to start excluding Democratic voting blocs. It seems far more dangerous than most seem to be taking it.
But conservatives have something of a history, not just of opposing the expansion of the franchise, but of paying no attention to what voters express at the ballot box. I'm not even talking about the GOP's general refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of the 2020 elections, even when they themselves were elected in that balloting! Still, Biden won very substantially-- 81,268,924 (51.3%) to 74,216,154 (46.9%). Biden won by over 7 million votes and took the electoral college 306-232. Most Republicans accept Trump's Big Lie that he himself was reelected and that the election was somehow stolen from him. But that isn't where I'm going with this.
Florida conservatives have a long and sordid history of ignoring what the voters pass as constitutional amendments. When Florida voters passed one mandating a high speed rail system, the Republican-controlled state legislature just said no. When an overwhelming majority of Floridians passed a constitutional amendment against partisan gerrymandering-- Fair District Florida-- the Republican legislature continued doing exactly what the voters prohibited. Same when the voters passed a land conservative amendment for wetlands; the Republicans ignored the funding mandate. And more recently, when Floridians voted to restore voting rights to felons who had served their terms, the GOP legislature passed laws negating the voters' will.
Florida Republicans may be the most notorious, but they're not alone here. Yesterday, the Associated Press followed up on last year's Medicaid Expansion Initiative-- constitutional amendment 2. We're nearing the one year anniversary and the Republican governor just announced that the Republican legislature had refused to fund it so-- tough luck... sue us if you don't like it. This is how it appeared on the ballot:
Do you want to amend the Missouri Constitution to:
adopt Medicaid Expansion for persons 19 to 64 years old with an income level at or below 133% of the federal poverty level, as set forth in the Affordable Care Act;
require the state to pay for all birth control and family planning services (including the morning-after pill) for all state residents at least 13 years old;
prohibit placing greater or additional burdens on eligibility or enrollment standards, methodologies or practices on persons covered under Medicaid Expansion than on any other population eligible for Medicaid; and
require state agencies to take all actions necessary to maximize federal financial participation in funding medical assistance under Medicaid Expansion?
676,687 voters said yes (53.3%) and 593,491 said no (46.7%). The AP's David Lieb reported yesterday that Governor Parson, an arch conservative, "dropped plans Thursday to expand the state’s Medicaid health care program to thousands of low-income adults after the Republican-led Legislature refused to provide funding for the voter-approved measure. The Republican governor said his administration had withdrawn a request to expand coverage that had been submitted to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in compliance with a constitutional amendment passed by voters last August."
The Republican politicians are so sure of that Missouri voters will back them no matter what they do, that they feel they can go against their will, especially since most of the votes in favor of the amendment came from St. Louis, Kansas City and other Democratic areas and not in their own districts.
The decision is likely to trigger a lawsuit from supporters of Medicaid expansion.
“This is going to end up in court-- the governor knows it’s going to end up in court,” said Richard von Glahn, policy director for Missouri Jobs With Justice, one of the organization supporting Medicaid expansion.
Missouri Hospital Association spokesman Dave Dillon expressed disappointment over Parson’s decision and said the association would coordinate with other Medicaid expansion supporters about the best way to proceed with litigation.
Democratic lawmakers denounced Parson’s decision. House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said Parson had broken his promise to uphold the constitution. Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo said in a written statement that the governor was “caving to the new Authoritarian Republican Regime that doesn’t respect the outcome of elections.”
Though the federal government would fund the vast majority of a Medicaid expansion, some Republican lawmakers said the state cannot afford its share of the long-term costs under the terms of a law signed by President Barack Obama in 2010.
The constitutional amendment passed by voters required Parson’s administration to submit a plan to federal officials to expand Medicaid by March 1, which he did. The ballot measure stated that people ages 19-65 earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level-- less than $17,774 annually for an individual or less than $37,570 for a family of four-- “shall be eligible” and “shall receive coverage” for Medicaid benefits starting July 1.
The amendment did not change existing eligibility standards for children and seniors, and it did not say how to pay for the expansion that is projected to cover about 275,000 people.
Parson had opposed Medicaid expansion at the ballot box, but he said he would uphold the will of voters and so included $1.9 billion in federal and state funding for it in the budget he proposed to lawmakers earlier this year.
While dropping the expansion plan Thursday, Parson referenced a June 2020 state appeals court ruling that the ballot measure didn’t direct or restrict the Legislature’s ability to decide how to fund Medicaid.
Although the Legislature didn’t include specific funding for the expansion, Democrats and some health care advocates contend the additional low-income adults could be covered from the general pool of funds that was allotted for Medicaid.
“Cancer patients cannot wait for legal battles to access the life-saving coverage that Medicaid expansion provides,” said Emily Kalmer, the Missouri government relations director for the society’s Cancer Action Network.
The Legislature’s refusal to add money for the Medicaid expansion is not the first time that Missouri lawmakers have sought to undo measures passed by voters. Last year, legislators placed a measure on the ballot to reverse key parts of a redistricting measure approved by voters in 2018. Voters approved the lawmakers’ revised version. A decade ago, the Legislature also revised a voter-approved measure imposing regulations on dog-breeding businesses.
The progressive populist running for Missouri's open Senate seat, Lucas Kunce, told yesterday that "These politicians would rather let working people get sick and die than let voters call the shots. They'd rather have hospitals keep closing, throw away tens of thousands of jobs, and let billions of dollars go up in flames. It just makes it ever clearer how important it is for us to change who has power in this country."