Sunday, November 12, 2006

Elections and people and fear and V - Oh My!

Once upon a time I went with a rabbi and one of his congregation members to visit a family from Russia who had recently relocated to the U.S. I was doing a newspaper story on the effort.

The congregation was helping the family get established in the U.S., and I remember as we drove up to the house where they were staying that the young son was riding his bicycle out front.

This was all before the wall came down, so it was emotional just to see that little slice of American life had already been adopted.

While we visited, the phone rang. It was someone from the government, and that terrified the grandmother of the family. In the Soviet Union a call from the government was bad, always.

The businessman who'd come along with the rabbi consoled her. "It's OK. It's really OK," he said. "You're in America now. We don't fear the government."

Indeed we don't. As Lou Dobbs noted in his column this week:

"Voters chose to overturn our current one-party political structure and returned checks and balance to our government. November 7 also demonstrated that the American electorate is far more discerning and independent-minded than either political party or our elites would like to believe." (Read the complete column here.)

The election transcended party, dealt with many issues and indeed reflected the collective flex of the people's will.

Issues I follow
I follow animal cruelty issues and noted earlier Conrad Burns' election was no doubt affected in part by voters offended by his positions and actions on America's wild horses. So too was the election Congressman Richard Pombo of California. Both got a mention in The Wall Street Journal's article on The Humane Society of the United State's election efforts, in fact. It appeared on election day.

Many more issues reflected democracy in action, however. Dobbs notes:

"Voters in nine states issued a stunning rebuke to all levels of government on the issue of eminent domain. In those states, voters halted the rising national trend of allowing primarily local governments to seize personal property for private commercial development. Democrats as well as Republicans would do well to understand that the record long list of state initiatives represents frustration with elected officials at both the state and federal levels."

As the analysis of the week continues the comment from long ago echoes in my head. "We don't fear the government."

Noteworthy quotes
It harkens back much longer to the words of Thomas Jefferson:

"When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." -- Thomas Jefferson.

That's the comment that was paraphrased as the tagline for V for Vendetta: "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."

It's something leaders facing future elections would do well to remember, lest they have to pack their bags and go home like some of the colleagues.

The voters are watching.

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