The Nation's Pulse

High Stakes

Government has been moving into people's lives for a very long time -- but never quite like this.

By 11.20.09

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Remember this? At the White House in September Michelle Obama stood before a booster club of liberal-minded women and coined the official slogan "Health Care is a Women's Issue," declaring that government-run medical care was essential to women's "equality." The feminists cheered and, with determination, went out to help the First Lady and the President further the cause of socialized medicine.

And help they did as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House of Representatives prepared to pass their 2000 pages of health care "reform" until…until…uh-oh. A Congressman named Stupak threw his wooden shoe (sabot) into the works -- with an amendment opposing abortion funding -- and sabotaged what the liberal ladies had been longing for. The cheers faded; the love wilted. Now the gender feminists sound more like the Furies of yore. To wit:

"A stunning assault on women's health and rights," proclaimed Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

"Women won't stand for [this] legislation," warned Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood.

"Simply outrageous!" protested Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

"Stop Stupak!" cried The National Organization for Women.

"The fight isn't over," declared Nancy Keenan of NARAL–Pro-Choice America.

"The stakes could not be higher," stated Congresswoman Diana DeGette.

Congresswoman DeGette, you can say that again. The stakes absolutely could not be higher, but not for lack of abortions. At stake here is the whole American Experiment; the Founders' vision of a society governed by ordinary citizens that gives full expression to the ideals of liberty, justice, and opportunity for all. The Founders got it right; the result was America -- a strong nation based on responsible citizens, free markets, and limited government. Democrats, who seem to envision a nation of supplicants in the name of compassion, have got it all wrong.

A debate is raging; but it is one long on process and particulars -- costs, deficits, patient care, polls, votes, amendments, congressional intrigue -- and short on first principles. The big question of what are we doing to our country seems missing as we discuss how we are going to do it. Just recently, and fortunately, more voices are making the essential point of big government vs. individual liberty. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels says that it is time for a discussion about the real role of government: "Are we a nation of free individuals who take responsibility for our own actions, or should we just forfeit freedom and turn everything over to the federal government?" Financial pundit Jonathan Hoenig has been warning of collectivism vs. individualism and championing independence. Columnist Mark Steyn calls health care a "liberty issue." Karl Rove has spoken of "changing what our country is" through centralized power. Congressman Paul Ryan calls the Democrats' bill "completely antithetical to the American idea." Even former President George W. Bush, speaking of economics, said "History shows that the greater threat to prosperity is not too little government but too much."

Government has been moving into people's lives for a very long time -- but never quite like this. Happily, current polls suggest that Americans are starting to get it; federal takeover of American medical care is losing ground. Does that mean that ordinary citizens in Iowa or Florida or Montana are thinking about the high stakes in reversing our fundamental nature as a nation? Let's hope so. And let's hope that more and more of us conclude that it is far better to conquer our problems as a strong nation of capable citizens than as a welfare state of passive dependents. As the song says, "That Ain't My America."

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About the Author

Manon McKinnon is a writer living in Falls Church, Virginia.