From the protests on the steps of the Colorado capital to blog comments, conservatives vented their frustration with the American system of government that produced the landmark legislation President Obama will soon sign into law. More often than not, they referred to it as health care reform, which is inaccurate, or socialist legislation. Some, like Ben Stein, conservative pundit, on Larry King Live last night, believe the constitutional system was circumvented in order to produce the legislation. The Virginia legislature has already begun a process to prohibit by state law the requirement that health care be mandated by federal law. All of these efforts will, of course, fail.
It would be hypocritical to claim there was no frustration among progressives during the Bush II years. Some vented in anger, some, like Pete Peterson and Warren Buffett, using the logic of the economic markets. All culminated in the surrender of power at the federal and many state levels by the conservatives who had ruled from 2000 until the 2006 mid-term elections when Democrats summoned the numbers and organization to finally gain control of both houses of Congress as well as many governorships and state legislatures.
Ruling vs. Governing
The operative word is "ruled." Conservatives appeared to believe it was their God-given right to determine what is best for America, and whenever they gained power, they ruled. This became a noticeable difference between Democrats and Republican conservatives. Democrats recognized America to be not a monarchy, nor a dictatorship, but a nation with a remarkably durable constitution that requires elected officials to govern, not rule. The difference became apparent when the Bush administration decided to do by executive order what was prohibited by the Bill of Rights and other safeguards put in place by Congress down through the nation's history. Citing the necessity of war, the Bush/Cheney/Rove White House dictated to the Republican controlled Congress what ought and ought not be done, and that body rubber stamped everything that administration asked for until that fateful election of 2006. Today, rather than cry mea culpa, those same Republicans decry the power and abuse they know all too well and ask Americans to give them another try despite the direct connection between the nation's current plight and their policies, beginning with Newt Gingrich's contract on America during the Clinton years.
Conservatives supporting corporate rights vs. Democrats supporting individual rights
Now the conservatives hope for a similar and spectacular defeat of Democrats in the upcoming 2010 election year. Will they get it? Unlikely. Most Democrats and independents want to see more of what happened Sunday night, not less: change. The nation, they believe, has swung too far in the direction of corporate power, profit and the reduction of individual liberties under that same Bill of Rights. They fought not only a Republican party bent on increasing and consolidating that power, but also a Supreme Court that in one recent ruling, decided it is the right of corporations and lobbyists to increase their stranglehold on the national legislative process by refusing to outlaw soft money and some hard money contributions that had been deemed illegal in previous attempts at campaign finance reform. They did it by extending to corporations the same right to freedom of speech guaranteed under Article 1 of the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution that the language says is an individual, not a corporate one.
The coming legal struggle for the hearts and minds of Americans
This, then, appears to be how the battle lines are being drawn. Conservatives, under the camouflage of protecting the individual's right to wield as much power as possible to the detriment of government, actually help corporations consolidate their steady march toward absolute power over individuals by requiring them to gain health care benefits through employment and join together in lobbying efforts to protect their special interests, while the Democrats have begun the process of allowing the pendulum to swing the other way by providing individuals with freedoms such as the right to protection for the individual against predatory practices like price fixing and monopolies. Who will emerge victorious? Here's a clue. Conservatives ought not underestimate the determination of progressives to avoid returning the country to those first six dark years of the 21st century. Those progressives, surprisingly, exist as Democrats, independents and, yes, even Republicans.