I recently had a series of conversations with one of the younger generation about health insurance. He and his family have a good insurance plan, which in addition to covering the usual things a young family has, also covers his diabetes medication. He got it through the insurance exchange, and it’s affordable for him. The reason I mention this, is that he assumed this was “normal,” and he takes it for granted. Which I pointed out to him was anything but.
What he takes for granted is only possible because of the Affordable Care Act, passed less than 10 years ago. I remember what it was like before then. Not only would he not have his current plan, he wouldn’t have been able to get health insurance due to his “preexisting condition.” If he had it, he’d have been dropped by his insurance company because of it or because he hit the lifetime limit, and if he did have one through his employer, he’d have been in danger of getting let go because of the costs to them. I’m not making that up, it happened back then to several of my friends and relatives. That those things are now “unthinkable” is a measure of the success of the ACA. The problem? The ACA is currently under yet another attack by Republicans in court, and the “unthinkable” is now “thinkable” once again.
It’s not just healthcare though. Over the past few years a lot of things that people took “for granted” are under assault by the Right. Reproductive freedom? Women’s rights? LGBT equality? Voting rights? Environmental protections? You name it, it’s being attacked or actively rolled back by Republicans. Things that were “unthinkable” not even a decade ago are now headline news, and that’s just a sampling.
Why is this happening? Because too many people took those things for granted, and thought that they didn’t need to pay attention or vote. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past decade talking (and yelling) about the various purity factions complaining that there was “no difference” between the parties, encouraging people to stay home, and about the apathy of various groups when it comes to voting.
Because they believed that that all those things were untouchable, there would be no consequences for staying home. They forgot that there was a political party which was actively working to take all those things away. They forgot the lessons of history, that all of those “for granted” programs and protections came about after long hard struggles, and years of improving the laws and fighting in the courts to implement them.
As a result of that, the party which wants to remove all those things is now in charge. In order to turn that around, it means once again fighting the battles that we thought were won. It means turning out to vote, and to remove those politicians from office, not just on the national level, but on the state and local level. It won’t happen just in 2020, but in the decade after that, if not longer. If there’s any lesson for the next generation from this, it’s that there was nothing “for granted” about it. Because if you take it for granted… you’ll lose.