Saturday, September 12, 2009
Taking whatever to the streets
What does it mean that tens of thousands of demonstrators from all over the country turned out Saturday in Washington, D.C., to protest the policies of President Barack Obama? Well, it certainly says something about the new administration, but what it says is not quite so easy to figure out. Taken at face value, the demonstrators were showing their concern about the expansion of power by the federal government in borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars to stabilize the economy and in trying to insert itself into the nation's healthcare system, traditionally regulated by the states, according to the New York Times. But the demonstrator's enthusiastic singing of patriotic songs did not mask an undercurrent of violent dislike for Obama, the nation's first black president, who took office in January with a mandate to undo the excesses of the administration of George W. Bush, who Obama replaced. In fact, the hatred expressed by large numbers of demonstrators, many of whom compared the new president to Adolf Hitler and called his initial policy initiatives "socialism," sounded more like the irresponsible commentators on FOX news than the expressions of a concerned and informed populace. "He pledged a commitment of fidelity to the United States Constitution," former House Republican leader Dick Armey told the crowd near where Obama took the oath of office. "Liar, liar, liar, liar," the crowd shouted back, echoing what Rep. Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) said three days earlier when he interrupted Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress, according to the Times. Armey's conservative advocacy group, FreedomWorks, was one of the organizations that helped organize the protest, and apparently organized the vocal opposition that dominated Obama's town-hall meetings last month. “This is not some kind of radical right-wing group,” Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina told the Times at the demonstration. “I just hope the Congress, the Senate and the president recognize that people are afraid of what’s going on.” But what, exactly, is going on? Where was these people's concern for the Constitution when Bush grossly expanded the president's war-making powers and repeatedly and deliberately violated the country's treaty obligations? Where was these people's concern for the Constitution when Bush grossly expanded the president's power by issuing signing statements that rejected the spirit of laws passed by Congress? Resetting the balance between the three branches of the federal government would be the province of a truly involved populace. Unfortunately, the demonstration in Washington seems more like a stampede by a disinterested, uninformed and uninvolved electorate than a legitimate political movement.