The recent revolution hurting America
While the passage of health care reform makes significant changes, the new heightened level of public discourse is the more dangerous change in our country.
Health care reform will change our nation in major ways. According to the Congressional Budget Office, health care reform will cut the deficit by $1,300,000,000,000. It will ensure that 32,000,000 more people will have health insurance. Children can stay on their parents’ health care plans until they are 26. No longer will companies be able to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. Certainly this bill is a major change in current policy, but it potentially is not the most revolutionary change in the past month.
As with most major public policy debates, opponents of reform pushed back strongly and loudly. Protesters held signs, chanted catchy slogans, organized themselves and made their voices heard. They blogged, tweeted and even drew delusional diagrams on blackboards of their disagreement with health care reform. This governmental resistance is not only legal, but it is also American. Our founding fathers wanted us to dissent; they gave us the right to exercise free speech and to peaceably assemble. Americans have protested their government as long as there has been an American government to protest. If individuals want to criticize the government, they have every right to do so. Protests allow citizens to voice their opinions to the government, the media and their fellow citizens as they add to the debate.
But recent Tea Partiers have gone too far in both rhetoric and actions. Protesters cut the gas line at a house believed to belong to a brother of a representative who voted for the bill. When several members of the Congressional Black Caucus left the Capitol during a Tea Party protest, several individuals called these members of Congress by racial slurs and spat on them. Numerous members of Congress have received death threats, and several congressional district offices have had their windows shattered.
This violence has manifested everywhere, even close to campus. Tea Party activists have protested the congressman who represents Wash. U. and other parts of St. Louis, Representative Russ Carnahan, for his vote in support of health care reform, but their opposition has gone too far. The Tea Partiers left a coffin near his home and burned pictures of him outside his office. These actions in St. Louis and all over America do not resemble peaceful protests that further debate; they are threats aimed to scare members of Congress and their staffs.
Tea Party members and their Republican peers have made their opinions well known. They dislike the spending in this bill and other measures taken by the Obama administration. They view many parts of the bill as restrictive and intrusive. They disagree with the process by which the reform was passed, but ultimately the process that passed this bill was the same as the one used by the conservative majorities of the Bush years to pass various aspects of the Republican agenda.
The back-and-forth of debate on the merits of health care reform will continue as Republicans challenge the constitutionality of several provisions in the bill. In addition, Republicans likely will push repeal in the coming midterm elections. Regardless of whether Congress repeals the bill or the Supreme Court deems it unconstitutional, the process will lay within the framework that early American leaders laid for us to govern our country. But if we as Americans accept violent rhetoric and actions as debate, we will have destroyed the founding fathers’ dreams.