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The people are the problem

The problem with New York and its corrupt government which accounts for high taxes, limited freedoms and oppressive laws and regulations is not exclusively because of dishonest or incompetent politicians. It is because the majority of the citizens are dumb.

What an insult! Unfortunately, it is true and the statement is based on the truth that the majority of citizens don’t get involved in the political process and they won’t vote in elections. This allows the corrupt politicians to get elected and reelected. It is somewhere between difficult and impossible to recall an election year where a majority of the registered voters bothered to go to the polls to vote.

That is the tip of the iceberg because we have credible data only on the people who are registered to vote. We have to guess on how many people are eligible to vote but refuse to register. Those are the really stupid ones. They live in a country that was organized and chartered to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people. This is a great theory, but unfortunately, not practiced as it should.

A song writer once commented that “The best reason for not doing anything is ‘I don’t want to’.” There are other reasons for not doing certain things and they are called laws and requirements. However, most of them are negotiated. In any society, laws and regulations are necessary to maintain safety and order.

We need traffic rules to be able to drive safely and orderly. How much damage could be done without speed limits in populated areas or stop signs or signals at busy intersections? Yet, some people refuse to obey them and often the violations can result in damages and even deaths. Some lawyers make a career and a good living getting people “the money they deserve” as a result of these accidents.

The Constitution gives us certain unalienable rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The government can affirm those rights, modify them and in some extreme cases, deny them. It is supposed to be done in a described and acceptable manner that is approved by the people. That last part has been under attack for centuries.

Certain actions that were agreed upon in the Constitution have been attacked and changed. At one time the Constitution was amended to prohibit the making, selling and using alcoholic beverages. The people ratified the amendment and it proved to be a huge mistake. Later, it was repealed because of the disasters it caused. The Constitution was fine before the i8th Amendment and it took a lot of bad results of the law to get it changed.

The original concept of the new country and new method of governing was based on individual freedoms and consent of the people. We were given the right to choose people to represent us and remove them if they didn’t do the job in a correct and beneficial manner.

As the country began, those who were qualified were elected by the people and took the job as “doing their duty.” They left their farms or businesses to find ways to improve the lives of those they represented. After a few terms, they went back to their occupations and new people were elected to do the job.

Along the way, some found out that politics actually could be their occupation and became professionals in the craft. Politics became a way of life for many and they discovered that the job could be profitable and give them power that they never had before. They liked it. They changed their attitude from being a representative to that of a ruler.

They decided that they, and people who thought like they did, could force those who elected them to conform to the political objectives of those who held the power of their majority in the legislature. The Congress and Senate are the ones who make these decisions. The President can lead, but as far as legislation goes, he can approve a law or veto it if he doesn’t like it.

A majority of the Congress can override a veto by a super majority and the Supreme Court can determine whether the law is constitutional. If it isn’t, the law is removed by the court decision. A different Court later on can overturn previous decisions. This is usually very controversial and not a common practice.

The point is that the laws and government are a result of the people in power and should come as a result of the consent of the people. All politics is local and most of our representatives are tuned into the wishes of their constituents. However, with an apathetic attitude of the citizens, a minority can call the shots.

Think of it in this fashion. In a “normal” election, a forty percent or lower turnout is considered the norm. By simple math, this means that twenty-one percent of the people in the district can determine the outcome of who wins. In elections where there are more than two candidates, a plurality will do nicely.

That is where the power of a political party comes into play. They can have a minority of the voters, but if they mobilize their faithful members, they can win the election over the apathetic opposition. And, participation of the people on an issue can overcome the power of the party. People don’t have to vote on their party line if they don’t like the candidate or the major issues the candidate supports.

Future columns will expand on these concepts and as far as the New York elections this year are concerned, the people have an outstanding opportunity to make significant changes in the governing of New York.

It will depend on motivating the apathetic to actually register and vote. Then, to make issues a priority over “party loyalty.” We get the government we deserve. The people can’t change the laws, but they can change the lawmakers and this year is the year to prove it can be done. The state you save can be your own.

Budd Schroeder