Holding Leaders Accountable
The founding fathers of this nation established a republic, not a democracy. A republic is a government controlled by voters and their elected representatives. Initially, the right to vote was denied to a large percentage of white males, nearly all males of color, and all females because the founders thought that the vote should be restricted to the people they considered to be “stakeholders” — the owners of significant amounts of property. From the time of the founding to today, there have been pressures from the disenfranchised for inclusion and pressures from those currently in power to exclude those they believe are likely to support changes in officeholders.
The founders did not see public service as a career. They looked at the Roman republic in which citizens were called to serve for a specific purpose then returned to their previous profession after they did what they had been called to do. Over time, however, many elected officials came to see holding a government office as a relatively permanent job. That is why they tend to support laws that restrict voting to people like themselves. The attitude of entitlement to an office and control of the means to restrict voting has led to overt voter suppression, to subtle efforts to breed apathy discouraging voting, and to garner voter support by misleading people.
We should be able to count on our elected leaders to tell us the truth about the state of our country and the issues that might change the state of the nation. Whether or not one accepts the Washington Post’s count that President Trump has made over 13,000 false or grossly misleading pronouncements in his first 1,000 days, it should be a given that a president tell the American people the truth. Unfortunately, we now have a president whose stock in trade is lying, not just to his supporters, but to all of us. On “60 Minutes,” Leslie Stahl asked Mr. Trump why he calls the accurate, responsible journalism of major newspapers and TV news programs “fake news.” Mr. Trump replied that he did so to CONDITION people to disbelieve news reports unfavorable to himself, his actions, and his policies. Unfortunately for our nation, that tactic has had the desired effect on a significant portion of the electorate; we can see that in media posts and the behavior of supporters at rallies.
Mr.Trump and his appointees have also openly and blatantly told people not to believe what all of us have all seen with our own eyes and heard with our own ears. None of us should tolerate such behavior by ANY officeholder. This nation’s founders believed in the central governing principle of the Age of Reason: It is important for people to base their actions (including voting) on a rational assessment of available evidence about what is best for them.
Modern Western civilization is based on premise that what believe about the nature of our circumstances needs to be based on what we can observe and demonstrate is real. But our current president and his most zealous supporters have turned that on its head. What they believe determines what they see.
An example of seeing what one believes is found in the attitudes of Mr. Trump’s supporters toward impeachment. They have been conditioned by his constant repetition and that of Fox pundits and other right-wing media to believe that Mr. Trump is doing a “great job” and that Article II of the Constitution gives the president the power to do anything he wants. Then, when they look at the House impeachment inquiry, they see a coup d’etat or an attempt to un do an election by “treasonous” Democrats rather than congressional committees gathering and evaluating evidence to determine what action is called for.
The fact is that impeachment is the constitutionally prescribed remedy for a case of abuse of power, and/or serious violation of oath of office by a president, cabinet member, or federal judge. In order to bring charges, the House of Representatives must gather evidence to establish whether there is a basis on which to bring one or more charges. The Senate then evaluates the evidence and determines whether it warrants removing the accused official from office. Impeachment is neither a coup d’etat nor the undoing of an election. It is one part of a process for determining whether to remove a public official who appears to have wrongly used his public office and/or the public resources he controls.