Friday, April 6, 2012

Ending Democracy

This is a story that I'd heard about a few months ago out of Michigan, but it didn't get much play on the national media. Now, Rachel Maddow has a great explanation and warning about what's been going on in the State and local governments.

Imagine if the government appointed a grand overseer that had complete control over your town. Despite the fact that you voted and elected representatives and state officials to the office of mayor, treasurer, secretary, and school board, this state-appointed person had the authority to fire all of those people and make all decisions for your town, even though you had no say in their filling this position. Well, that is what has been happening.

A few months ago, the Michigan state legislature passed a law (under dubious circumstances as the video explains) that allowed the governor to appoint an "emergency manager" to any town or municipality. The emergency manager has the authority to fire any democratically elected official including mayor, school board members, town officers, treasurers, etc. In addition, the emergency manager has the power to make any and all decisions for the township in terms of spending, cuts, funding or closing schools and facilities, and generally anything the local governmental body would have authority to do. In other words, the emergency manager position bypasses democracy by allowing the state government to take over any town regardless of who was elected by the people.

Maddow's rant also covers another disturbing trend in Michigan, which is that GOP lawmakers have been using a fast-paced version of lawmaking that requires a 2/3 majority vote in both houses of the state legislature. Currently, the GOP does not have a 2/3 majority, but they've passed over 560 bills using this faster version of legislative process. As the video shows, the way they have been doing this is by ignoring the law and refusing to count the people who are asking for a quick implementation of the law. A judge recently ordered the legislature to follow the law (ironic, eh?), but the GOP legislators have countered this with a statement, saying they feel the judicial branch does not have authority to mandate the actions of the legislature.

So, what does all this mean? Well, Maddow explaines the situation in much greater detail and much better than I can, but the basic point is that democracy is all but dead in Michigan. Peoples' voices have been made silent as their democratically elected leaders are circumvented by state-appointed leaders. As the video shows, not only has this power been abused, but it has also come into being under dubious and probably illegal means.

We hear a lot about how the government is the problem, not the solution. We hear a lot of conservatives talking about government takeovers and government mandates, about losing our voice in Washington, and having to live under a dictatorial government. Well, look no further than Michigan. The concern that Maddow expresses is that other states are currently controlled by the GOP as well, and that they could simply adopt similar measures in their own governments. Imagine if we all had to live under these provisions. We would lose our voice at the state level. We would have no power to sway our local governments or to protect our communities. It's a scary reality, but it is real nonetheless.

To conclude, here is a quote from one of our former Presidents, Mr. Ronald Reagan. Perhaps his most famous and oft-quoted remarks, this exemplifies why the laws such as those in Michigan pose a great threat to America:

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."

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