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Consent of the Governed
Author: TriSec    Date: 01/06/2019 21:53:54

A muse.

Ponder this passage penned by Thomas Jefferson in July of 1776.


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 just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.



Now try to ponder what you think that means. "Consent of the Governed" is probably the most basic principle of government. We, the people....select from among us those who will lead, and those same people give their consent (via the ballot box or otherwise) to govern in our name, their "just powers".

Seems pretty simple, right?

Wikipedia sums it up this way:


In political philosophy, the phrase consent of the governed refers to the idea that a government's legitimacy and moral right to use state power is only justified and lawful when consented to by the people or society over which that political power is exercised. This theory of consent is historically contrasted to the divine right of kings and had often been invoked against the legitimacy of colonialism. Article 21 of the United Nation's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government".


But how does that "will of the people" manifest itself these days? The United States are in a titanic struggle for its future. We seem to be roughly divided between those red and blue 'states', although demographics don't always fit neatly within state borders. You could look at a map, and pretty easily identify where the more liberal and progressive states are, compared to religious fundamentalists and other regressives.

Looking at the last election, it does reveal how deeply divided we truly are.

The Democratic/Progressive candidate actually won the popular vote. 48.2% of the country voted for Hillary Clinton, vs. 46.1% for the Regressive candidate. But because of the quirks of that Electoral College system....she lost the Presidency.

All fine and good, but how does that translate to "consent of the governed"? I know I don't give the President or the Republicans in other states my consent to govern. In fact, I oppose them with every fiber of my being. This is perhaps what Representative Democracy is all about. I may not like it, but at least intellectually and philosophically...I must accept the outcome of this election. Folks with different opinions and beliefs than me are in charge, it is from them that this government derives it's "consent of the governed".

Which is why I find the back and forth over whether this is a "Trump Shutdown" or a "Democrat Shutdown" to ring a little hollow. The people that elected this president, and enough representatives and senators to control the majority, essentially gave their consent for this style of government.

While you and I may disagree with it 100%....this is what those people sent to Washington to do business in their name.

It is 'government of the people, by the people, for the people' in its purest form...for 'the people' here have their undue influence over what the United States does in 'the people's' name.

So to look at the big picture, it is neither a "Trump" nor "Democrat" shutdown. This is the People's Shutdown. A vocal minority, given power by the misguided electoral college system, has essentially taken control.

But what is to be done about it?

The good news is, we already did it. Once again, "Consent of the governed" has come into play, and enough people now oppose Trumpian Doctrine that a new crop of representatives has taken over, with the mandate of the people to change things. This is indeed how representative democracy is supposed to work.

Will it ever work? That's the biggest question of the new Congress. Speaker Pelosi, controlling the Democratic majority, has already voted on re-opening the goverment and sent the Bill along to the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won't even schedule it for a vote. The "consent of the governed" in the Senate still comes from the obstructionists.

It's anyone's guess how this will turn out going forward, but as I noted yesterday...The President states that the shutdown may last months or even years if he doesn't get his way. It makes me wonder what kind of "consent" those folks that voted for Mr. Trump are giving.



 

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