Just as the Dred Scott decision inspired the creation of the abolition movement, and Roe the pro-life crusade that continues to this day (especially this day!), today’s passage of the single most significant expansion of the government’s role in our lives marks the first day of a new political order. That the 2010 elections will be a national referendum on one word — “repeal” — is a certainty. Voters will want to know how politicians running at both the federal and state levels stand on one overriding question: Are you for or against repeal? No one will have to ask what it is they want repealed.
Want to take a guess what H.R. 1 will be should Republicans regain control of the House in November? It will consist of one succinct sentence: “Public Law 111-___ is hereby repealed.”
Passage of H.R. 1 will be the first order of legislative business on the first day the next Congress convenes. The appropriations process will become a bloody legislative battleground where lawmakers who support the repeal movement seek to limit funds to agencies tasked with hiring the tens of thousands of new bureaucrats to write the regulations and otherwise implement health reform. In the Senate, the repeal movement will mount legislative assaults as well, but the supermajority requirements there will necessarily impede their efforts. Until the 2012 election cycle begins in earnest, that is.
Slowly, it will become clear that it is this new relationship between Americans and their government that lies at the crux of the seemingly endless political controversies swirling around us. If you thought ordinary citizens set new land-speed records for hurling heretofore arcane provisions of the Constitution or direct quotes from the Declaration of Independence at their elected representative, get ready for even more. The public’s healthy appetite for more knowledge of the principles of America’s founding, and what they mean relative to all this new government authority, will only grow in intensity. First-principles book clubs, anyone?
The good news for conservatives is that the natural instincts of the American citizenry lie firmly with the values that animated the Founding Fathers, and therefore with us — a government of limited power; a nation of laws and not of men, where the spirit of entrepreneurship is honored and encouraged; and a government that recognizes that the most important institutions in our society are families, churches, communities, and then, and only then, government.
The new law has already inspired a reaction among the states. State attorneys general are receiving instructions from their governors and state legislatures to challenge various provisions of the new law. Legislation to negate the effect of the new mandates has advanced in dozens of states. The vast expansion of the state-federal Medicaid program has prompted similarly dire concerns over the fiscal implications for state budgets. Two offshoots: First, candidates for even the most obscure state offices will quickly realize that their would-be constituents want to know their position on the new law. Second, a long-overdue rebirth of the concept of federalism may be in the offing.
So, if you get the feeling that something profoundly important just changed, you’re right.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Michael G. Franc (Heritage Foundation):