“You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything”. Wise words from Aaron Tippin, and possibly no truer words describe what kind of times we are living in. As a society, we have become less and less grounded in the founding principles of our country that prevent us from chasing the laser light like a crazed cat. Our willingness to compromise those principles has led us down a path of placing blind faith in or reacting immediately to something that emotionally triggers us instead of taking time to evaluate that bit of information under the lens of our founding principles. As a country we have fallen away from standing on the principles our nation was founded in part due to the over emotionalization of thought. We have allowed ourselves to replace those principles with whatever is shiny, new, and “progressive”, with little regard to the deeper meaning and actual power contained within our founding principles. We are no longer standing on them and it causes us to “fall for anything”.
What are those principles? One is a deep skepticism of government. As time has gone on, the government has weaseled its way deeper and deeper into the lives of the people. No matter how many times it has failed us, we continue to look to the government for answers and to save us from the problems IT has created. We have come to place too much trust in and rely on the government to solve our problems way too much. We have allowed government to usurp too much power from the people, no matter how much the government has proven itself to be untrustworthy and has shown its only interest is in amassing more power for itself at the expense of the people’s rights. Think about the problems that government has tried to solve, only to create bigger issues. One example is gun control. By not remaining principled in being skeptical of government programs, gun control measures from the federal to the local level have been implemented that are infringing upon citizens rights. Some of them have made sense and are reasonable, like not letting someone who is mentally ill purchase a firearm. Other reforms have been implemented under the guise of reducing violent crime, but have had the opposite effect because criminals do not follow laws. Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, yet sees more shootings and murders in a given weekend than some states see in an entire year. The breakdown in the will of the people to remain principled in the face of government infringing upon the people’s 2nd amendment rights has led to a situation in Chicago where the majority of people being hurt are the law abiding citizens, including numerous children. The people dropped their skepticism of government and traded it for the perceived safety in the stricter gun laws that Chicago enacted. That blind trust in government has had a part in creating the problems we see in Chicago, as well as other major cities where similarly strict gun control laws exist. When it comes to government, we need to continually verify that elected officials are actually carrying out the duties of their office, which should only be centered on upholding our rights that are protected by our constitution, and not just blindly trust that they are.
Another principle that we have seemingly tossed by the wayside is the notion that our rights are granted by our Creator, not the government. The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence maps this out for us. It says: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness-that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed…”. We have it backwards. We do not need to petition the government to grant us rights, that is not their role. Our rights have already been granted to us by our Creator, government’s role is merely to protect those rights. The principle that our rights have already been granted to us has been lost over time. It’s been eroded to the point where many now believe it is the government that is the grantor of rights, and because of that, we allow government to erode more and more of our rights. Look at the lockdowns we encountered because of covid. Many states and municipalities have laws on the books giving unelected bureaucrats broad powers, in this case it was health departments. If people knew the breadth of power the latitude these bureaucracies have been given to restrict the rights of the individual, would we have allowed those laws to be put in place? Why do governors have such broad powers to enact executive orders, especially executive order that can restrict citizen’s rights for an extended period of time? These bureaucracies and governors never had so much power in their hands at one time and were not about to give it up easily. If we learn anything from this Covid experience, it’s that our elected representatives in the legislatures need to be more involved in the decisions regarding people’s rights in times of crisis. There needs to be better checks in terms of how long an emergency declaration can go on before the people’s representatives get involved (in Wisconsin, it’s a 60 day emergency declaration, which is way too long and I have contacted my reps about changing). We elected our district representatives to protect our rights and act as a check on the other branches of government and the unaccountable bureaucracies. We need to remember that our rights are already given to use by our Creator, government’s only role is to protect those rights, and our government from the federal to the local level did a horrible job in doing so. We should never have had to get to the point where we were petitioning our elected officials to restore our rights to make a living and interact with each other as we see fit. We should not have to ever petition the government for rights that have already been bestowed upon us.
We have thrown the principle of giving our consent to be governed out like day old doughnuts. Yes, a case can be made that we are giving our consent when we vote someone into office, but that is only one step of the process. Our consent to be governed goes further than that. Our consent to be governed also means we are in contact with our elected officials on a regular basis in terms of making our voices heard on proposed legislation, and even new legislation we may want to see them take up. We do not exert enough pressure on our elected officials to make their decisions politically painful, especially for those across the aisle from our own viewpoints. We make the assumption that those elected officials who have a different view from our own are not going to listen anyway, so why bother contacting them. We need to be of the mindset that even if we didn’t vote for a particular official, they still represent us, and they need to still hear from us. What we need to remember is the when we contact the offices of our elected officials about a policy or piece of legislation, they track constituent feedback in terms of for and against, and if they have an overwhelming opposition to their personal or what is a perceived initially as a majority position, they may take note and think twice about supporting something when it comes time to vote in the legislative chamber. Joe Manchin is a good case study in this. West Virginia is a pretty conservative state, and the people there are letting him know how they feel about what is going on in Washington with some of the most radical parts of the democrat’s agenda. Manchin, I assume, wants to keep his job representing the people of West Virginia, so he has not been supporting the most radical of the democrat’s agenda items. Manchin has been on the record as saying in order to get his support on certain pieces of legislation, there needs to be a bipartisan solution offered. If he has the cover of bipartisan support on some of the agenda items, it makes it easier for him to sell himself to the people of West Virginia in the next election cycle for his seat, and maybe makes it more palatable for people in West Virginia to re-elect him. The impact of the people speaking out influences Manchin’s actions and positions, illustrating the power of the consent of the governed and how it can affect policy debate.
A quick story to further illustrate this point of why it’s important to stand on the principle of offering our consent to be governed. A while back at one of my local conservative club meetings, one of the members, who works for a state representative, posed a question to the club. She had asked how many in the room would be in support of a bill being currently reviewed in committee in our legislature that was aimed at keeping biological males out of girls’ sports. Every hand in the room went up. She then proceeded to say that the show of hands in support would have tripled the number of messages and emails that representative’s office received in support of the bill! For effect, she then pulled out two stacks of paper, the overwhelmingly thick one was emails and messages that were in opposition to the bill, i.e. the position that boys should be allowed to participate in girls’ sports, and the sad, thin one were the messages of those who supported the bill to ban biological males from girls’ sports. We have a republican legislature and this was a stand on principle issue, so no amount of opposition was going to prevent passage of the bill through our legislature (predictably our radical leftist governor vetoed it), but what kind of effect would that disparity in messages for and against the bill have had on a tighter issue that was not maybe such a clear cut, stand on principle case? The principle of offering our consent to be governed does not end at the ballot box, for that is only the beginning of us offering our authorization. We need to continually be in contact with our elected officials so they understand what we are authorizing or not authorizing in terms of their activities on our behalf. We have not remained strong in this principle, and subsequently, have seen a mindset change from the people consenting to be governed to acting as if they were a subjugated people that need permission to do things from those they elect to represent them.
Do we as a society have the fortitude to demand that we get back to the bedrock of American principles, skepticism of government intent, Creator, not government, granted rights, and consent of the governed? Will we use those principles as our lens for evaluating what we see in our day to day discourse and information exchanges, and demand our elected officials act accordingly? We need to push for the return to those founding principles. We need to be the leaders in driving the re-adoption of them in our society. If we don’t ground ourselves in those founding principles, we will continue to be that cat chasing the laser pointer while our elected officials continue to strip our rights because we weren’t evaluating the policy propositions through the lens of our founding principles.