Over the summer of 2009, Americans witnessed something quite extraordinary: Thousands of citizens not usually involved in politics gathered in public protest and energetically confronted government officials about the policies of an administration they had elected just a few months earlier.
Polls suggest that many Americans share the protesters’ views. Voters’ opinions about Obama’s performance as president generally have reversed since February. The Rasmussen poll indicates that as of August 23, 41 percent strongly disapproved of his performance, and only 27 percent strongly approved.1 Concerning health-care reform—a central goal of the administration—a large majority of voters opposed a “public option,” feared the government more than the insurance companies, and disagreed with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that the companies are “villains.” Just 19 percent of Americans rated American health care overall as poor; 48 percent rated it as good or excellent.2 Such figures indicate a trend of declining support for the agenda of the Obama administration and its congressional supporters. If this trend continues, there is a possibility of serious Democratic losses in the 2010 mid-term elections.
The growing opposition to the policies of Democratic leaders is not a partisan issue; registered Democratic voters are challenging Democratic officials at raucous public meetings. So-called “Blue Dogs”—Democratic representatives who are either fiscally conservative on some issues or were elected in conservative districts—are taking issue with the party leadership. Many of these representatives face a stark choice: to buck their leaders and vote as their constituents wish, or to follow their leaders and face the wrath of angry voters.
But the most startling phenomenon has been the tea parties, in which hundreds of thousands of Americans have assembled under their own impetus, wearing T-shirts that read “Don’t Tread On Me” and carrying signs advocating liberty and opposing dictatorship. Speakers at these events have denounced politicians of both parties who have supported increases in government power and spending. Many of the protesters have begun to recognize and advocate a principle—the principle of individual rights—and a corollary of that principle, that the proper purpose of government is to secure these rights, not to control its citizens’ lives.
The response of the Democratic leadership has been one of paternalistic desperation. On August 3, a White House operative asked Americans to inform the administration about the opinions of other citizens: “If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to email@example.com.”3 Rather than accept that many Americans understand the essence of these plans and oppose them, the Democratic National Committee accused the opposition of “inciting angry mobs of a small number of rabid right wing extremists funded by K Street Lobbyists.”4 The president himself lashed out: “I don’t want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking. I want them to just get out of the way so we can clean up the mess!”5
The split between the politicians and the American citizens has seldom been so starkly displayed as when the Democrats accused senior citizens carrying hand-lettered signs of being a “mob” in the pay of organized groups. In contrast to these independent citizens, organized union members, loyal to the Democratic leadership, rode to public town meetings on buses, distributed manufactured signs, and shut the doors on opponents. Meanwhile, many elected officials canceled meetings with their constituents, unwilling to face protesters who have read and understood the legislation better than they have. . . .
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1 Rasmussen Reports, August 23, 2009, http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/obama_administration/daily_presidential_tracking_poll.
2 Rasmussen Reports, August 10, 2009, http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/healthcare/august_2009/on_health_care_51_fear_government_more_than_insurance_companies. Rasmussen Reports, August 7, 2009, http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/healthcare/august_2009/25_agree_with_pelosi_that_health_insurers_are_villains.
3 Statement of Linda Douglass, which followed a post by Macon Philips, “Facts are Stubborn Things,” on the White House Blog, Tuesday, August 4, 2009, http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/Facts-Are-Stubborn-Things/. A White House blog statement of August 17, “An Update on Reality Check,” asked that information from others not be submitted without permission.
4 Statement from Democratic National Committee Communications Director Brad Woodhouse on the Republican Party and Allied Groups’ Mob Rule. DNC Press Office, August 4, 2009. See also DNC video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtTBkxvBq88.
5 Remarks at a fund-raiser for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds, http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/08/07/politics/politicalhotsheet/entry5226148.shtml.
6 CNN Interview, December 17, 2008, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI53fHNygpI.
7 Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (New York: Penguin, 1993), p. 376.
8 Presidential News Conference, February 14, 2009, “I will not tolerate it as President.”
9 Presidential News Conference, July 22, 2009, “if they’re looking and you come in and you’ve got a bad sore throat or your child has a bad sore throat or has repeated sore throats, the doctor may look at the reimbursement system and say to himself, ‘You know what? I make a lot more money if I take this kid’s tonsils out.’”
10 Paul R. Ehrlich, Anne H. Ehrlich, and John P. Holdren, “Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions” (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman & Co, 1973), pp. 278–79.
11 Rasmussen Reports, July 31, 2009, 76 percent of Americans see Obama as a liberal, and 48 percent as very liberal—another trend that has increased over the past six months, http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/obama_administration/july_2009/48_say_obama_is_very_liberal.
12 For heckling of an Obama aide by a leftist, “progressive” audience, “Valerie Jarrett Heckled and Hissed at Netroots Nation,” Huffington Post, August 15, 2009, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/15/valarie-jarrett-heckled-a_n_260329.html.
13 Dorothy Rabinowitz, “Obama’s Tone-Deaf Health Campaign,” Wall Street Journal, August 11, 2009, p. A17.
14 “Obama vows to pass healthcare reform,” Reuters, August 5, 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSTRE56M0HE20090805.