Another Perspective

Health Care Rebellion: Lessons From Martin Luther King

Adams cousins, Gandhi, King, Walesa and John Galt on overturning the healthcare tyranny. 

By 3.23.10

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"When I took up my little sling and aimed it at Communism, I also hit at something else. What I hit was the force of that great Socialist revolution which in the name of liberalism, spasmodically, incompletely, somewhat formlessly, but always in the same direction, has been inching its ice-cap over the nation for two decades. I had no adequate idea of its extent, the depth of its penetration, or the fierce vindictiveness of its revolutionary temper."
-- Whittaker Chambers in Witness

"Our concern was not to put the bus company out of business, but to put justice in business."
-- Martin Luther King on the Montgomery Bus Boycott

"The road is cleared. We are going back to the world."
-- John Galt in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged

Enough is enough.

It's time to put government tyranny out of business, and put health care justice in business.

So the tactics will now change.

First, the goal: Outright repeal, then start over. But repeal first and foremost.

That understood, it would be time to take a look at how this kind of thing has been done before. And what tools are available in the repeal fight.

To start, there could not be better role models here than America's Martin Luther King, the Sons of Liberty (Sam and John Adams and crew), Poland's Lech Walesa and India's Gandhi.

And let's not forget Ayn Rand's fictional John Galt.

1. The Precedents: Fortunately, this is not the first time that Americans -- and those outside America -- have set out to undo an untenable status quo.>>

 The Stamp Act and the Tea Tax, 1765 and 1773 --. The two were fought successfully by the Sons of Liberty, an underground group of patriots whose members and leaders included Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, Charles Warren, John Adams (Sam's second cousin), John Hancock and, in Virginia, Patrick Henry. Both the Stamp Act, which required that specific printed materials in the American colonies be printed on stamped paper bearing an official revenue stamp, and the Tea Act, which taxed tea, were acts of the British Parliament. Incensed Americans, furious at the taxation without representation and the fact that neither Parliament much less the British King was listening to them, began to resist. The resistance, famously including the Boston Tea Party in which tea was dumped into Boston Harbor, was the precursor to the American Revolution.

But before there was the Revolution, there was the successful overturning of both the Stamp Act and the Tea Tax. How? Both were made essentially unenforceable through the passage of legislative resolutions from colonial legislatures, public demonstrations, and flat out resistance to paying the tax. Said the Sons of Liberty in 1773 of anyone involved trying to collect the tax,: such a collector was "an enemy to the liberties of America" and that "whoever shall transgress any of these resolutions, we will not deal with, or employ, or have any connection with him." In Massachusetts, the Colonial governor Thomas Hutchinson even found angry American colonists protesting outside the governor's mansion -- an unheard of proposition in that day and age. Both taxes were finally repealed.

• The Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955 -- Begun in Montgomery, Alabama when Rosa Parks, a black seamstress with tired feet, refused to move to the back of a city bus (all buses -- and much more -- were segregated by race in accord with the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, a Supreme Court ruling that tried to override the post-Civil War constitutional amendments and civil rights laws). Led by a young Montgomery minister named Martin Luther King, Jr. the tactic was simple: elementary non-compliance by refusing to ride buses. Period. Black men, women and children were all asked to voluntarily comply to somehow use other transportation, including walking if necessary. They rallied and, inevitably, the bus company began to be starved of revenue. King was even arrested at one point, which only drew national attention. Finally, the courts stepped in and sided with Dr. King. The boycott ended, the buses were integrated, and the moral stake of the aborning Civil Rights movement was held high.

 The Salt March, 1930 -- The British government had, not unlike its treatment of the American colonies with the Stamp Act and Tea Tax almost two centuries earlier, imposed a salt tax on its colony of India. Mohandas Gandhi, a British-educated Indian lawyer, had returned to his homeland determined to win Indian independence. He initiated a Salt March in 1930 -- literally marching across India to the Indian Ocean. There, in full view of the newsreel cameras, he knelt at ocean's edge and began collecting seawater, letting it evaporate and thus creating salt. Making salt was an illegal activity under the British Salt Tax. His actions captured the public imagination in India and massive civil disobedience set in, with millions making salt, making the Salt Tax virtually unenforceable. Eventually, the Salt March forced the British to recognize that they could not control India without the consent of the Indians -- which they did not have. India won its independence in 1948.

• The Gdansk Shipyard Strikes, 1980 -- Led by a high-school educated electrician named Lech Walesa, the repeated strikes and other anti-Communist activity led by Walesa were able to virtually bring Polish economic activity to a grinding halt. Walesa's activities played a central role in bringing down the Polish communist regime and ultimately the Soviet Union itself. He was assisted by the first Polish Pope, John Paul II, and American President Ronald Reagan.

