Although they often style themselves as “open-minded,” the Democratic Party’s ideologues possess a metaphysical certainty that rivals that of any pontiff or potentate of old. What elite liberals lack in factual knowledge, reasoned discourse, or a track record of success, they more than make up for in the absolute, unquestioned assumption that their policies are right — that they will “bend the arc of history toward justice” — and therefore, they must be implemented regardless of what America’s unenlightened citizenry desires. That’s why, unlike Republicans, when Democrats are in power they force their agenda on the American people relentlessly. Here are a few such examples:
1. Passing the “Affordable Care Act” (Obamacare)
The Left’s greatest stride toward establishing national health care in the United States came with the 2010 passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly called “Obamacare.” The American people did everything they could to signal their opposition to the bill from the outset. Polls show that support for Obamacare never topped 50%, and more Americans opposed than supported Obamacare from August 2009 until after the 2016 election.
The American people’s repudiation only emboldened Democrats, who openly touted their intentions to ram the bill down the nation’s throat like a liberal, legislative tongue depressor.
“We have to pass health care reform,” said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on January 28, 2010. “We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in. But we’re going to get health care reform passed.”
The ACA began its path toward becoming law after it passed the Senate — which is a problem in itself, since the Constitution requires that all spending bills originate in the House of Representatives (Article I, Section 7). The Founding Fathers believed taxes should be raised by the body most accountable to the people. Senate Democrats got over this barrier, because then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took an unrelated bill that had passed the House (H.R. 3590, a six-page bill to give military members a tax break), stripped out everything except its bill number, and inserted the entire text of the 2,407-page Obamacare bill in its place. Suddenly, a Senate bill “originated” in the House.
To pull the bill over the finish line, Reid handed out a host of pork barrel spending to coerce reluctant Democrats. His infamous bribe for then-Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), the “Cornhusker kickback,” assured that the state of Nebraska would never have to pay for the cost of Medicaid expansion, unlike the other 49 states. (The House later removed Nelson’s bribe from the final bill.)
The Senate passed the bill on Christmas Eve 2009, by a 60-39 party line vote, and went to the House, where it “originated.” The House wanted to amend the Senate version of Obamacare, but Pelosi knew their bill couldn’t pass the Senate: Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority when Senator Ted Kennedy died, and Massachusetts voters replaced him with a Republican who campaigned against Obamacare.
Rather than heed the Democratic voters of Massachusetts, the House came up with a plan: The House passed the Senate version of the bill, then passed the amendments they wanted in a separate bill (the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010) — and enacted that bill through a process called reconciliation. Congress created reconciliation in 1974 to deal with budget issues; it had never been intended to pass a massive social welfare state program like Obamacare. But reconciliation had what Nancy Pelosi needed: “Instead of needing 60 votes, a reconciliation bill only needs a simple majority in the Senate,” explains the House Budget Committee. Reconciliation bills “cannot be stalled in the Senate by filibuster.”
So, the Democrats rammed through a bill opposed by most Americans, including the deep-blue state of Massachusetts, employing multiple legislative illusions.
Obamacare is unconstitutional on multiple fronts, not least because the federal government cannot compel U.S. citizens to purchase anything, including health insurance. In 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts came in with an assist, siding with the Supreme Court’s liberal bloc by rebranding the “individual mandate” as a tax. As this author has reported at The Daily Wire:
The ACA, conventionally known as Obamacare, punitively fines anyone who fails to purchase a qualified health insurance plan $695 for a single person or as much as $2,085 for a family of four. Chief Justice John Roberts famously defined this penalty as a tax in the Supreme Court ruling that saved Obamacare from being overturned [NFIB v. Sebelius].
Since that time, Americans have had to bear the burden of the Left’s intransigence. Health insurance premiums in the individual market have more than doubled since the advent of Obamacare, rising by 129% between 2013 and 2019. A total of 14 million people lost their private health insurance in the plan’s first year, and PolitiFact dubbed President Obama’s promise that “If you like your private health insurance plan, you can keep your plan” its lie of the year.
