Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Legislation without Representation is Tyranny

I hate to beat a dead horse, or as Indiana Congressman Mark Souder says, "raise the tired old canard of home rule," but, that does not change the fact that after more than two centuries of being surrounded by Freedom, DC citizens still lack the right to vote in Congress. We still lack the ability to make our own laws, to choose our own path, to govern ourselves.

Representative Souder has had enough. "Shutup," he says. It's for your own good.

In today's Post, Represenative Souder, a Republican representing the 3rd District of Indiana, published a letter to the editor.

In his letter, he seems to be upset that a democratically elected body (the Washington City Council) is working to fix its gun regulations in the wake of District of Columbia vs. Heller. He claims to be standing up for the rights of Citizens of the District by calling for the US Congress (which DC Citizens have no part in electing) to override the elected DC government by writing its own legislation.

Mr. Souder, we live in a republic. And while the citizens of our nation's capital don't have full voting rights, we have every right to determine our own future. Just like the citizens of Indiana. So we can choose to re-elect the city council if we agree with them on the handgun issue, or we can elect councilmembers who will overturn it. We can also wait to see what the courts actually say. The one thing we can't do, however, is let you tread on us.

In 1963, 10 years before the city of Washington would receive a locally elected mayor and council, President John F. Kennedy travelled to an island of democracy in Eastern Europe. There, standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate, standing in the shadow of the Wall, he said that the proudest boast in a world of freedom is "Ich bin ein Berliner." This phrase, said Kennedy, is the boast of "all free men, wherever they may live."

Oh, how I long to say that phrase.

Berlin was an island of freedom in a sea of totalitarianism. Washington is surrounded by the lapping waves of freedom, and while they haven't built a wall to keep us in, they haven't given us the vote either.

Representative Souder wrote his letter in response to a Washington Post editorial, published last Friday, criticising his ploy to subvert the rights of Washingtonians. The well-written editorial points out that Mr. Souder would likely not stand for this sort of interference in his own district, but then this never has been about democracy. What it is about is getting the NRA's endorsement.

So while gun violence claims the lives of too many people each week in DC, Representative Souder courts votes in Indiana. While citizens of the District cry out for representation, Mr. Souder looks for ways to subvert the little power they have.

Representative, your methods are despicable. You took an oath to uphold the Constitution and the ideals for which it stands. Your parlimentary games sink to below the level of the Stamp Act and the other Intolerable Acts. At least when Britain passed the Quartering Act they weren't doing so against their own words of honor. Thinking that you know what's best for the People is the same fallacy that King George III fell victim to.

Playing politics with the voting rights of almost 600,000 Americans is unacceptable.

This proposed legislation, along with other Congressional overrides of the local government of DC smacks of the tyranny iherent in the reviled Massachusetts Government Act. This government, one made of the People, by the People, and for the People, is supposed to stand for something. It is supposed to be a shining city on a hill, a beacon of hope in a world without freedom. But here, in the shadow of the Capitol's Dome, that light is dimmed. And legislation like Mr. Souder's proposal make it still darker here.

I agree with one thing in Mr. Souder's letter, though. "The time is now for Congress to step in to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans."

Where is our right to vote, Mr. Souder? When will you stand up for that right?

How many years can a mountain exist
before it's washed to the sea?
How many years must some people exist
before they're allowed to be free?
And how many time can a man turn his head
and pretend that he just doesn't see the answer?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind,
the answer is blowing in the wind.

How many times can a man look up
before he sees the sky?
How many ears must one person have
before he can hear people cry?
And how many deaths will it take
'til he knows that too many people have died?
The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind,
the answer is blowing in the wind.

(from "Blowin' in the Wind" by Bob Dylan)

2 comments:

nathancontramundi said...

Matt, were you a more widely known, "professional" blogger, I should consider drawing Andrew Sullivan's attention to this post, nominating it for the Paul Begala award for extreme liberal hyperbole.

