Arguably the first uprising against a government occurred in Rome, when Tarquinius Superbus, the king whose son raped a nobleman’s daughter, was removed from power by the Senate, not the people. This established the Roman Republic which was in turn overthrown by the killing of Caesar, which was a murder conspiracy by Senators, not a popular uprising.
Most of the violent upheavals in the Middle Ages came in the form of full-scale civil wars between armies led by noblemen; the only role of the common people was to be slaughtered. Even Magna Carta: people believe it was a popular uprising to secure the rights of the common man, but it was in fact a conspiracy of noblemen to secure rights for…noblemen.
American revolution? Led by landowners and professionals, and it took years of organization, meetings, committees of correspondence. The first thing they did when they won was to limit real power to affluent white men – and if Alexander Hamilton had had his way, the elitism would have gone even further. The common man got the vote but very little real power: the real rulers feared them and controlled popular sentiment, by establishing a republic rather than a democracy, rejecting anything resembling referenda, and separating common men from power by means of the Senators and the Electoral College, neither of which were originally intended to be elected directly by the people as we do it today.
U.S. civil war? The common man was rarely a slaveowner and had no real stake in the war, notwithstanding all the hollering about state’s rights. The fight was led by rich plantation owners, several state governments and half of the existing army officer corps, and it was years in coming. After Bull Run it still took a year to set up the real army and the government.
The French revolution? It did start as a popular riot, but it got nowhere until army troops took over. The Russian revolution also gained the upper hand when army troops changed teams; the same happened when the Soviets fell in 1991. That, in fact, has been the pattern in many “uprisings”: it is the army that simply changes sides and picks the new ruler. And if the current teabaggers think the U.S. Army is suddenly going to join their jihad and overthrow Obama, they really are mainlining the Koolaid.
Another factor that has changed the nature of modern uprisings is attention from the media and the international community: that’s why the Chinese kicked out the press before rolling the tanks into Tian An Men. So an uprising which clearly has no basis in reality, like the teabaggers protesting the tax policy of a president who actually lowered their taxes, like the goon squads screaming that Obama is going to kill Palin's baby, kill Ted Kennedy, kill your grandmother, kill all insurance companies, kill unborn babies, kill thousands via “death panels” – even our lazy media is beginning to get to the debunking.
Another factor: who is providing support? Setting up an uprising can require money, transportation, communication, logistics, safe havens and so forth. The Taleban only succeeded in Afghanistan because they had the Pakistanis openly sponsoring them. So the current anti-health-care goon squads are getting a lot more help from their corporate and party masters than they want to admit.
Single issue uprisings are seldom “spontaneous” either. Most, like the abolition movement, the prohibition movement, the woman’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement – took decades. When great issues are decided, and great change is in the wind, the “people” are almost always spectators, and what may look spontaneous is invariably the culmination of months or years of intelligent planning. And the current health issue is one in which the popular wind is blowing in the direction of reform, not against it – the momentum has been building since Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman began working toward health reform, and today three-quarters of the country is in favour of the reform, not the goon squads.
So the notion that Obama and his plans are going to be brought down by a bunch of Joe Plumbers marching down Main Street with pitchforks and torches, was never realistic. This is the myth they want to peddle, but the reality is that this is all being manufactured by the insurance industry and the GOP, with millions of dollars, and with the open connivance of some media outlets and the laziness or cowardice of others, to protect the criminal enterprise that steals $600 billion of our money every year, and has corrupted our Congress possibly beyond repair.