Steely Determination

On Sunday, March 21, 2010, while the Democratic Party's ugly spectacle of unfolded in Washington D.C., I periodically switched on Fox News to see what was taking place. I could only handle bite-size pieces of the news that day, because there is a limit to how much someone my age can take and still retain a degree of equilibrium.

During one of my episodic forays into television news on Sunday, I chanced to hear a Democrat Congressman (whose name escapes me) being interviewed by one of the Fox News hosts. The colloquy is significant because of what it reveals about the political elite in Washington D.C., or at least the segment of the political elite that currently sets the national political agenda.

The question posed was something like this:

Aren't you concerned that the American people, a majority of whom oppose the Democrat health care bill, will take it out on the Democrats in the mid-term Congressional elections?

The Congressman's answer was something like this:

The mid-term elections are months away, and the people who are angry at us now won't be angry by then.

I have been thinking about the Congressman's answer, and a few thoughts have come to mind that may be worth mentioning. First, it is noteworthy that the Congressman sees the American people as "angry" rather than something else. This is not to say that the people who oppose government control of the health services sector of American society are not angry at the Democrats. They quite clearly are angry. But there is a good deal more to it than that.

To most Americans, what the House Democrats did on Sunday, and what the Senate Democrats did before that, is a direct assault on liberty in America. For those who care about human freedom, the basis of their objection to what the Democrats are doing is deeply rooted in the belief that it is Tyranny when government dictates how people must live their lives.

The argument that human freedom is not absolute, and that the very existence of government implies a limitation on human freedom, is true. But it is also inapposite to the health care situation, in which completely voluntary political action is a function of partisan political ideology, not existential issues relating to national survival. The old maxim that "those governments are best that govern least" reflects a recognition that there is a spectrum along which political decisions are made, and that governments that act to limit freedom when there is no imperative national reason to do so have moved away from Freedom and toward Tyranny.

Thus, the "anger" that the American people feel is based on a principled objection to what the people perceive as political tyranny. The notion that the people will not be "angry" come November implies that the anger of the American people is somehow whimsical and not to be taken seriously. In effect, the Congressman is saying that the American people are acting like angry children in a fit of pique, and that they will get over it by November.

That point of view is consistent with the attitude of a political elite that thinks it governs because it is superior to those whom it governs. Down through history, we have seen many such elites. In the Twentieth Century, the worst of them were the National Socialist Party in Germany, the Fascist Party in Italy, and the Communist Party in the Soviet Union and China. Each of those parties grew government by diminishing personal liberty. Each of them had an explanation, a rationale, and an ideology for doing it.

In the United States, however, it is the people who reign supreme, not the government. This is a country founded on the principle of individual liberty, born out of a rebellion against tyrannical government, nourished to maturity in the crucible of capitalism, and preserved with the blood of Patriots willing to fight for the right to become and remain a free people. So, something tells me that the American people are not simply angry. Indeed, I suspect that in November the Democrats will meet up with the steely determination of the American people to regain the liberty that was stolen from them last Sunday.

Jed Gladstein is an attorney, author and educator.