The second, and more far-reaching, effect will be on Americans’ support for government social and economic programs. Since the country’s founding, Americans have always had an abiding distrust of the federal government. In the country’s first fifty years, that probably had a progressive effect by accelerating Westward economic expansion, but after the Civil War, business and banking leaders exploited this sentiment to block attempts to protect workers and consumers; later, the appeal to state’s rights was used to oppose civil rights laws.
It has taken panics, depressions, wars and social upheaval to get Congress to adopt social and economic reforms. At all other times, the publics’ distrust of government, as reinforced by business, has carried the day. Bill Clinton discovered that out in his first term when he tried to pass a national healthcare program. Obama succeeded in passing a health care bill in 2010 in the wake of the Great Recession. But if Obamacare doesn’t work as promised, then its failure will have reinforced for a generation the argument against any government initiatives. Reform will be dead – whether it’s to fix immigration, healthcare, or the growing gap between rich and poor.