In an article in the New York Review of Books last October Michael Tomasky predicted that if health care reform becomes fait accompli, the follow-up strategy of the fringewing opposition would be to rally under the “Tenther” banner. Tentherism refers to one of the more amusing distortions of the constitution current in right wing circles; Tenthers hold that the ninth and tenth amendments allow states to nullify any federal legislation they don’t like.
Although the Tenther premise is assuredly negated by the Constitution’s supremacy clause along with other considerations, the more feckless of Missouri’s fringer pols have been quick to jump on the bandwagon. As Hotflash noted last October, state Senator* Jane Cunningham has promised to introduce nullification legislation. Not to be outdone, the witless but very energetic Cynthia Davis (R-19*) has already started the ball rolling to amend the State Constitution and nullify the provisions of federal health care reform legislation.
The Tenther movement, however, like the related Tea Party anger orgies, is not quite as natural a development as would-be constitutional defenders such as Davis and Cunningham would like us to think – or may actually think themselves. According to Lee Fang of ThinkProgress:
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), founded in 1973 by conservative activist Paul Weyrich, is a DC-based front group which helps state lawmakers craft corporate-friendly legislation. As the Atlantic has noted, ALEC developed template health care “states’ rights,” legislation to declare aspects of health reform unconstitutional. ALEC has promoted this “tenther” legislation using its network of mostly far right Republican state lawmakers. The bills, which have been adopted in some form in 24 states so far, aim to invalidate federal regulations of health insurance, the public option and the individual mandate using the Tenther Amendment.
To take the chain of influence one step further, one of the main architects of the ALEC Tenther strategy is Joan Gardner, Executive Director of State Services with Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s Office of Policy and Representation. Is the picture becoming clearer?
Jane Cunningham and Cynthia Davis may be the face of Tentherism in Missouri, but we should remember who is pulling the strings. Bleat as they may about “freedom,” Cunningham and Davis are doing nothing more than providing a sham patriotic facade for the insurance industry’s war to save its profit margin.