Opinion by Tim Potts, President
Democracy Rising PA
The revolutionary founders of this nation had an extraordinary opportunity, and they took it.
True, they had the advantage of being separated from the object of their objections by an ocean. Yet that does explain why they recognized the opportunity to invent a new government of three balanced branches rooted in and nourished by the people. Descended from pragmatists, they were close to those who labored for meager means and trusted them with unprecedented power, even though by their relative wealth and intellect the founders could have done just the opposite.
All of this they put into a Constitution that had to be ratified by the people. We the people agree to be bound by it, and we require public officials to take an oath to obey it.
The great crime of corruption in our state government today is that it has methodically and stealthily enacted laws – passed by our legislature, signed by our governor and approved by our supreme court – that diminish the power of citizens in subtle but effective ways while increasing the power of government in subtle and malignant ways.
• Thanks to weak campaign finance laws with intentionally weak enforcement, incumbent legislators have enormous financial advantages over challengers. Some advantages derive from using their office to raise money from lobbyists who need the lawmakers’ vote. Other advantages derive from incumbents using our taxes for what everyone knows to be illegal electioneering from public office.
• State government has made it nearly impossible for one party or the other to compete effectively in most legislative districts. The primary election, where the fewest people vote, is, for all practical purposes, the general election.
• Citizens who are neither Democrats nor Republicans have to pay for primary elections in which they cannot vote. In other states, independents either can be spared the expense or can vote. PA is entirely backward.
• State government has made it nearly impossible for citizens who belong to no party to compete anywhere. We are among the worst in the nation at allowing competition against the two major parties, neither of which represents a majority of citizens.
• In every session of the legislature, someone pushes to make it harder for citizens to vote; someone else pushes to make it easier for citizens to vote; and they all are content with a standoff.
• Our state supreme court has rendered large parts of our Constitution virtually meaningless by making them virtually unenforceable.
In short, our public officials intend to deny citizens a choice of candidates and a contest of ideas. Without even resorting to illegality, although they do, they intend to rig elections as much as possible. They intend to undermine the foundation of what the founders created for us in 1776. If they intended otherwise, they would enact different laws.
Not only have they eroded our most important right and responsibility, they have created a government such that very few honest, hard-working citizens want to be any part of it. Instead of making government something to be grateful for, they have made it a misery.
We know that we citizens allowed it to happen, but we also know we can do better than this.
Like our founders, we have reached a tipping point. Most of us believe our state government has gotten so out of hand that we have to assert once again our ownership of it. We may lack the strategic and dramatic distance of a vast ocean, but we have the same opportunity as the founders: to take responsibility for governing ourselves – right now – and create the government we want.
This, I believe, is what some people are getting at when they say, "Throw em all out!" They are trying to create an immediate and great distance between the government that is and the government they want to be responsible for. They are trying to create the chance to start again, not just to reverse the corrupt trend line of state government but to set our citizens on a course that refuses to accept less than the best that representative democracy has to offer.
In doing this, they are proving the premise of the people who became our nation’s founders. When the rights of citizens are protected, when citizens are educated and possess the ability to self-educate without limit, they will be both willing and able to accept responsibility for governing themselves.
In 2010, we have an extraordinary opportunity. Let’s take it by insisting on a referendum where we decide whether to have a Constitution convention and, if so, what parts of the Constitution we want to exempt from it. Sign the petition at www.democracyrisingpa.com. Then tell everyone you know, especially every candidate for every public office in 2010, to do the same.
Let’s look at what we have and decide, as the founders did, that the people can do much better than this.
Vote for Integrity!
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We can be reached at: P.O. Box 618, Carlisle, PA 17013
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