Yesterday I served as a judge for the “We the People” competition, which included five high schools in Chaffee and surrounding counties. Students prepared answers to questions about the U.S. Constitution in one of six areas, with additional inquires from the judges. The question in my area was in the category of philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system. I couldn’t help but relate it to what is happening locally and nationally. It was:
In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson stated that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
How is “consent of the governed” related to the concept of popular sovereignty?
Does natural rights philosophy justify a right to revolution? Why or why not?
Students gave impressive, prepared answers and all groups argued that the right of revolution is justified when the people are dissatisfied with the actions of their government. Examples included the Tea Party Revolution, the Civil War, and political movements for civil rights. There were two very thoughtful students, each in a different group, who also included current examples of “revolts” of the people. One was the recent Brexit vote and another the mass demonstrations following Trump’s election.
Their comments got me thinking about what people can do today when they are dissatisfied with governmental actions – just what are their means of revolting or showing dissatisfaction. Both violent and non-violent demonstrations, writing letters, and speaking publically, as well as legal actions come to mind. But what struck me further had to do with the conditions under which constituents feel the need to “revolt.” A lack of compromise was the first thing that occurred to me.
I ran on a platform of compromise and yet none has occurred. By now, even though coverage is in the back pages of the MM, most of you must know that the Compliance Plan was passed. The Vandaveer Property will be sold. The temptation of holding on to power once the votes are in place removes the need for compromise, and yet it is the act of compromising that heals, that repels “revolution” and allows us, as a community, whether on a local or national level, to move forward with respectful interactions and responsible representation. Compromise allows us to accomplish what is best for our community when conflicting opinions and perspectives dominate. Maybe we need to listen carefully to our youth, who tend to study the ideals upon which this nation was build and not focus on the realities of the day.