This being out of the question, I suppose that I could actually respond.

I should prefer simply to offer, as riposte, that I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting that you actually believe the dreck that you have posted here. However, that being rather impolitic, even by my standards, as well as insufficient, I shall address the myriad serious (and, sometimes, not so serious) errors that mar this piece.


*The two clauses of the first sentence seem hardly to relate to each other.

Nothing prior to the word "but" really could or could not "change the fact . . . ."

*Moreover, "surrounded by Freedom" is an absolutely meaningless term to employ, in and of itself and because lacking the right to vote is not, by any means, equivalent to not having freedom, as your statement implies.

*Not having spoken with you since prior to your vacating Prince George's County, I know not the various circumstances surrounding your move into the city. So, you may have, in fact, established residency in the District. If not, please, refrain from speaking as if Congress denies you the right to vote. Even if you have established residency, you are still an interloper, a carpet-bagger, and your speaking about the collective plight of you, the Washingtonians, is highly disingenuous.

*Since when have choosing "our own path" (or, perhaps more appropriately, "paths") and having the right to vote been so interwoven that not being able to vote for all positions constitutes a denial of the ability to do this?

*I infer -- perhaps wrongly -- that you take issue with Congressman Souder's saying to the people of D.C., "Shut up, it's for your own good." Is this not, so often, what we, as planners, seek to do? "We won't let you live in sprawling suburbs; we know better."

*Representative Souder is decidedly not upset "that a democratically elected body (the Washington City Council) is working to fix its gun regulations". Quite clearly, he objects to the Fenty Administration's failure to do just that. As Souder notes, District laws must conform (as must all laws) to the Constitution; the Washington City Council passed such a joke of a law that it has essentially stuck two middle fingers in the air in the direction of Scalia, et alia. Fenty and the acting a.g. publicly admit that they expect to return to court -- as, courtesy, again, of Dick Heller, they will -- and seem to be quite willing to waste the city's funds on this. They should know not only that they'll be in court again, but that they will lose. Like the Second Amendment or not, like the decision in Heller or not, it is the law of the land, and Fenty's refusal to abide by it is problematic. Souder is standing up for the rights of the people of the District. Even if the people of DC support the ban, or Fenty's cop-out response to the Court's ruling, Congress, presently (for better or for worse), has not only the right, but the obligation, to ensure that the Constitution remains the supreme law of D.C., too, even if it means over-ruling District legislation.

*The residents of D.C. have the privilege of choosing their local elected officials; they have an inalienable right to life, inherent in which is the right to defend their lives. The Constitution guarantees the right to keep and to bear arms; the language regarding voting is not as clear. Moreover, the "right" to vote is not as fundamental as is the right to life, wherein, again, inheres the right to self-defense.

*You condescendingly remind Mr Souder that "we live in a republic. True enough. However, immediately thereafter, you profoundly confound republicanism and liberal democracy. It is the rule of law, of which the Constitution is the supreme manifestation and arbiter, and not the will of the people, that guides our polity. To wit, even if the citizens of D.C. have the right to elect council members who will maintain, or will over-turn, the gun ban, Congress has an obligation to guarantee that an unConstitutional gun ban, or an almost equally unConstitutional piece of emergency legislation, no longer has legal validity. The Court has spoken; Fenty's aforementioned acknowledgement that he expects the District to face suit again is tantamount to admitting that the new legislation fails, but that he and the councilors would prefer to elevate ideology -- the will of the majority, even -- over the rule of law, which is inexcusable in a republican government.

*Congressman Souder, obviously, has made no attempt "to tread on [you]"; he has attempted to do what he is obligated to do, viz., to uphold the Constitution, even if to do so is unpopular. Again, he is seeking to ensure that the majority opinion and the mayor and council's response thereto do not supersede the rule of law.

*"[West] Berlin was an island of freedom in a sea of totalitarianism. Washington is surrounded by the lapping waves of freedom". Save bad, meaningless poetry and pretentious similes for someone else.

