Elections and Protests
Andrew Sullivan seems to argue that the losing side in an election thereby loses the right to protest:
It’s perfectly proper – even admirable – to demonstrate and argue against the new administration’s ideas, but it’s also worth recalling that this plan in its essentials was an integral part of the president’s campaign platform and his party’s effective manifesto. It was debated ad nauseam last year, and Obama won by a hefty margin. The tone of these protests suggests that this is some wild power-grab. It isn’t. It’s a centrist and not-too-ambitious plan to fulfill a clear campaign pledge as responsibly as possible within a sensible fiscal framework.
The protestors keep saying that they want their country back. Sorry, my fellow small-governmenters, but this country is a democracy, and you didn’t lose your country, you just lost an election. You had your chance for eight years. You blew it, and you lost. What Obama is doing is what he was elected to do. The principled response is not a massive, extremist-riddled hissy fit a few months in, but a constructive set of proposals to build on universal care for a more market-friendly and cost-conscious system in the future. You have to win some political credibility for that; and then you have to beat the man you lost so badly to last year. That’s the civil and civilized way forward for the right. It also seems, alas, to be the one they are currently refusing to take.
This is wrong on so many levels.
First, Obama won for a whole variety of reasons. Candidates say all manner of things on the campaign trail but winning does not necessarily confer a mandate for all of those programs. A goodly number of the centrists, independents, and even conservatives who voted for Obama did so because they found him personally appealing, found John McCain less than inspiring, wanted to accelerate our withdrawal from Iraq, wanted a clean break from eight years of George W. Bush, or any of a hundred other things. This does not translate into “this election was about universal health coverage,” any more than Bush’s victory of John Kerry in 2004 was about privatizing Social Security.
Second, even if one were to believe that the healthcare debate was somehow central to the 2008 election, it doesn’t mean that the debate must therefore be forever closed. Certainly, the war in Iraq and the general fight against terrorism were much, much more central to the 2004 election. That didn’t end the discussion. Nor should it have.
Third, one can generally be in favor of something and yet oppose the manner in which it is implemented. Obama’s campaign message on healthcare was rather vague and none of the plans circulating through Congress much match up to it. Even many Democrats are unhappy with the current plans.
Fourth, this is the United States of America. The right to protest one’s government for whatever reason one wishes is enshrined right there in our Constitution. It’s the first thing mentioned in the Bill of Rights.