At every stage of Obamacare — from the bill’s first roll call vote to its decision before the Supreme Court — every generation of Americans since the Founders told the Democrats “no.” Yet they succeeded and, thanks to feckless Republicans and a perturbed John McCain, most of its provisions remain the law of the land.
2. Amnesty for illegal aliens
Of all the bad ideas in Washington, giving illegal immigrants amnesty is the Jason Voorhees of Beltway policy. In this tired D.C. franchise, which has survived decades after it overstayed its welcome, both parties have promised to confer the world’s most precious gift, U.S. citizenship, on the millions of people who have successfully evaded border detection since the last full amnesty. Rather than retrace the multiple legislative amnesty proposals made during the Clinton and Bush-43 years — or all of the administrative stealth amnesties granted by Barack Obama — let’s focus on one bill: the DREAM act.
The essence of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) act goes back in embryonic form to a 2001 proposal from open borders ideologue Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL). Portions of this act were rolled into the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” (amnesty) bills of 2006 and 2007, which went down in political flames. Rather than give up, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) tried to add the act as an amendment to the must-pass national security bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), in September 2007. A month later, Durbin introduced the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill—but it failed to clear a Republican filibuster. Durbin simply reintroduced the bill in 2009 and 2010. Even after Barack Obama lost a blowout in the 2010 midterms, he tried to ram the bill through Congress in the lame-duck session. But the DREAM act again fell short of the filibuster. The DREAM act failed because it had major problems: It rewards lawlessness, retroactively opens government benefits to illegal immigrants, and confers benefits up to at least the age of 35 (hardly the “kids” portrayed in the media).
Without a congressional majority, Obama had two options: triangulate his policies the way Bill Clinton did, or rule by executive order. He chose the latter option. Obama decided to just act as though the DREAM act had passed Congress. On June 15, 2012, Obama unveiled a new immigration memo (titled “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children”). The newly created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) began receiving applications two months later.
President Donald Trump announced he would rescind the DACA program on September 5, 2017, but, once again, Chief Justice John Roberts came to the rescue. He sided with the court’s liberal bloc and wrote the decision, which stated that Trump’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious,” because “the disparate impact of the rescission on Latinos from Mexico, who represent 78% of DACA recipients.” The benefits just kept coming, although the legislation never passed Congress. For instance, Senator Bernie Sanders’ “College for All” plan would provide Pell Grants of $12,900 to illegal immigrants covered under the DREAM Act.
This mindset remains at work to this day. Congressional Democrats have proposed giving 6.5 million illegal aliens amnesty as part of President Biden’s signature “Build Back Better” act. The Senate parliamentarian has ruled three times that the provision has no place in the sprawling social spending bill. Rules apply to other people, not to Democrats or their potential voters.
3. Creating the “constitutional right” to abortion-on-demand
The deadliest decision of the Left has been its invention of a “constitutional right” to abortion. As in so many other left-wing causes, Democrats simply foisted their will on an unwilling public.
Abortion had been slowly becoming more accepted in the 1960s, in part because the public lacked an accurate scientific understanding of a preborn child’s humanity. Beginning in Colorado, a handful of states had legalized abortion, but most Americans opposed abortion on moral grounds. In 1969, only 40% of Americans believed abortion should be legal during the first trimester. Three years later, President Richard Nixon would win a 49-state landslide over Democrat George McGovern by branding him the candidate of “amnesty, abortion, and acid” (a phrase coined, ironically, by McGovern’s first running mate, Thomas Eagleton).
But left-wing activists never let the facts get in the way of their agenda. “Knowing that if a true poll were taken, we would be soundly defeated, we simply fabricated the results of fictional polls. We announced to the media that we had taken polls and that 60 percent of Americans were in favor of permissive abortion,” admitted Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the founder of the pro-abortion lobby group NARAL, who later became a pro-life advocate. “This is the tactic of the self-fulfilling lie. Few people care to be in the minority.”