Equating not having all voting rights with the totalitarianism of Communist Germany is about as absurdly dishonest as equating George W. Bush's frightening neo-conservative policies with the Nazi regime. Legitimate, respectable intellectual discourse offers no place to such puerile and disingenuous rhetoric.

*"What it is about is getting the NRA's endorsement." Have you any evidence, other than your own biases, wherewith to substantiate this ludicrous claim? (The Post' editorial does not claim this explicitly, although you remain free to infer as you wish.) Souder has little need to work for an NRA endorsement: He has receive A grades from the NRA and his opponent is a not-so-well-known Democratic challenger.

*From the editorial to which you link: "Local officials -- not Congress -- are the best arbiters of their community's needs and priorities. What makes sense for Fort Wayne, Ind., doesn't necessarily translate to the streets of Washington, D.C." Very true (although, Matt, your left-wing politics and advocacy of regional governance, leave me doubting whether you agree). However, what the local officials rule must conform to the Constitution.

*"So while gun violence claims the lives of too many people each week in DC, Representative Souder courts votes in Indiana. While citizens of the District cry out for representation, Mr. Souder looks for ways to subvert the little power they have."

This is quite the doozy of a paragraph. First, yes, gun violence claims the lives of too many people each week. Illegal gun violence. Cliché or not, it's patently obvious that those who intend to commit violent crimes pay little heed to laws precluding them from using guns. Instead of protecting the law-abiding Washingtonians' right to defend themselves, Mayor Fenty and his Gestapo prefer to set up police checkpoints in Trinidad, much to the dismay of the ACLU and yours truly. You express no outrage of this assault on the Constitution, surprising, because of your leftist inclinations, but, perhaps, unsurprising, given your preference for left-wing ideology and democracy over Constitutional mandate vis-à-vis Heller and the Second Amendment.

The entire gun violence/courting votes in Indiana connection is a complete non-sequitur, lacking any logical connection, intended to provoke some sort of impassioned, irrational response, but with no intellectual substance.

Souder intends not "to subvert the little power they have", but to do his job. This cannot be repeated enough times or with enough emphasis. You might not like it; I'll concede that, maybe, he has some twisted desire to usurp that little power. However, he's still doing what he's paid to do.

*"Representative, your methods are despicable. You took an oath to uphold the Constitution and the ideals for which it stands. Your parlimentary games sink to below the level of the Stamp Act and the other Intolerable Acts. At least when Britain passed the Quartering Act they weren't doing so against their own words of honor. Thinking that you know what's best for the People is the same fallacy that King George III fell victim to."

He's trying to do just that, to uphold the Constitution. Mayor Fenty and the City Council, on the other hand, have tried to obstruct it. Your references to British tyranny here are out of place and indicative of self-aggrandizement. Attempting to draw non-existent connections between Souder and the usurped throne and Parliament of perfidious Albion is far more despicable than Souder's attempting to do what Fenty, et alia, refuse to do.

Again, we study urban planning. If ever a field were composed of so many arrogant technocrats who know "what's best for the People", it is ours. At least Mark Souder is elected -- and can be voted out -- to make decisions based on what he believes is best. We are hired and appointed, without direct accountability to the people.

Did the Hanoverian usurper actually "fall victim" to the fallacy, or did he profess it?

Again, we are not in a liberal democracy, replete with an absolute delegate-model; in a republic, our elected officials do what they believe is best, even if that happens to contradict what the people whom they serve (Yes, as a United States Congressman, Souder serves the people of D.C., as well as Indiana's Third District.



Perhaps you should consider restricting your web-logging purview to planning and transit; your thorough employment of extreme left-wing rhetoric and your seeming inability to comprehend the differences between republicanism and liberal democracy severely limit your capacity to offer cogent commentary on Constitutional issues.

-"Reagan", as you so kindly have been known to call me

IMGoph said...

nathancontramundi: reagan? i would say gingrich would be a better epithet.