August 2009 may become one of the greatest months in the history of American politics. Barack Obama's Organizing for America website notes:
"For one month, the fight for health insurance reform leaves the backrooms of Washington, D.C., and returns to communities across America. Throughout August, members of Congress are back home, where the hands they shake and the voices they hear will not belong to lobbyists, but to people like you."
What? The president's original plan was to pass healthcare legislation before the summer recess in order to avoid the sweltering political heat from folks back home. On the other hand, Republicans were hoping to delay passage of the legislation so that its supporters, mostly Democrats, would get burned by a public outraged by the attempted takeover of one-sixth of the economy.
Yet it appears, at least rhetorically, this is a battle President Obama wants. At a recent public event he said:
"When it comes to healthcare, the cynics, the naysayers, the Washington crowd, they seem to think we can somehow just keep on doing what we're doing and expect a different result. But everywhere I go I meet Americans who know we can't do that. They know we gotta change how we're doing business. They know change isn't easy. They know that there will be setbacks and false starts. But they also know this: We are at a moment when we've been given the extraordinary opportunity to remake our world."
Republicans may be surprised that the president's troops have been digging in. Just who are these troops?
Last spring I began noticing advertisements for college students to apply for internships with Organizing for America. When candidate Obama became President Obama, he converted his campaign and his 13 million-member mailing list to Organizing for America. OA is a brilliant high-tech strategy to keep the president's supporters engaged in his ideas with the hope of turning them into political victories. OA's healthcare strategy is to use technology to disseminate propaganda and organize community meetings to mobilize support:
"August is a crucial time to show Congress where the people stand. That's why Organizing for America is putting together thousands of events this month where you can reach out to neighbors, show your support, and make certain your members of Congress know that you're counting on them to act."
Just as Democrats ridiculed President Reagan's experience as an actor, Republicans ridiculed President Obama's community organizing résumé. If President Obama's healthcare plan survives the summer, it may be due to the president's community organizing skills.
The battle is now raging on the airwaves, in town hall meetings, and on WORLDmag.com, and I am concerned for several reasons.
Americans have lost sight of the purpose of government. "The function of the state is this: to keep the peace," wrote Russell Kirk in his book Roots of American Order. "Repelling foreign enemies and withstanding or punishing criminals at home the state makes it possible for men to be something better than so many Cains, with every man's hand against every other man's." Simply stated, government is legalized force for the purpose of keeping civil order and carrying out its limited role as described in the U.S. Constitution---not provide for the wants and needs of its citizens. Yet this summer we are battling over the role of the use of government force---to keep order or take money from one another and future generations to provide for healthcare. The current dismal state of our economy testifies to our civic illiteracy.
Moreover, although healthcare reform advocates have good intentions, they probably don't realize they will strip away much of our freedom if they succeed. Also, as a Christian, I am concerned about how we treat one another this August. Christ admonished us to extend the Sixth Commandment, "Thou shall not kill," to our speech:
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will liable to the hell fire" (Matthew 5:21-22).
Finally, we need to remember that God is still on His throne this summer. Yes, we must battle for truth, but we must battle remembering that the outcome, whatever it may be, will happen under His sovereign governance.
For this reason, we can be certain that August 2009 will be one of the greatest months in American politics.