History is a fungible, amorphous thing. But also quite predictable.
In 1854, when Stephen A. Douglas attempted (in his mind, at least) to hammer out a more equitable settlement of the slavery question in the territories being carved out of the Louisiana Purchase, he earnestly believed that allowing the citizens of those nascent states to vote on the issue was the best thing. Really, what could be more American than allowing each State to determine whether or not it would allow slavery? They called this concept “Popular Sovereignty” and it would solve so many problems that had arisen in the years after the Missouri Compromise, including what to do with those territories recently gained in the Mexican War. So, when he cobbled together enough Southern Whigs, Northern Free-Soilers and Jacksonian anti-Wilmot Proviso Democrats to pass his Kansas-Nebraska Act in March of 1854, Senator Douglas thought he’d fixed the problem for good.
Actually, by now taking a peek into our national rear-view mirror, we know things didn’t work out that way. In reality, he touched off the blasting caps that ignited the Civil War a few years later. Douglas thought he was a statesman, that he was solving an intractable problem that had dogged the republic since its founding. Instead, it gave birth to one of the most violent episodes in human history, rent the fabric of the nation that was still evident right up to the Clarence-Thomas/Anita Hill hearings in 1991. Senator Douglas wrecked the fragile coalition of the Democrat Party, infused Miracle Grow into the embryonic Republican Party, and made sure no Southern Democrat would be elected President for 110 years.
The problem was that, hidden inside the Fabergé Egg of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, was the moral rot of Slavery. Most regular Americans found slavery to be a moral outrage, whether you voted on it or not. And, in that kernel of moral truth lay the Civil War.
If Obamacare passes the House of Representatives, on this evening of March 21st, 2010, it will be the Kansas-Nebraska Act of this generation.
Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama have no clue the forces they are unleashing.
History abhors a vacuum, and certainly Senator Douglas didn’t have the ability to envision a Kansas with two competing State Capitols (one free, one slave) or the cross-border settlers that would rush into the new states to tilt the slavery/anti-slavery balance. Douglas couldn’t have known there was a John Brown out there, ready to ignite civil war by raiding the town of Osowotomie. Or that there was a former state Legislator in Illinois named Lincoln who would so excite a now already excitable population that he would be elected President, and that the country would then descend into madness.
We are now looking at the gilding all along the slender, graceful curves of the Obamacare Fabergé Egg. Inside, though, are the moral truths that the thoroughgoing majority of Americans don’t want statist, federalized health-care, and yet the Congress has forced it on us; That to insist healthcare is a “right” we must acknowledge that we must also enslave others to provide for that “right”. And that Congress has violated every concept of the liberties of freeborn men and women enumerated in our precious founding documents to arrive at this place.
In 1854, Senator Stephen A. Douglas thought he was doing the Lord’s Work, fixing a problem dating back to the fundament of our Republic. In 2010, Nancy Pelosi thinks she’s doing the same thing.
History shows us what’s next.