>Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty. 
– John Basil Barnhill (1914)
Americans should be experiencing “déjà vu all over again” as Congress prepares for another weekend incursion into their rights via another two-thousand page bill that must be voted on before anyone has had a chance to read it. This time, it is H.R. 3962 “To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes.” The next law that should be passed is that legislators and bureaucrats shall not be allowed to work on weekends.
That working Americans will rise early on Monday to begin another week with less protections of their rights and more of their property stolen is not all that should seem familiar. If anyone can remember as far back as the Bush administration (this new regime has been so bad that I am afraid people have forgotten most of the outrages of the last), a very similar dynamic played out. The very first bailout – of the banking industry – met with resistance similar to that against the proposed government takeover of the health care industry. The first attempt to pass the TARP bill failed.
For those watching the statements made by their representatives while opposing that bill, one thing should have been obvious. Those representatives feared their constituents. It was in their eyes and in their voices as they explained their opposition. I do not mean that they feared violence. They feared for their jobs and they feared whatever other consequences there might have been if they deliberately defied the wishes of those thousands of voters who had angrily called their offices. For a moment, our government worked as it was designed to work. The people spoke and their representatives heeded their wishes, however reluctantly.
Then, the uproar died down. President Bush emerged from his long, unnatural silence during the financial crisis and gave a speech designed to put that fear back into the hearts of the citizens, where our government prefers that it permanently reside. If the banking bailout wasn’t passed, Americans could lose their homes, their jobs, or their retirement savings. Financial Armageddon awaited if the bankers were not saved – for it is really the bankers that provide those things to everyone. Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke joined the chorus to help paint the terrifying picture of unspeakable horrors that awaited us if we did not give almost $800 billion to the Treasury Secretary to be redistributed to his friends on Wall Street.
It is unclear if Americans really believed the government or if they just ran out of energy to protest. Either way, the bill passed the second time it came up for a vote. Those same representatives who only days before were too afraid to pass it were now somehow emboldened and it sailed through with barely a whimper from the victims. What was different the second time around?
Hopefully, Americans took notice of the fact that their representatives do not possess the courage to pass a bill that they actively oppose, even if that opposition amounts to nothing more than angry phone calls. It is difficult to ascertain what reassured those congressmen enough to vote for the bill the second time. Perhaps the calls to their offices changed after the government’s scare campaign intensified. Perhaps some of the people who had called before the first vote called back and told those congressmen that they had changed their minds.
However, there is another possibility that is infinitely more disturbing. Perhaps by the time of the second vote, the pressure had died down out of sheer inertia. After all, there is probably some limit to just how long Americans can make calls, march in protests, or write letters while trying to do their jobs, raise their families, and live their lives. If I were trying to develop a strategy to pass a bill that most Americans oppose, I would consciously plan for exactly what happened during the banking bailout bill in 2008. I would let them scream, let them march, let them carry signs and write letters, and even let the bill fail to pass. And once the citizenry was sufficiently exhausted or had turned their attention to something else, I would put it up for another vote.
Personally, I would be surprised if this were truly a conscious strategy by most of our representatives, although I am sure that the dynamic has not escaped the notice of the most devious of the professional political crowd. However, whether intentional or not, this is exactly what happened with the banking bailout and it is exactly what is about to happen with so-called “health care reform.” All summer long, Americans called their representatives, marched in the streets, and even showed up in the capitol city itself in numbers far too large to support the claim that it was some sort of Republican PR campaign. At one point, the idea of a government-run public option was all but pronounced dead on non-arrival by media outlets, whether conservative or liberal in their bias. It has found new life.
The American Revolutiony War was by no means encouraging for the Americans for the great majority of the time that it was being fought. The Americans lost almost every battle, constantly outclassed by the greatest military force in the history of the world at that time. However, there was one advantage that the Americans had over the British – they were relentless. No matter how many battles they lost (and they lost most of them), the American army would not go away. After being repeatedly schooled by superior British generals at New York, Brandywine, and elsewhere, Washington showed up at Monmouth and fought the British to a standstill. In the end, it was he and the Americans that emerged as the victors.
This weekend, the British are back. However, this time they are not wearing red coats but instead masquerading as representatives of the people. They are bringing with them the same tyranny that they did in the 18th century – unjust taxes, illegitimate government power, and violations of the rights of every individual American. It is imperative that Americans once again refuse to go away. Millions have sacrificed time, money that they could ill afford to spend, and days, weeks, and months of their lives to write, call, march, and shout with all of their might against the destruction of our liberty that this government has accelerated with increasing brazenness over the past few years (under presidents from both major parties). It all goes for naught if our representatives learn that they need only wait for us to exhaust our energy before ignoring our wishes and trampling upon our rights as they please.
There is a disturbing sound in the air – silence. There is a feeling that the outrage has subsided and that the coast is clear for another weekend theft of our liberty and property. Let us not let last summer’s tremendous demonstration of the American spirit go to waste. If you opposed this bill the first time, if you traveled to Washington, spent money you didn’t have, took time away from your job or family to be sure that your voice was heard, it will have all been for nothing if they pass this bill this weekend.
Now is the time for Americans to be relentless. Call your representatives and let them know that what happened in New Jersey and Virginia a few days ago has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats – it is the fate of all incumbent politicians, from any party, that abandon their duty to protect the rights of the people. From now until Saturday evening, we must shout louder, march longer, and get angrier than we have ever been before. Do not underestimate the power that you wield and do not let this government monster outlast you. As we said over two hundred years ago to a government that had marched against our liberty, let us shout to our representatives as loudly and for as long as it takes – this far shall you go and no farther.
 Barnhill, John Basil (1914). “Indictment of Socialism No. 3” (PDF). Barnhill-Tichenor Debate on Socialism. Saint Louis, Missouri: National Rip-Saw Publishing. pp. p. 34. Retrieved on 2008-10-16.