The fibs kept coming, as lawyers lied that a woman dubbed “Jane Roe” (Norma McCorvey) had been raped and sought an abortion; McCorvey later admitted she had never been raped and never had an abortion. Meanwhile, another woman dubbed “Jane Doe” (Sandra Cano) approached a lawyer for help divorcing her husband, but her attorney used her pain to pry open the doors for abortion. “I was very vulnerable: poor and pregnant with my fourth child, but abortion never crossed my mind,” Cano later said, “although it apparently was utmost in the mind of the attorney from whom I sought help.”
What the Left couldn’t win at the ballot box, it extracted from the bench. On January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court issued one of the most infamous opinions in the history of the judiciary: Roe v. Wade, which invented a new “constitutional right” for abortion-on-demand for any reason, or no reason, through the first 28 weeks of pregnancy. The second abortion decided that day, Doe v. Bolton, declared that abortionists could commit an abortion after that point for virtually any reason as long as they claimed the pregnancy affected the woman’s “health,” including all “factors physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age.”
Together, the Supreme Court struck down state pro-life protections in 46 states. The overwhelming majority of states said no, but the Left suddenly won everything it wanted — and put its hand over Americans’ mouths, striking down countless, democratically enacted laws to save unborn citizens.
Why was abortion so pivotal to the Left? In 1972, a leader of the radical Left admitted on video that he saw abortion as key to turning America into a socialist country. The “first thing that occurs before political change is cultural change. You have to change the conscience of people,” he said. Abortion, drug use, homosexuality, “sexual promiscuity and sexual deviancy is a device” to break down the moral fiber of the nation and soften it up for Marxism. However you may view his assessment, America certainly isn’t more anti-Communist than it was in 1972.
To this day, the Left speaks of abortion in almost religious terms. Abortion activists have described pro-life measures including the Texas Heartbeat Law as “diabolical” and “an abomination,” while calling abortion “sacred ground.”
Since 1973, an estimated 62 million babies have been aborted in the United States, and democracy has been suspended on the issue of abortion.
4. Establishing gay marriage
The fundamental unit of society is the family, which is established by marriage. For thousands of years, marriage has meant the union of one man and one woman for life. Then judges got involved and forced a new redefinition of the ancient, pre-political institution on Americans over their objections.
Americans first began to assert themselves against the cultural onslaught in the chaotic 1970s, when activists began holding public same-sex marriage ceremonies and applying for marriage licenses. Most state laws did not officially define marriage as the exclusive domain of two different genders — no one thought it was necessary — so citizens sprang into action. In the Seventies, five states (Maryland, Virginia, California Florida, and Wyoming) passed laws defining marriage; for instance, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed California’s marriage protection legislation in 1977.
The issue lapsed until 1993 when Hawaii’s state Supreme Court indicated that judges might begin redefining marriage, just as they had created the “right” to abortion out of thin air. In 1996 the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman in federal law, swept through Congress with strong support of the majority of congressional Democrats — including then-Senator Joe Biden and then-Rep. Chuck Schumer. “I have long opposed governmental recognition of same-gender marriages, and this legislation is consistent with that position,” said Democratic President Bill Clinton as he signed DOMA into law.
A massive wave of laws defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman swept over the country in the next two decades. In 1995, only 13 states had any law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman; by 2005, 45 states had passed state laws or adopted constitutional amendments protecting marriage. After the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2004 that the state must recognize same-sex unions as “marriages,” marriage defense amendments passed in the next several elections, in blue states and red states alike. All in all, 30 states voted to protect marriage in their state constitutions.
When courts or state legislators redefined marriage, voters in liberal states voted to undo their legislation. In 2008, the California state Supreme Court imposed gay marriage from the bench; that November, the state passed Proposition 8 to defend marriage in the state constitution. In 2009, Maine’s Democratic Governor John Baldacci signed a law redefining marriage, but that November voters overturned his legislation by popular referendum. “Gay marriage has lost in every state in which it has been put to a popular vote,” noted ABC News in 2009.
The states even told the sitting president no when he tried to convince them to back same-sex marriage. In 2012, President Barack Obama — who carried North Carolina in 2008 — campaigned against the state’s constitutional marriage protection amendment, but voters passed it that May by a nearly two-to-one margin. Obama lost North Carolina in the 2012 election, too.
