I first ran for the Idaho legislature in 2010. If you can take your memory back to those times you might remember the Tea Party angry crowds that were so outraged at Obama. They made their move to change our country through the electoral process. Indeed, that election they did dramatically change the House of Representatives.
I really didn’t understand it, maybe because I wasn’t a Republican and most of those angry folks were. I thought their discontent was out of proportion with the problems before us.
And nowadays, the Trump Republicans similarly have me perplexed. Maybe I just don’t see the possibilities.
Our founders some 200+ years ago thought they were creating a form of government that could, through a stable and predictable process, allow for dramatic change. Only, there wasn’t mass or social media in the late 1700’s. Their time frame was different than ours today.
Just what is the problem we must rebel against?
Go out on a corner in whatever town you live on. See the nice new pickups, the all-wheel drive rigs going by and the folks chatting on their cell phones or snapping pictures of everything that catches their eye so they can post and share. We live in a time of comfort and wealth. But that does not mean we are free of injustice or oppression.
We see revolutions these days in third world countries with corrupt dictators, grinding poverty and huge wealth gaps and their attempts to overthrow their oppressors makes sense. But revolution when we all have streaming Netflix on our cell phones? Why rebel when we have comfort?
But, according to historian David McCullough, so did the American revolutionaries. He stated in his book 1776, that the standard of living for the American colonists was the highest in the world at that time. We were quickly populating a land taken from the natives and applying our agricultural and industrial technologies to create a wealthy society. And the call for “Liberty” from an oppressor king garnered many to take up arms.
So why not today?
My reluctance might be based in my faith in our founders’ vision. They believed that we could be a nation of laws, and that these laws could be changed to match our changing cultural needs. I believe they had great misgivings about the institution of slavery that fueled their economic wealth. I doubt they thought we would need to have a civil war to change such an institution. But they did avoid the subject when drafting our Declaration of Independence. Remember, “Life Liberty and Property” got changed to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” to avoid that discussion.
The war was fought, and the laws changed. Most other countries abolished slavery without a civil war. But 100 years after our revolution, we could not reconcile our differences without bloodshed.
So here we are, almost 250 years after this representative democracy was crafted and just what oppression are we moved to shed blood over?
I think of those who stormed our Capitol on January 6th, 2021. They were not the oppressed poor, or the disenfranchised minorities. They were the, by in large, angry white middle class who wanted a different president than the Congress was about to ratify. They felt oppressed by our system. Representative democracy is not a king, born to rule. It is merely a system of government devised by some wealthy, learned, white men 250 years ago. Many were slave holders, owning land claimed from displaced native populations who did not share the concept of owning the land they walked upon. Does their vision now oppress?
Should we now take up arms and rebel and drive off this government that oppresses us? Or should we work to make this government serve us, as was the concept of our founders? The latter, believe it or not, is the truly conservative value. Conservatives embrace conservation; radicals choose rebellion.