What True Democracy Looks Like
What True Democracy Looks Like
House Chambers, Washington, D.C.
February 7, 2017
Our nation has come to a crossroads between two competing visions of the future that don’t easily reconcile. At such times as these, emotions run high.
The good news is that our institutions are the best ever designed to resolve such political disputes. In other countries, the government is the sovereign and rights flow from it to the people. In America, the people are sovereign.
But in America, the sovereign doesn’t govern. It hires help to govern during an election. In-between elections, the sovereign people debate how the hired help is doing. That’s the real debate: the one that goes on every day wherever Americans gather. And after that family discussion, we decide whether to fire the hired help or keep it for another cycle.
As long as we are TALKING WITH each other and not SHOUTING AT each other, our system works well.
Once in our history, we stopped talking with each other. That was the election of 1860.
That election was marked not by reconciliation, but by rioting in those regions where the opposition dominated. The opposition party refused to accept the legitimacy of the election itself. Political leaders pledged resistance to the new administration by any means necessary. They asserted the doctrine of nullification, the notion that any dissenting state or city that opposed federal laws could simply refuse to obey them. Finally came the secession movement – the ultimate rejection of our Constitution and the rule of law.
Have we not started down that road once again?
Even before this election, we saw violent mobs carrying foreign flags, physically attack Americans for the sole reason that they wanted to attend a political rally for the candidate of their choice. The violence in Berkeley last week warns us that this behavior is rising.
Some prominent elected officials are again asserting nullification by declaring their jurisdictions “sanctuaries” where federal immigration laws will simply be ignored. And in California, a formal secession movement is supported by nearly a third of the population of my own suffering state.
I have held more than a hundred town hall meetings in my district throughout the last eight years spanning the entire life of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements. Through all those heated debates, the police have never had to intervene. Until this weekend, in Roseville, when the Roseville Police Department determined that the size and temper of the crowd required a police escort to protect me as I left the venue.
The vast majority of the people attempting to attend the meeting were peaceful, decent and law abiding folks sincerely opposed to President Trump, wanting to make their views known to their elected representative. But there was also a well-organized element that came to disrupt – and disrupt they did.
In the last four elections, our country has turned dramatically away from the left. The Democrats have lost 67 House Seats, 12 Senate Seats, 10 Governors, more than 900 state legislative seats and now the Presidency. That happened in large part because those who opposed their policies talked with their neighbors about the future of our country.
Instead of pursuing that successful example, the radical left seeks not to persuade their fellow citizens by reason, but rather to impose its views by bullying, insulting, intimidating -- and, as in Berkeley, by physically attacking -- their fellow citizens.
This is not a tactic likely to change minds, but if it persists, it could tear down the very institutions of democracy that have served us so well for so long.
I would ask the many sincere citizens who have been caught up with this disruptive element, do you object because the President is breaking his promises? Or do you object because he is keeping them? And if your objection is because the President is keeping the promises he made, is that not because the sovereign people – your neighbors and fellow countrymen – directed these changes over the last four elections?
If your love of our Constitution is greater than your hatred of our President, I implore you to engage in a civil discussion with your fellow citizens. That is what true democracy looks like.