Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Affordable Care Act

I wonder if the Affordable Care Act, known to many people as Obamacare, will become the 21st century equivalent of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Before you either curse me or cheer me, let me explain.

I’m not comparing the health care law as tantamount to the potential expansion of slavery and slaveholding. Not at all. What I’m wondering if whether one of the major political parties of the era–it was the Whigs in the mid-19th century–will fracture into pieces in the fallout of a particular law. I’m referring, of course, to the current-day Republican Party and its response to the Affordable Care Act.

A new political party emerged from the firestorm that followed the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. We might say that the “tea party” movement of 2009-? was an echo of that effect, a reaction similar to what was seen in 1855 and beyond.

One thing that seems different now is that a string of clearly connected events emerged after 1855. The civil war of Kansas, the rise of John Brown, the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott ruling, and the election of Abraham Lincoln were just some of those events. Aside from a set of court challenges and judicial rulings, the string of events associated with Obamacare is not as clearly sharp and distinct.

We might want to step back as best we can to see if we’re in the midst of an unfolding in our own time. If we do so, we may find that we’re closer to the dynamic of Kansas-Nebraska than we think–the fracturing of a major political party.