WASHINGTON (Aug. 4) — Voters in Missouri show Congress what they think of a federal mandate to purchase health insurance. Lawmakers in Arizona take immigration enforcement into their own hands. And senators in Washington talk about amending the U.S. Constitution to block children born to those here illegally from automatic citizenship.
“We’re looking at the greatest showdown on states’ rights that we’ve had in a couple of generations,” said Richard Reuben, a University of Missouri law professor. “This is a historic time.”
Arizona conservatives sing the national anthem at a rally against illegal immigration Sunday in Phoenix.
Republicans have issued a tea party-friendly Contract From America based on “individual liberty, limited government, and economic freedom.” Democrats have countered with a parody whose No. 1 priority is to repeal health insurance reform, their No. 1 achievement.
Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, said the current revolt encompasses the tea party but is broader than that. He sees the prevailing public mood as the latest in a series of American populist movements. But unlike, say, the prairie populism of the 1890s that gave rise to the progressive movement, today there are more ways to express discontent, whether at the ballot box or on the Internet.
This time the growing number of lawsuits, ballot initiatives and legislation is part of a grassroots conservative movement that disapproves of the liberal political establishment in Washington. Said Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor and founder of The Volokh Conspiracy blog: “They are trying to have their voice heard — to mixed results.”