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Founding fathers had great foresight

by Jack Van Dien

Occasionally an exceptional opinion in your newspaper deserves acclaim for its insight and thoughtfulness. Dick Witzig’s letter to the editor entitled “Protect Your Rights” is one such.

Mr. Witzig accurately traces our individual right to freedom including practice of religion to the brilliant persistence of our founding fathers, some of whom were religious leaders themselves. He points out that “No other country has aspired to or accomplished this goal, ever.”

All of us should reflect on that statement. My business years living and traveling overseas only deepened my admiration for the foresight and passion for freedom which the founders poured into the Constitution.

The ink hardly dried on that document before a war of words between famed Chief Justice John Marshall and the chief wordsmith of the Constitution itself, President Thomas Jefferson. Marshall argued the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of law vs. the Constitution, while Jefferson decried Marshall’s position violated the Constitution’s creation of three equal branches of government. Justices appointed for life could create the same kind of oligarchy accountable to nobody that Americans escaped from in Europe, which the Constitution intended to prohibit. As Congress and the President were accountable to the people and the states he saw them as not subservient to the Supreme Court. Jefferson threatened to call a meeting of the states to amend the Constitution to clarify the dispute, but never did. The result to this day is federal court tyranny.

Today tyranny is not limited to federal courts. Threat to representative democracy infuses Nevada ‘old boy’ politics. One party insider enthusiastically describes political processes as dirty, underhanded, behind the scenes, and tells naïve believers in representative government to get used to it. Others deride citizens rising to dispute elected officials and entrenched party insiders, insisting that people should “pull together” and avoid controversy ” so long as it’s on their terms.

Witness the assault on democratic processes seen in Nevada’s Republican state convention, whose leaders were declared inept by their national party, but whose local stalwarts remain unrepentant, feeling justified that tyranny for a greater cause trumps the will of the people. New voters attracted by the caucuses and embraced by one party were ignored and discouraged by the other.

Witness county commissioners who consistently override their own master plan and recommendations of their own advisers. Their decisions diverted to special interests every cent gained from the biggest building bubble Nevada ever saw and will ever see, so the community has not one tangible benefit other than more roofs, more congestion, reduced rural quality, and more government dependencies. Democracy is not much in vogue these days.

It was against such sordid background of politics that recent elections were held. Impressive majorities felt repressed and unrepresented by high-handed, even despotic, political leadership. They saw inconsistency with historic impressions of the United States as a world beacon of freedom, liberty, and representative democracy. The vote overthrew the status quo for a future which the winning party did not even have to define, content to merely call it “change.”

Tyranny in the political process could not be more clearly demonstrated than by the insidious collaboration of political parties and the media. The media was once considered “the fourth estate,” an essential participant in the political process after the three branches of government. In 1948 the America-led UN General Assembly declared “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.” The declaration was important because few nations in the entire world at that time ascribed to it.

Yet today major media in the United States leads a new repression of political dialogue. Media has consolidated into so few hands that a mere handful of owners, names not even known to most of us, function as monopolies that decide which political parties to highlight or blacklist, exercising a power of propaganda not seen since Josef Goebbels controlled Germany’s media for Adolph Hitler. Libertarian and constitution parties qualified their candidates in all but a few states, yet what media informed voters that Bob Baar, Chuck Baldwin, and Ralph Nader were presidential candidates? Somebody once wrote that a free press is essential to a free people.

Contrast that with free France, where no fewer than 12 parties contended for the presidency, four of whom gained over 10 percent of votes in the first round without media manipulation.

American leaders deride other nations for repression of free dissent in the media, and rightly so. Yet they encourage the same lack of editorial freedom in our own country, increasingly every year. We’ll see if the party of “change” breaks up media monopolies to minimize multiple ownerships and repression of opposing views.

This nation needs a lot of “change,” a lot more individual and political dissent, and a much freer media if individual freedom of expression is to survive, to save us from becoming parties of sheep.