The beginning of the end for Big Government
P erhaps the hopeful sentiment expressed in the headline for this column may strike some people as wildly optimistic and others as just plain vile, but I think that the facts now known to us will support my prediction that constitutional government will get a boost in the 2014 congressional elections.
The evidence for this prediction is both short and long term: the continuing public rejection of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the permanent sentiment in favor of our system of limited government, individual liberty and free enterprise.
More is at issue, in other words, than either a handful of attractive political slogans or clever electoral strategy and tactics. We are deciding, rather, whether we as a people will remain dedicated to “securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” as the Constitution’s preamble declares.
Remember that the Democrats passed Obama Care with absolutely no Republican votes in either house of Congress. If that wasn’t enough of a tipoff that this law was not popular, the nation saw a groundswell of opposition in Town Hall meetings across the country, contrary to the then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s attempt to pass it off as “Astroturf” rather than genuine grass roots opinion.
The electoral consequence was that the Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives by winning more than 60 seats, the biggest turnover in decades. If that wasn’t enough, the GOP retained control in the 2012 elections, despite President Barack Obama’s re-election in that year.
The president and his supporters have argued that his success proved somehow that the voters had ratified enactment of the ACA. But we now know that his winning of 51 per cent of the popular vote was aided and abetted by false promises and dirty politics.
Obama really did say numerous times that, “If you like your insurance policy, you can keep your insurance policy, PERIOD.” And also, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, PERIOD.” Political considerations trumped his administration’s fabled “transparency.”
We also know that the IRS targeted non-profit organizations that sought tax-exempt status for the purpose of educating the public about the virtues of the American Constitution, thereby rendering them inoperative for months and even years, effectively silencing their rights of free speech and press.
While some may argue that no organization should enjoy tax exemption the ideas of which have political consequences, I maintain that the First Amendment’s guarantees are primarily intended to protect speech and publication with political consequences. Otherwise those guarantees are meaningless and useless. The American people have a natural right to inquire into government and persuade their fellow citizens, which only despotic governments would deny.
The public’s revolt against Obama Care demonstrated something else more fundamental. That was their attachment to their freely purchased private property in health insurance. It brings to mind James Madison’s observation long ago that property rights are a “fence to liberty,” and “the only effectual guardian of every other private right.” Those who possess property are better equipped to defend their rights than those who do not and thereby squelch the perpetual human temptation to envy and covetousness, ever the bane of democratic governments.
Certainly, the roll out of the ACA gave its critics ample reason for their objections. These included a non-functioning web site, interminable delays, uncertainty, cancellation of allegedly inferior policies, arbitrary abandonment of the law’s deadlines, demonization of insurance companies, blaming Republicans for the law’s failures, and even shameless lying.
Republicans almost lost the opportunity to repeal Obama Care when they unwisely attempted to defund the law in the face of Democrat opposition in the Senate and the White House. The partial government shutdown which Democrats caused to thwart the GOP spoiled its brand, to say the least.
But if Republicans remind voters that they were unalterably opposed to what even Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), the primary author of the ACA, predicted would be a “train wreck,” and had themselves made that prediction, the voters will draw the appropriate conclusion.
Too many members of both major political parties and even of minor ones have lost their grounding in our nation’s fundamental commitment to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Conservatives and libertarians are fearful of the principle of equality, and liberals and progressives are downright hostile to the principle of liberty. But the truth is that America is founded on both of these principles.
The key to understanding their relationship is knowing that they are complementary, not opposed. No form of equality can be tolerated that denies liberty, and liberty that denies equal rights is indefensible. The only equality consistent with the American Constitution is that of rights and opportunity. And liberty must ultimately be exercised only by respecting the liberty of each and all..
Richard Reeb taught political science, philosophy and journalism at Barstow College from 1970 to 2003. He is the author of "Taking Journalism Seriously: 'Objectivity' as a Partisan Cause" (University Press of America, 1999). He can be contacted at email@example.com