A little rebellion now and then
“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people,
it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it come to
dominate our lives and interests.”
– Patrick Henry
Five weeks to go to Inauguration Day. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are likely aware that our country has cleaved largely into two dominant groups – those that support President Elect Donald Trump and those that do not. Regardless of whether you voted for him, for Clinton, or for a third party candidate, most Americans are largely split between adoration for and loathing toward the brand, the economic theory, and the personality of Trumpism.
Against this backdrop, there has been a slow and steady increase in the frequency and volume of vocal opposition to Trump. Fueled by social media, groups have banded under various identifiers, including NeverTrump, TheResistance, and StopHateDumpTrump. Even a small group of Electoral College voters, called the Hamilton Electors, are attempting to united around an alternate Republic candidate when they meet on December 19th.
Do these groups represent a collective petulance on the part of liberals and Trump haters? Are Dems just throwing a tantrum because their preferred candidate didn’t win? Trump supporters certainly think so. For example, take this liberal taunt currently making rounds on social media.
Even Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway suggested last week that Dems needed to “get over it,” suggesting that Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) was “egging people on” to protest Trump’s coming presidency.
Quick history tangent (stay with me – this is quick and painless).
After the United States declared its independence from Great Britain, the first Constitution was drafted and adopted in 1777. Called the Articles of Confederation, it gave considerable power to the States. Between 1777 and 1789, two camps emerged – those that supported a strong federal government (the Federalists) and those that favored a weaker federal government with more authority given to the States (the Anti-Federalists).
The Anti-Federalists were primarily concerned that a strong federal government, among other things, could create another tyrant – not unlike the one from whom they had just declared independence. They were typically farmers or craftsmen who were deeply suspicious of the Federalists as big city elites who would create a government that only benefited other elites (sound familiar?). And they vigorously opposed the document that eventually replaced the Articles of Confederation (the U.S. Constitution) unless it guaranteed protection for individual liberties. The Bill of Rights eventually granted that protection.
Is it just me or do you see the irony here? The modern day Anti-Federalists, the working class, red state voters, deeply suspicious of out-of-touch liberal elites, just elected their man into office. And they are telling us to get over it and forget about any concerns about compromised liberties.
The two most famous Anti-Federalists, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, instructed us to always keep government in check, lest our liberties be trampled. Jefferson famously said, “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.”
And Patrick Henry, in a most prescient quote from 240 years ago, said, “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”
THIS is why Dems resist Trump. Not because we are petulant, or sore losers, or unable to accept reality. But rather because we see a government about to trample the rights of its citizens, crush our democratic principles, and dissolve our hegemonic position in the modern world by simultaneously retreating into isolationism while picking nonsensical fights with other countries – battles that should be won through statesmanship rather than sophomoric saber-rattling.
To be fair, implicit in conservative admonishments to “get over it” is fear that their man may not have won in a free and fair election. After all, if he did, why keep defending that fact? Either you don’t believe it definitively, or you’ve grown tired of the counter-argument. If the former, then you should encourage an exposure of facts. If the latter, you need to re-examine the history of the last eight years of GOP obstructionism and undermining the legitimacy of the 44th President. You would also do well to understand how our system of democracy works. It is precisely this back-and-forth battling of ideas, ideologies, arguments, and counter-arguments that propels our country forward.
And so the resistance to Donald Trump continues. To what end? It may not prevent Trump from taking office on January 20th. But our government is more than the Executive Branch. To the extent that our Congressional representatives hear our concerns and act prudently to maintain our system of checks and balances, this is a good thing. Investigations and probes intended to check the runaway abuse of power are precisely how our government is intended to function. While the NeverTrumpers may prefer that Trump never take office, establishing a tight leash on his penchant for abuse is a noble cause and a necessary right.