2008 was a time of “hope and change” in American politics. The current administration was elected on the founding principle of “Yes We Can!” At the time this message resonated with the people, because America was experiencing the burst of the housing bubble, an economic downturn, and a war on terror that was fast approaching the decade mark. This made hope and change sounded appealing to many voters, and “Yes We Can!” was an anthem for those disenfranchised by the direction Washington was headed.
This great battle cry was vague, as most political catch-phrases are, so there was no idea what “Yes We Can!” really meant. It would not take long for this administration to define what the “Yes We Can!” revolution actually meant. “Yes” gave an excuse for the arrogance of an administration and a party that would tell the American people that they knew best, as they passed the unpopular health care law through Congress. “Yes” would be the improperly perceived mandate to forgo scruples and overstep constitutional bounds. Indeed, “Yes We Can” was an absolute positive that seemed to mandate that the current President’s agenda move forward no matter the cost. Like parents realizing that their credit card was not being used for emergencies only, the American people soon woke and realized that they got more than they bargained for in 2008.
This administration’s focal point has been the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). In March 2009, the President signed this bill into law, which would guarantee that every citizen was covered by health insurance by mandating that every American citizen own some form of it. The President has since championed this as a great measure for the country. However, this is a far cry from what he said in 2008 while running for office. He stated, “I could mandate everybody to buy a house, and that would solve the problem of homelessness.” Of course, there is a strand of complete ridiculousness in this concept. The “Yes We Can!” style of government was the foundation for the PPACA, an act that represents all that is wrong with American politics.
To begin with, the act was – and still is – wildly unpopular. Some polls even have two-thirds of the American people wanting the Supreme Court to overturn the law. Pushing this bill through Congress was not poor foresight by the administration; rather, they knew that there would be pushback from the very beginning. Once Democrats in the House knew that they had a majority locked up, they allowed Representatives from traditionally more conservative areas – 34 Representatives in all – to vote against the measure in order to avoid conflict in the 2010 elections. Therein lies one of the worst offenses of this bill. Although the Democratic Party leadership knew that this bill was unpopular, and would cause problems for them in the future, the “Yes We Can!” mentality of government prevailed. “Yes” meant going against the will of the people to pass a bill that the administration would hang its hat on. “Yes” meant telling the American people that their government knew best, and that all would be well if they would swallow the pill quietly and without any questions.
Apart from the arrogance of this President and his party, no one can overlook the fact that the PPACA went further constitutionally than any measure before it. Never before in America’s storied past has the Federal government forced someone into a market simply because they were citizens. Not even during the New Deal era and its bastardization of the Constitution was there a step this close to absolutism. There is no one that can reasonably argue that this act was on anything but shaky constitutional ground. Despite this, when the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that would decide whether this bill was permissible under the Constitution, the President had to stoop down to bullying the Supreme Court into seeing his way. According to the current President, overturning a law passed by Congress and signed into law by the President would be unprecedented judicial activism. What is implied is that one must ignore Marbury v. Madison which established the practice of judicial review, and the multiple cases in which the Supreme Court has used judicial review to overturn laws that were passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. “Yes We Can!” meant that all opposition, even the Constitution itself, should be swept aside so that this administration and its policy might march forward.
If this administration is marching on, then it is marching into its own peril. There are many people, both statesmen and private citizens who disagree wholeheartedly with the policy and direction of the President. In 2010, the last echoes of “Yes We Can!” had subsided, and a new feeling came into the American body politic. With the new found Tea Party movement, Republicans swept into office in the 2010 elections, taking a majority in the House and closing the gap in the Senate. These Congressmen and women had the audacity to stand up to the President and actively work to change the course of this nation. In working to block the President’s policy, they became labeled “The Party of No.” There is no sweeter sound in Washington today than that of “No.”
If a “Yes We Can!” government means yes they can reach far beyond their limits and yes they can operate far outside the Constitution, then I am a proud card carrying member of the “Party of No.” In fact, if there is any hope left for this country, it is in saying no. No to a larger government, no to limitless programs, and no to trampling on the Constitution. So let the “No’s” echo out from the halls of government like those from the parent of a teen-aged child, and let’s set this nation back on the track of limited, responsible government.
Alex Jones is a junior from Sandusky, Ohio, majoring in Political Science.