What each of these movements has in common is basic noncompliance with the law. Civil disobedience. Massive civil disobedience in some cases. (80,000 Indians went to jail over the Salt Tax.) Noncompliance resulted in no collection of the Stamp Tax and the Tea Tax. It produced massive violations of the Salt Tax, crippled the Montgomery bus system, and eventually brought the Polish Communist government crashing to its knees -- along with the Soviet Union and the entire Cold War.

How would these precedents translate to 2010 America? Here are two:

 A refusal to pay a specific Obamacare tax -- the individual mandate, for example. And, as with the Stamp, Tea and Salt taxes, deliberately and quite publicly violating this law or other aspects of the legal mandates/taxes webbed through Obamacare. Doing it in "alert the media" style and en masse, disrupting the government's ability to collect the tax. Would enough people do this? Is today's Tea Party really up to snuff with reality of the original tea partiers? Time will tell. And it should go without saying that all protests of this or any type must be nonviolent.

• Economic boycotts -- Simple, peaceful and vividly public shutdowns of the free enterprise system, causing a repeated loss of income for the economy and introducing daily chaos into everyday life. This was King's tactic in Montgomery and eventually it worked. He used it again and again, and in fact the day he died he had been leading a strike of Memphis garbage workers. Readers of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged will also be familiar with the tactic: John Galt and his friends simply stop cooperating with the Obama-like world. And the world fell apart. 

2. Elections and the need for a "Repeal Pledge": The November elections are the first electoral step. The entire U.S. House, a third of the U.S. Senate, plus 37 governorships are in play. For the first time in memory, attention should be paid to other races at the state and local level, such as state attorneys general. The latter would be charged with filing lawsuits on behalf of their states to end Obamacare. Also at play would be state legislative seats. Majorities dedicated to repeal could play a critical effort in any effort to reject various aspects of the increased role of the federal government as projected by Obamacare.

The indefatigable Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform long ago developed a "Taxpayer Protection Pledge" for candidates to sign in which they would pledge not raise taxes.

 It's time now for candidates to be asked to put their signatures to a written pledge to repeal Obamacare.

Something simple, something short. Such as: "I pledge that if elected I will support complete and full repeal of the Obamacare health bill signed into law by President Obama in March of 2010."

Simple, crisp. No frills. It sounds made for ATR.

3. Policy: The sterling Ed Feulner at The Heritage Foundation has his troops already digging in and his info can be found here.

There are others aside from Heritage,--like Newt Gingrich. The former Speaker is already out there saying "this will not stand." If anyone understands what's at stake here and how to make repeal a reality, it would be the former House Speaker.

Check in too with the American Enterprise Institute / and the Competitive Enterprise Institute

If you have serious policy questions, go to these places for starters. There are others.

4. The Virtual Newsroom Media: This has been discussed here in this space before. Everybody knows where to go (which is why you're here!) One addendum: in the near future we will discuss Sean Hannity's new book, Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama's Radical Agenda, a review copy of which sits in front of me. Rarely has a subtitle for a book -- "Defeating Obama's Radical Agenda" -- had more relevance to events than this one.

5. The Lawsuits: A hat tip to The Great One, Mark Levin. Within hours of his announcement that he had a lawsuit ready to go if the Pelosi constitutional wrecking crew proceeded with the so-called "Slaughter Rule" or "deem and pass" manipulation, his suit was being discussed at the White House daily press brief with Robert Gibbs. A handful of hours after that, nervous House Democrats pulled the plug on that particular gambit altogether. Lawsuits are coming, they are potent, and they will be many. As Mr. Levin has demonstrated with his usual force, they can get action as well.

So. Is this battle over?

Not a prayer.

It is no more "over" than the civil rights issue was settled with Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896.

It is no more "over" then the issue of American Independence was settled with the end of the Stamp and Tea taxes in 1765 and 1773.

It is no more "over" than it was when there were still British victories over Gandhi and the Indian independence movement throughout the 1930s.

It is no more "over" than when the Polish Communist government thought they had packed Lech Walesa off to internal exile in the isolation of Polish house arrest in the obscure villa of Otwock or outlawed Solidarity.

Obamacare will not stand. Americans will not tolerate it, that is already certain. But the resistance has only begun. And as to how that resistance does its inevitable job and wins its inevitable victory?

Americans will decide for themselves. But as they go about making these decisions, it is surely worth remembering the closing word's from Ronald Reagan's "A Time for Choosing" speech delivered in October of 1964:

"You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We can preserve for our children this last best hope of man on earth or we can sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children, say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done."


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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at