In this political season, I would like to have the term ‘collaborator’ restored to widespread use, and for people seeking a career in politics to loathe the idea of suffering this particular brand.
A collaborator in this context is a person who assists any political faction who evidences a serious intent to destroy the principles of government written into the Constitution, other than through the accepted method of Constitutional amendment.
Two recent events bring this thought to the surface of my mind. The first comes from the recent Democratic and Republican political debates – both of them. The topic of discussion seems to be whether Bush is a competent commander in chief – whether he obtained his desired objectives skillfully. There is far too little discussion of what it is that he seemed to want to accomplish. With respect to some of the goals in the Bush Administration, really, one thing we do not need is a President and an administration that could accomplish those goals competently.
The goals that I am referring to are his attempts to dismantle the Constitution. The Bush Administration has worked systematically to create a form of government where the Constitution is nothing but a figurehead. Its role in American politics would be reduced to something comparable to that of the Queen of England. Its only purpose is ceremonial. People bring it out every now and then so that the public can cheer in its general direction, while he government largely continues in total disregard to what is written there.
In these debates, I have heard almost nothing said about such things as signing statements, warrantless searches and seizures, indefinite arbitrary imprisonment, cruel and unusual treatment of prisoners (I would call it ‘punishment’ – but punishment assumes at least a conviction of wrongdoing, which does not exist in the vast majority of these cases), the duty of the government to provide evidence that a person is guilty and deserving of harm as a condition of depriving somebody of life, liberty, or property.
I have not heard anything on whether any candidate believes that the President has the right to circumvent the legislative and judiciary branches, making these institutions as well the quaint relics of a bygone era – a type of “Colonial Williamsburg” where people dress up and pretend to fill roles once filled by real people with important jobs to do.
The second impetus to this request concerns a question of what we are going to teach our children about government and civic responsibility. Most children who were 12 years old on September 11, 2001 will be graduating from high school this year. They have spent the bulk of their formative years watching us, learning our values, learning what we can reasonably expect from a citizen of this great country.
What have we taught them?
Mostly, they have learned that, if any political faction should work to remove the Constitutional protections that I described above, the most important thing that they are to do with their lives is to wonder about the significance of things like Tom Cruise dancing on Oprah Winfrey’s couch exclaiming his love of Katie Holmes, or the identity of the father of Anne Nichole Smith’s baby. This is what a good citizen does with his day.
Having absorbed these lessons, we can only wonder what this generation will do when, 30 or 40 years from now, some would-be tyrant decides that he wants to be dictator of the United States. When that leader comes to power, what will that generation do to protect those same Constitutional freedoms. (Will there be any Constitutional freedoms for them to protect?)
There is a second, more important concern. How many of them are going to look back on the Bush Administration and the public reaction to their behavior and say, “How hard will it be to establish a more dictatorial government with us in control of everything? Look at the Bush Administration and how far he actually went dismantling the Constitution. And Bush was an idiot. If we avoid his mistakes, we might actually be able to succeed where he failed.”
We are, in effect, making it far more likely that our children or grand children will lose their freedom, because we have created a culture that is indifferent to the losses of those freedoms, while encouraging people to take seriously the possibilities that Bush has opened up for future presidents.
The Bush Administration has made the job much easier for some future tyrant in another way. They will be able to use Bush’s actions as President. Any action that Bush performed, that was not officially rejected by the American people, is an action that is open to some future President. From this moment on, all future Presidents can argue, “The people, Congress, and Courts did nothing to stop Bush from warrantless wiretaps; why are you getting all upset about it now?”
If anybody should answer, “But in 2006, we were at war,” the next President will be able to answer, “That can be arranged.” Because, another one of the powers that Bush has argued for that has not yet been challenged, is the right to attack any country he wants any time he wants by simply uttering the words, ‘national interests’.
The remedy against these possibilities is to teach a children a new and different moral lesson, that those who collaborate in the dismantling of these important freedoms are regarded – as they ought to be rewarded – as the scum of the earth. They are the type of people who deserve nothing better than to be verbally spat upon for the wrongs that they have done, and the wrongs that they have encouraged others to do.
Now, I want to make it clear that I am not talking about forcing a Democrat vs. Republican schism here.
First, the leaders in the Democratic Party have given these issues as little attention as the Republicans. Democrats in control of the House and Senate have taken no action to challenge and dismantle these abuses. I suspect that the front-runners in the Democratic Party, and those who fund them (particularly those who fund them), are looking forward to what they can accomplish with warrantless searches and seizures, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, and signing statements.
Second, the Republican Party itself has had a long tradition of supporting Constitutional principles, particularly the value of a limited government and maximum freedom. I do not know where those Republicans have been hiding for the past six years, but it is time for them to come out and assert themselves
The Election Primaries is an excellent opportunity for each party to remove the collaborators from power, and to replace them with people who are more strongly devoted to Constitutional provisions of checks and balances. Party members are not compelled to choose leaders who are opposed to the Constitution. It is a choice – and a choice they must be held responsible for.
When the younger generation sees that collaboration comes with a cost in terms of contempt and political capital, they will have reason to think twice before they endorse similar methods in some future administration. If they see the futility of rendering the Constitution a powerless figurehead of a tyrannical state, they will not be tempted to pursue that option themselves.
For these reasons I argue that it is time to make the term ‘collaborator’ a part of our political vocabulary once again, and to make every politician afraid to wear that label. It is time to teach our children what it is like to stand up and defend those principles, so that they will have had some experience with such things, in case it will become required again in their lifetime.