Thursday, September 23, 2004

Going Political

Okay, I've already got a website dedicated to me, so I've decided that for now my blog is going to be dedicated to something more important: the state of our nation. There's a reason this website is named for the seminal work on the collapse of the Roman empire (The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon, First Vol. Pub. 1776). I think there is something more than coincidental, possibly even prophetic in the fact that Gibbon published the entirety of his 6 volume work between the years 1776 (the year of the Declaration of Independence) and 1788 (the year prior to the creation of the Bill of Rights and the start of the French Revolution). Gibbon, with unrivaled eloquence, scathing wit, and an artists eye for detail laid out the events leading to the collapse of the Roman Republic and Empire and, more importantly, the underlying causes. "There is," as Hans-Friedrich Mueller says, "much in Gibbon to offend." He lays bare the damaging consequences of religions fanaticism and the tendency of mankind to sacrifice freedom for luxury. Gibbon is offensive because he is honest. Historians are only offensive when they are either too truthful or blatantly deceitful. I doubt very much that anyone with even a vague understanding of history would attempt to discredit Gibbon on the factuality of his treatise.
In writing about the collapse of the first western civilization, Gibbon foreshadowed all that would come. The Romans (this time in the form of American colonists) would again throw off the shackles of their insane monarch, and they would rise to power first through a rugged might and dignity, then through economic and political influence. We would follow the template laid out by empires long dead. We would rise. We would reign, and now, says history, we will fall.
If that template is to be believed, having advanced to our present status with approximately four times the rapidity of the Romans, we should collapse at that same alarming rate. With advances in communication and technology, the deteriorating attention spans of our people, and a consumerist paradigm the likes of which the world has never even imagined we should expect to be reduced to a state of despotism within a generation or two. Or have we already arrived there? Are we, like the ancient Romans, so bloated with pride over our supposed republic, our military might, our economic power, and our social dominance of the globe that we simply do not see that our own political influence is being dismantled bit by bit.
In Colorado the state legislature has instituted a referendum to determine whether or not the winner-take-all system with regard to the electoral college should be abolished in favor of a percentile distribution. (e.g. Should 33% of the state vote Democrat this November and the other 67% Republican then 3 of the 9 electoral votes would go to to Kerry and 6 of the 9 to Bush. This would almost always result in a 4/5 split between the two parties.) The benefits of this type of vote to Democrats is questionable, in fact there are many good arguments both for and against this measure, however, that's not the issue that's really at stake here. Republican Party lawyers have threatened, or more appropriately declared their intent, to bring the constitutionality of the issue into federal court should the measure pass. The reason: a clause that states that the method of distribution of the electoral votes is to be determined by the state legislature.
While I believe that there is a great deal of legitimacy to the arguments against the abolition of the winner-take-all system, I find that that issue takes a back seat to two other issues raised by this referendum. The first is the never-ending issue of states' rights. With Republican party members contesting the legality of Colorado's decision-making process in federal court we may find that American voters, American citizens, will find themselves at the mercy of Washington-based lawyers. I find it to be a dangerous proposition that GOP lawyers would be more than willing to take the issue to court based simply on the fact that the decision will be based on a referendum rather than a vote of the state legislature?
The second issue that this raises is the fundamental flaw in a political system, claiming to be a republic, in which it is possible to view a legislature's decision to hold a referendum as potentially unconstitutional. For goodness sake, we're talking about elected officials seeking the guidance of their constituency. How does this seem any more wrong than congressmen being lobbied over thousand-dollar dinners in Washington? Why is it debatable that the citizens of this country can be allowed by their elected officials to make decisions regarding their own government? I understand that the wisdom of a republic is that it mitigates the influence of the mob, but what is the wisdom in allowing lawyers, motivated by financial interest, to question the authority of the people and the elected officials?
It seems to me that this is simply a calculated attack on the power of the average citizens of the United States, just an attempt by the political elite to weaken the ability of the people to determine their own fate in the political arena, giving more power to special interest groups and Washington insiders. In these crucial times we must, as a nation, take care in how we allow this to proceed. We must heed the warnings of our founders that true patriots question their government and not simply allow it to advance unchecked.


Bruno said...
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Brice Timmons said...

"The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object."
-- Thomas Jefferson