So, 45 states supported marriage. Between 2008 and 2013, only 11 states changed the law to redefine marriage democratically, and only three (Maine, Maryland, and Washington) changed the definition of marriage by popular referendum. The people had apparently spoken.
Instead of heeding their voice, the Left went into overdrive. Barack Obama announced that, since he personally believed DOMA was unconstitutional, he would stop defending the act. Then the U.S. Supreme Court overturned portions of DOMA, claiming it violated the U.S. Constitution in the 2013 United States v. Windsor case. Judicial activists began striking down the amendments just enacted by the overwhelming majority of the people. Two years later, Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the court’s liberal bloc in declaring a newfound “constitutional right” to same-sex marriage. “Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there,” he wrote in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling.
That’s cloying, not constitutional.
Despite a massive media propaganda campaign, the decision was not initially popular. A month after the decision, only 42% of Americans supported redefining marriage, and roughly an equal number of Americans were willing to say they opposed marriage redefinition.
Every region of the country, including possibly the most socially liberal state in the lower 48, had told the Democrats no. So did multiple Democratic politicians and presidential hopefuls. Still, they got what they wanted.
It’s worth contrasting Democrats’ undemocratic actions with the way Republicans dealt with the issue. Inside-the-Beltway pundits were amazed when polls showed “values voters” supporting the state’s marriage protection amendment gave George W. Bush his razor-thin margin of victory in Ohio in 2004. Bush had campaigned on the issue and, after his reelection, promised to push for a marriage protection amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “Without the protection of that amendment, we are at the mercy of activist federal judges or activist state judges who could, without the involvement of the people, determine … that marriage no longer consists of a union between a man and a woman,”Karl Rove told “Fox News Sunday” the weekend after the 2004 election. But George W. Bush abandoned the popular idea before his second inauguration two months later, choosing to spend his political capital deepening the war with Iraq; he revisited the issue briefly during the 2006 midterms, then let it die for good.
Democrats enact their agenda despite what voters want; Republicans refuse to enact the agenda that got them elected.
5. Passing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)
Perhaps the most outrageous example of the Left proclaiming victory despite losing with the public involves a failed amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The ERA, which allegedly promised equal treatment of the two sexes, passed Congress in 1971 and barreled toward ratification by the deadline of 1978. But once an eagle-eyed lawyer named Phyllis Schlafly thoroughly analyzed the amendment, the efforts unraveled. She found the ERA would force women to be drafted into the military, eliminate sex-specific showers and facilities, and end programs that benefit women. The ERA would also establish a genuine constitutional right to abortion. “With its ratification, the ERA would reinforce the constitutional right to abortion by clarifying that the sexes have equal rights, which would require judges to strike down anti-abortion laws because they violate both the constitutional right to privacy and sexual equality,” NARAL wrote on a website, which it has since deleted. As this author reported at The Daily Wire:
After the United States had an opportunity to digest these arguments, momentum stopped, then reversed. Although the Democrats extended the ERA’s ratification deadline [to 1982], no additional states signed on, and five states rescinded their previous ratification votes: Nebraska (1973), Tennessee (1974), Idaho (1977), Kentucky (1978), and South Dakota (1979).
By all accounts, the Democrats had lost. Then, a funny thing happened: 35 years later, states started ratifying the ERA as if it were still a viable amendment. Democrats also refused to count the states that rescinded their approval, claiming they still supported the ERA.
This October 21, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing where they simply proclaimed the ERA had passed enough states and become part of the Constitution. They invited noted constitutional scholar Alyssa Milano of “Who’s the Boss” fame to lend her legal expertise. Everyone, even fellow Democrats, agreed that they lost 39 years ago; several states that had endorsed the ERA repudiated their endorsements; and yet the Democrats insist they democratically amended America’s founding document.
The fight over the ERA is most illustrative of left-wing ideologues: They never close an issue, much less concede. They never change their mind, because their level of epistemological certainty does not admit growth, change, adaptation, or nuance. They simply focus with laser-like precision on their goals. And, when they attain power, they act.
There’s a lesson there for timid conservatives with eyes to see and ears to hear.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.