In just a few weeks, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the next President of the United States. And while for a lot of people Obama’s ascension to the White House gives them boundless joy and optimism for the future, there are quite a few people who are very concerned about how Obama is going to execute his duties as President.
This nation is standing on the precipice of a cliff it has not looked out from before. For while we have had economic recessions and depressions in the past, and we have been forced to confront mortal enemies from across the seas, and while cynics have arisen to decry our form of government, we have never seen a time when all of these elements have come together in such a myriad of ways and with such determination.
In short, it would appear that the USS America is sailing into the perfect political storm that can either refine the dross from our character, or sink us into oblivion.
Indeed, were it not for a growing sense of disenfranchisement that many Americans feel towards their government at all levels – federal, state and local – the increasing anxiety among average Americans would not be at the high levels it is at now.
Some may argue that the word "disenfranchisement" is too strong a word to use to describe the current sense of malaise so many ordinary American citizens feel right now. For such a feeling transcends any normal sense of angst people feel whenever there is a change in political leadership. The sense of anxiety revolves around the simple fact that many Americans see a growing divide between themselves and their government – and that as a result their fundamental rights as Americans are in jeopardy.
And can anyone really blame the American people for looking with a jaundiced eye at the elite cadre of politicians who walk the halls of Washington and Harrisburg?
Consider the recent bailouts of the banks and the effort to bailout the automobile industry. Most Americans opposed these bailouts, but their own Congressmen ignored their wishes and voted for them anyway. Tim Holden, in classic political maneuvering voted against the bank bailout before the election but turned around and voted for the auto bailout after he was re-elected.
Consider the TARP fund, which was established to finance failing financial institutions; Congress lazily abdicated its Constitutional duty to control the expenditure of public funds and created a slush fund whereby the Secretary of the Treasurer could spend the money as he sees fit. And we have only now learned that half of the money has been spent and the banks that benefited from the taxpayer’s largesse are refusing to say how they spent the money (except for the folks at AIG, who blew a chunk of it on a luxury junket).
Consider Pennsylvania’s own current predicament: State Senator Joe Scarnati is now serving double duty as Lt. Governor and as the leader of the state Senate. And while the state Constitution is blurry on the appropriate manner as to how the senate leader should handle such a situation, the ethical thing to do would have been to surrender his senate seat in order to be the Lt. Governor.
Consider the Republican County Commissioners of Lebanon County; they have chosen to accept a nice pay increase for a part-time job and then turned around and increased local taxes by 30%.
Can there be any argument, based upon the examples outlined above, that there is a growing disconnect between the voters and taxpayers of this nation and this state which is driving the increasing sense of disenfranchisement?
And what is truly disconcerting is the fact that so many Americans feel that this sense of disenfranchisement may result in a loss of their fundamental liberties as Americans.
Civil libertarians were vocal in expressing their concerns that American liberties were under attack when the Patriot Act was passed and President Bush was given the green light to institute wire-tapping of suspected terrorists.
Is it any wonder, then that ordinary Americans get nervous when they hear that the President-elect wants to create a "civil security force", with overtones of a secret police? Is it beyond reason for them to be anxious when the hear the chief-of-staff for the President-elect say, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste?"
For if there was a sense of disenfranchisement with the current Democrat-controlled Congress and a Republican President, should anyone be surprised that the sense of disenfranchisement would increase under a the prospects of a Democrat President who has made it clear he wants to change the Constitution to give more power to the government?
And if the power of the government is increased, do not the people lose some of their own authority? After all, as our Declaration of Independence observes, is not the power of government derived from the governed?
And if the new President and his Congress are successful, what assurances are there that fundamental American liberties – the right to free speech, the right to worship freely, the right to individually keep arms – will not be jeopardized in an effort to expand the power of government? What assurances exist that the American vision of a free people, shining as an example of hope to the world, will not be extinguished to advance the political agenda of a few?
As bleak as the prospects may look to average Americans who love their freedoms and rights, there are still two avenues of which ‘we the people’ may take in order to "re-enfranchise" themselves.
First, liberty-loving Americans must remember that they can appeal to God for aid. During the darkest days of America’s history, the American people – as a people – sought out Divine intervention in the affairs of men.
We are created beings and our rights have been granted to us by the Creator; is it not logical, then, for us to go back to the Author of our rights and seek His help when those same rights are threatened?
Our history is full of such episodes – from throughout the Revolution through the fearful nights of World War II – where the American people humbled themselves before the Creator and asked for deliverance. And God, in His mercy, has intervened.
Second, liberty-loving Americans must remember that they have themselves to rely upon. For the first words of the Constitution are not "We the Government" but "We the People" – a clear, undeniable reference to the fact that it is the ordinary, taxpaying citizens who are the final authority over the affairs of this nation.
The American people must remember that they are not alone but that, together, they are a powerful group who has the right and the duty to demand accountability of their elected servants, and to discipline those servants when they strive to become our masters.
Some may scoff at this Great Experiment in liberty created over 200 years ago we call "America" but the simple fact of the matter is that of all of the forms of government devised by the human mind the American form of government, as outlined in the Constitution of the United States, is the finest and most successful in history.
And while critics – from anarchists to political liberals – strive to demean and denounce the Constitution and the form of government it mandates and the liberties it enshrines, the reality is that these same critics would have their collective tongues cut out in Iran or be sentenced to prison in China were it not for the limitations of government imposed by the Constitution.
Petolicchio is a resident of Lebanon County and Immediate Past Chariman of the Constitutional Organization Of Lebanon (www.ReclaimLiberty.com).