I wanted this to sound far more reasoned and rational than this, but I'm afraid I don't have it in me. I wanted to sit down and write a level examination of the role and responsibility of elected officials (cause let's be honest, it looks like several of our officials could use one) but this is too much; all of us, as a people, are facing yet another democratic cave to the administration. Last time it was the lives of our soldiers in Iraq, this time they're selling out our civil liberties. While I don't imagine the two are exactly equal, I had hoped the bitter taste of the first would've left our leaders less likely to sell us out yet again, rather than make the act that much easier.
So here it is; a lesson for those who have forgotten, on the rights and responsibilities of our elected officials, and just what they owe to their people.
You were not elected by your contributors - when you're elected to office, you're placed there by votes. Not ads, not sponsors, not patrons or allies or million dollar contributors. No matter how great the powers that put you in office, it was the votes of people that got you there. Those people with their votes - be they for you or against you - have tacitly endorsed the consent to be governed - pay attention to that phrase, for those few words are the very basis of our system of government. By casting their vote, those citizens of the United States have made your their representative.
The voters are not beholden to you - Contrary to the deplorable image of government endorsed by men like Rudy Guliani, power does not come from the top down, and by voting we do not grant our elected officials the right to tell us how to live. Rather - as the framers intended - we agree to abide by mutual rule; I trust my vote to matter as much as my neighbors' vote, and I consent to abide by the laws drafted by the representatives elected by the majority of our votes.
You owe us your honesty - implicit in the consent to be governed is the honest representation of your platform, your beliefs, and you intentions in running for office. We accept the view is different once in office, and we understand your views may change as you are exposed to more information. We also know when we've been had. Don't make promises to get (re)elected only to abandon them upon swearing in. Don't promise to hold people accountable only to spend every waking hour protecting them from the very investigations you promised to hold. Lastly, don't say whatever it takes to get elected. There's a reason politician has become a dirty word; if you're doing any of these things, you're the reason why.
You owe us your dedication - When we elected you, it was with the understanding that we are a representative government; you will be our voice. As such, we have placed in you our trust, that we may not have the time to read legislation, the memos, bills, intelligence reports, or any one of a thousand documents that make up our Governmental Paper-Chase. You, however - by running for office - have agreed to do exactly that; you have stepped forwarded and sworn that you will make said papers your daily bread and butter, that we may rest at night, assured that out there a light is on in some office as you and your staff pour over the mountain of paperwork to better understand the issues that affect our lives. If your vacation is in jeopardy because you must stay in session to oppose a reprehensible piece of legislation, then your vacation suffers; most of us would make that call at our jobs, and we expect the same of you.
You owe us your judgement - When we elect you to office, we place our faith not just in your platform, but in your ability to govern. When we cast our vote, we are endowing in you the power to make decisions on our behalf; you are there to listen to our voices, and then act as you think is right. If you want nothing more than to read the latest Fox News opinion poll or 'expert opinion' on CNN and let that be your only guide, then you don't belong on the ballot. Representing us is your job; if all you can do is vote as the wind blows, then don't kid yourself that you're a leader, and don't run for office.
You owe us your courage - the day, the hour, the very minute you're willing to betray the beliefs you were campaigned on because you're afraid of how you'll look, you need to resign.
No ifs, ands or buts.
If you can't be bothered to do what's right when YOUR CITIZENS LIVES AND LIBERTIES are on the line because you're afraid someone might call you names, you're less than a coward, you're an embarrassment to the United States.
Your power comes with responsibilities - Our system of government - no matter how well intended - makes mistakes. When we elect you to office - be it mayor, governor, senator or president, we endow in you certain rights and responsibilities beyond mere legislation. We grant our leaders the ability to right wrongs, and provide a source for redress. Mitt Romney has suggested he is unwilling to commute prison sentences because a jury has already renderered a verdict.
Mitt Romney is wrong; by our system of government, that is exactly his job.
Some Congressmen have suggested that impeachment is wrong because no court of law has found the president guilty of a crime.
Those Congressmen are wrong; Impeachment is the process for finding said president guilty.
if you are unwilling to use your power to address the very wrongs it was created for, then you don't belong in office.
You owe us a functional Government - our system has lasted this long by a fortuitous mixture of self-interest and ability to see the long view. While the laws must grow and change with the times, the checks and balances must not. What has stood for over two centuries has all but been undone in a few short years by men and women failing to understand these salient points; our legislators will likely be undoing this damage for years and years to come. No matter how living our breathing our constitution, you can't un-ring a bell, and hat might be simple expedience to you becomes precedence to the next guy, and the one after that. Please do us the courtesy of remembering this, the next time you're worshiping at the shrine of 'Fighting Terrorism.'
And for extra credit, an axiom for a successful free society:
- Just Laws Create more freedoms than they abridge
- Unjust Laws abridge more freedoms than they create.
Next time you're reading / drafting / considering / even thinking about a piece of legislation, let this one axiom be your guide, and no matter how unforgiving the media, you'll be helping to build a better tomorrow.