"I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical....It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government."-- Thomas Jefferson to James Madison (Jan. 30, 1787)
Here's a breaking news alert for all Americans: if you take part in protest rallies, voice your discontent through picket signs, or disrupt events with yelling or intermittent shouts, then you are likely a right-wing extremist or a member of an angry mob, and you must be silenced.
At least that's the chilling message coming from the Democratic National Committee. It's the same "you're either with us or against us" attitude that George W. Bush loved to trot out. This time, however, the bone of contention is health care and it's Democrats who are trying to drown out any opposition.
Responding to the increasingly vocal protests of Americans who are concerned about the Obama administration's plans to overhaul health care, the DNC has released "Enough of the Mob," a web ad that attacks the constitutionally protected right to protest. "The Right-wing extremist Republican base is back," proclaims the ad. "Desperate Republicans and their well-funded allies are organizing angry mobs... This mob activity is straight from the playbook of high level Republican political operatives. They have no plan for moving our country forward, so they've called out the mob. Call the Republican Party. Tell them you've had enough of the mob."
President Obama has taken this chilling message one step further, actually encouraging Americans to report on those who are spreading "disinformation about health insurance reform." As the White House blog states, "These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can't keep track of all of them here at the White House, we're asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org." This is the official message coming out of the White House.
Bear in mind, this is the same administration whose Department of Homeland Security not long ago issued a report defining rightwing extremists as individuals and groups "that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely." That same report used the words "terrorist" and "extremist" interchangeably in describing dissenting Americans. In other words, voicing what the government would consider to be unfavorable views about its policies is tantamount to being a terrorist.
Months ago, I warned that the government would be targeting for surveillance those who disagree with the administration politically. Now we see it unfolding before our very eyes. The Obama administration is trying, none too subtly, to put down a resistance movement.
Thomas Jefferson, that revolutionary patriot who advocated rebellion every 20 years or so in order to remind the government that a spirit of resistance flourished among the people, must be turning over in his grave.
After all, the people who fomented the American Revolution did so using the same tactics as those protesting Obama's health care plan and the nation's mounting debt. They spoke out at rallies, distributed critical pamphlets, wrote scathing editorials and took to the streets in protest. They were rebelling against a government they saw as being excessive in its taxation and spending. For their efforts, they, too, were demonized and painted as an angry mob, extremists akin to terrorists, by the ruler of the day, King George III.
It's a sad statement on the political bias of many within the civil liberties arena that few outside conservative circles have spoken out against these overt attempts to quell constitutionally protected speech. Had it been George Bush attempting something similar, the outcry among liberals would have been tremendous.
So where is the outrage?
No matter what your political persuasion may be, every American has a First Amendment right to speak their mind, gather together and protest against government programs with which they disagree. And there's a lot to be concerned about. For example, the secretive nature of Obama's administration and his seeming disregard for civil liberties has some on both sides of the aisle asking what happened to the change they were promised. Congressional corruption is rampant: 17 lawmakers are currently under investigation for allegedly breaking ethical standards. Government spending is out of control: the House of Representatives actually approved nearly $200 million to buy themselves three deluxe jets. This list goes on and on.
It should be noted that much of the so-called mob's ire is being directed at lawmakers who are back home during Congress' summer recess. As one newspaper reported, "Concerns over the pace and breadth of health care reform have birthed a fiery wave of activism during the congressional recess as fearful citizens make their voices heard with resounding vigor."
Finally, Americans are taking the time to voice their concerns at town hall meetings and elsewhere, and that's as it should be.
This is democracy in action, and it's about time.
Follow John W. Whitehead on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rutherford_inst