Thursday, March 26, 2009

What would Thomas Jefferson think of Bachmann and Coburn comments ?

Revolution talk is in the air.

Last week, the Tulsa Beacon reported that Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) said “I like the idea of tea parties and a real revolution.
During the same interview, Coburn was asked about The Freedom of Choice Act and how people should react if it was enacted.
Dr. Coburn’s answer? "Civil disobedience.”
Coburn went on to say “The battle in Washington, D.C. is real. Every day in the Senate without Al Franken is a great day.

Saturday, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN:06) told WWTC 1280 AM, "I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us 'having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,' and the people -- we the people -- are going to have to fight back hard if we're not going to lose our country.

Would the Founding Father recognize – Revolution, Civil disobedience, Battles, Armed and Dangerous – as the political discourse prevalent in our nation 220 years after the Constution was approved ? Hardly.

Thomas Jefferson would not appreciate having his words mangled and taken out of context. Jefferson never said or wrote 'having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,'; Jefferson did write to Abigail Adams in 1787 (Note : Jefferson was in France during 1787) “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere."
So a number of thoughts.
First, it was written before the US Constitution was approved, and the Congress or President elected. America was still in its development.
Second, he clearly stated that “resistance” is based on “certain occasions” … in other words, a limited application. A “little rebellion” which is a vast difference from a “revolution” to overthrow the government. Today, peace protest marches have replaced armed rebellions.
Third, Jefferson eventually saw that the elective form of government was working and in 1806 wrote “In a country whose constitution is derived from the will of the people directly expressed by their free suffrages, where the principal executive functionaries and those of the legislature are renewed by them at short periods, where under the character of jurors they exercise in person the greatest portion of the judiciary powers, where the laws are consequently so formed and administered as to bear with equal weight and favor on all, restraining no man in the pursuits of honest industry and securing to every one the property which that acquires, it would not be supposed that any safeguards could be needed against insurrection or enterprise on the public peace or authority.
In other words, voters should use the ballot box for protest … not insurrection.

The common denominator for Coburn and Bachmann is their opposition to abortion and a proposed “cap and trade” legislation.
Jefferson may have an opinion here also. After his presidency was over, Jefferson wrote in 1816 “Each generation is as independent as the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before. It has then, like them, a right to choose for itself the form of government it believes most promotive of its own happiness; consequently, to accommodate to the circumstances in which it finds itself that received from its predecessors; and it is for the peace and good of mankind that a solemn opportunity of doing this every nineteen or twenty years should be provided by the constitution; so that it may be handed on, with periodical repairs, from generation to generation, to the end of time, if anything human can so long endure."
So Jefferson was in essence suggestion that the Constitution was not a fixed document, but that new generations may look at issues differently.
A March 2009, Zogby Poll found that nearly 42 percent of the respondents said they "strongly agree" while another 16.5 percent who reported that they "somewhat agree" with the president’s proposal "that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America."
A January 2009, ABCNews/Washington Post Poll found that over 80% approved of abortion which involved saving a woman’s life, health or in the case of rape or incest. Further, 57% considered it should be legal in most cases.
My point is not to debate “cap and trade” or abortion, but just to point out that if Jefferson’s concept of a new constitution every generation may produce – over time – a country that addresses gay rights, health care reform, gun restrictions, etc in an entirely different approach than today … and that Coburn and Bachmann may not like what the “people” would enact a new constitution.

Using terms like Revolution, Civil disobedience, Battles, Armed and Dangerous is totally inappropriate by someone elected and sworn to uphold the Constitution.
The words inspire Anarchy.
According to a Bachmann spokesman, her remarks about Revolution were Metaphorical.
That response is insufficient.
These comments could easily be denounced by Democrats, but it really must come from Republicans. No doubt that “Cap and Trade” is a contentious issue … after all, Bachmann was unable to get the RNC Platform Committee to included any amendments to oppose cap-and-trade. This is understandable considering that Senator John McCain was a proponent of the legislation. McCain was not alone. Norm Coleman was a co-sponsor of John Warner and Joe Liebermann legislation. Although Coleman is not presently a member of the Senate, he could exercise great leadership by denouncing both Coburn’s and Bachmann’s choice of words.
Another Minnesota Republican that should denounce these words is Governor Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty approved the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007 which addresses a multi-sector cap-and-trade program.

The country has too many problems that need addressing that require reasoned discussions, not rhetoric that is designed to incite a radical emotion.