BY VERN TURNER
My friend and colleague, Mr. Steve Love, coined some wonderful thoughts about our state of the state and the machinations between our political differences. I will set his words in italics or bold when he uses italics.
“We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” is how the Declaration of Independence ends.
These are words written by men faced with the real possibility that they were signing their own death warrants. The signatories of this document knew that they were committing the American colonies to the pursuit of freedom from the yoke of British imperialism. They knew it would be war and that it would test the resolve of every American citizen to the utmost whether they were loyalists or revolutionaries. The full measure of that commitment would be paid by some of the signers and some would go on to eventually write the Constitution. They didn’t know whether they would be successful, but they knew they had to try.
As we look back at those Founders, we must understand that their commitment was to each other! It was not made to a nation, for none existed at the time; or to a deity, though they put their trust in “divine Providence.” It was a pledge of fidelity by a small compact of men devoted to a common cause becoming aware of the price they might be asked to pay to achieve their goal … that for America to come into existence they might have to sacrifice their lives, fortunes and sacred honor.
Today, this sort of commitment and value structure seems lost on our current population of elected officials who presume to govern.
Conservatives seem to have linked faithfulness of their convictions to their sense of honor so that if they hold out for their convictions, even at the price of losing their seat in the next election, they will maintain their honor. It is this conviction that sets them in opposition to all forms of compromise. To compromise – in their way of thinking – is to lose their honor. Such was not how Lincoln or the Founders thought.
This conceptual conflict is the precise difference between the Founders and today’s so-called conservatives.
The Founders understood that majority rule arrived at through compromise is the only way that a society … can exist. Lincoln wrote in his First Inaugural: “If the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the government must cease.”
The choices we faced at that moment, March 4, 1861, were between the despotism of minority rule, anarchy with no discernible government or majority rule with the price to be paid for majority rule being the willingness of those with minority opinions to be submissive to the decisions of the majority. This idea required a definition of honor that assumed the devotion to country over self-service; a commitment to civil order trumping special, individual interests. The southern politicians of that time could not accept that view of honor and thus triggered the bloodiest war in our history – STILL!
The question remains for today’s conservatives that they understand majority rule and join with Lincoln and the Founders in sacrificing their “sacred honor” to find a middle ground where our democracy is preserved and the domestic tranquility of our nation is restored.
If they are willing to meet at that middle ground with liberals and progressives on those issues that benefit the majority of the people and thus the country, we may yet avoid another schism of great proportion while proving to the world and ourselves that our form of democracy can work in the worst of times as well as in the best of times.
Compromise is not a dirty word. It is the word that defines democracy and majority rule. One has to wonder why we lost that commitment in government. In my opinion it has to do with the money. And not just money by itself, but with those who have it and are using it to corrupt the ideals upon which this country was founded. The word for these people doing the corrupting is plutocrats.
The plutocrats are those who have allowed money and their ability to acquire it to morph into a self-image of power broker. It is a condition that is not unusual to humans no matter their status or relative wealth. But when there are only a few who have SO MUCH money and SO MUCH lust for power that Lincoln’s idealism for compromise goes out the window, our democracy is in jeopardy.
The continuing attempts to buy government by Charles and David Koch are the perfect examples of how corruption of democracy works. The pandering to power brokers like the Kochs by our U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision is also a perfect example of how far into the halls of government the plutocrats have reached. As someone who took the pledge to defend this country against all enemies foreign and domestic, this corruption shakes me to my core that our democracy of compromise will be replaced by minority rule in the persons of the moneyed elite who are already despots in their own right, but call themselves businessmen. They are not. They used business and money to buy power and influence. That’s how despots gain control of countries. History is filled with these examples.
The outcomes from despotic governments are always brutal, short-lived and destructive. We have the power to overcome this corruption. We the people still have the power to send people to our governments who are NOT corrupt, willing to compromise and humble enough to accept majority rule. We must overturn Citizens United and send a message to the plutocrats that the people of the United States are still in charge. Let them spend their money on innovation, technology, education and job creation instead of investing in the siren songs of corruption and power.
– Vern Turner is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. He lives in Marble Falls, TX, where he writes a regular column for the River Cities Daily Tribune. He is the author of three books – A Worm in the Apple: The Inside Story of Public Schools, The Voters Guide to National Salvation and Killing the Dream: America’s Flirtation With Third World Status – all available through Amazon.com.