“A December Gallup poll showed Americans’ fear of big government has reached near-record levels, with 64 percent deeming it a bigger threat to the country than big business or big labor. Driving the increase was a rise in the percentage of Democrats who view the government as ever-more threatening.”
By PAULINE ARRILLAGA
They’re coming. The mom from North Carolina who opposes vaccinations and dislikes doctors and chooses to forgo health coverage because, she says, it is her right as an American. The Massachusetts Navy vet who feels health reform in his state has limited choice and ballooned costs. The husband-and-wife private investigators from Georgia who are satisfied with their own health plan and fear being forced to buy something more expensive.
They’re coming, along with so many others, to Washington, D.C., this month. They will stand a few blocks from the U.S. Supreme Court, clutching handmade signs and chanting as one as the high court prepares to hear arguments — and renew debate — over a health care law that has divided Americans and become a rallying point among a chunk of the electorate for whom “change” has come to mean “repeal.”
“Obamacare” unites them. But what inspires them to converge in protest is less the law itself than what it has come to represent to a lot of people: Big government at its worst.
“It is the epitome of being in my face and telling me what I can and can’t do for the rest of my life,” says Christine Gates, the North Carolina mom.
“What’s next? They gonna tell you you can’t wear a black T-shirt?” says Carlos Hernandez, the Massachusetts veteran.
“With Bush is when I became more and more aware of the fact that government was spending more and requiring more … when Obama took over, it went from second or third gear to fifth or sixth gear,” says Michael Mancha, the private investigator in Georgia. His wife, Elizabeth, feels the health care law “truly exemplifies how out of control the federal government has gotten. It’s the big trophy on the mantle.”
These are more than just rants from the anti-Obama crowd, but rather a sampling of the national conversation underlying so much of the angst among voters this election year — from Occupy protesters who rail not just against Wall Street but for the idea that “we don’t need politicians to build a better society” to tea partiers who carry pocket copies of the Constitution and espouse the principle of “constitutionally limited government.”
Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, are asking some fundamental questions about the state of the union that go beyond how to grow the economy, add jobs, lower fuel prices and curb foreclosures.
Among the most profound: What is — and perhaps should be — the role of government in our lives?
That many Americans believe government, the federal government in particular, has grown too big and powerful is hardly an earth-shattering revelation. It is one of the very reasons the tea party was born. Why debates over bailouts, stimulus packages and the national deficit have intensified. Why state legislatures are pushing back against congressional regulations. Why the champion of libertarianism, GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, draws dedicated followers who cheer his proposals to end the Federal Reserve, repeal the federal income tax and abolish the Internal Revenue Service (along with the federal departments of Commerce, Education, Energy and more). And why more than two dozen states sued over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.