By Daniel Chejfec
Modern Democracy is based on many ideas that accumulated over centuries, even millennia. From the Greek Polis to DC, however, one principle remains: It is the government of the People by the People for the People. What changed is what we define as "People". In Greece, only a limited number of male property owners had the privilege of citizenship and therefore a voice in Public affairs. While today some people still have a lesser voice than others, there is nor denying that we have come a long way on the road of inclusion.
But what does a government of the People, by the People and for the People means? I don't want to go into a detailed discussion of the fine philosophical issues, but one thing is for sure: in a Democracy, the exercise of power demands listening and respect for the constituency; it also means that the constituency does have the power to punish those they elect by voting them out of office.
What happened in Massachusetts was not the punishment of a specific official - Ted Kennedy was well liked and respected - but the expression of disappointment with inefficient policies that are not doing what they were intended to do...to serve the people. With a Democratic President enjoying very low approval ratings (among the lowest in recorded history for a President who has been in office for one year), it is natural that his Party will pay the bill.
I have a friend and neighbor who was very excited about the possibility of getting a lower rate mortgage because it would have allowed him to save more money towards his kids Education. He tried the website publicized by the White House, and found that the links led nowhere; he tried the 1-800 numbers and got recordings that the phone was not in service; he went to the banks to ask for it, and was told that none of it has been yet regulated and there are no procedures nor guidelines. Why should my friend feel good about the Administration? Government officials keep talking about Economic recovery, but that doesn't help the growing number of Americans standing in line at the unemployment office. Is the economic situation the Obama Administration's fault? Definitely not, but this Administration raised the expectations of the American people way beyond what it could deliver, thus putting itself in a very uncomfortable situation and they have now been presented the bill by the people of Massachusetts. Call it a warning bell. Even members of the Democratic party in both legislative chambers are calling for the Administration to set aside the "pet projects" like Health Care, which while extremely important, should take second row to make sure Americans are able to work, feed their families, and keep a roof over their heads. Then you can talk Health Care...
What if the Administration does not respond to the demands of the people? One possible response is the one contained in the following quote:
"...Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."
Do you recognize the source? Look under "American Declaration of Independence". While the situation is clearly not as bad as it was then, it is still truth that governments derive their power from the consent of the governed. In 1773 the people of Boston took to the streets to protest in what came to be known as the "Boston Tea Party", that initiated attempts by both, the colonies and the crown, to find ways to preserve the relationship, but once the attempts failed - in that case due to the intransigence of the Crown - the American Revolution started.
Our system today is better than it was back then, and Massachusetts is certainly not trying to declare independence, but the people of Massachusetts have sent a clear message saying that they now withhold their consent for the Administration's policies. Washington, pay attention for nobody want the recent election to fill the seat vacated by Ted Kennedy to become another Tea Party, and if you do not pay attention, Boston might have for the second time triggered an expression of discontent that might change the world...