• When Government of the People, Isn’t

    The phenomena of Donald Trump and his Teflon-coated political campaign is producing panic in the political establishment and political commentators, questioning the driving force behind his popularity, though it’s blatantly obvious to any third-grader.

    Government in America is no longer “of the people, by the people and for the people” which is in mortal danger of perishing from America. We’ve become an oligarchy, ruled by despotic, unelected, unaccountable government agencies and arbitrary bureaucrats and we’re angry!

    On a small scale, we experienced it locally several years ago when an obscure agency, the Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA) banned plastic bags without consent or a “by your leave” from the voters. The IWMA is composed of elected officials from cities, county supervisors and community services districts but does not represent any single electoral district. Most people never heard of them. In fact, they were previously low-key enough to ignore. With barely a whisper, they decided to do “what was good for us” and enacted a legal ban, complete with fines and jail time for offenders, before the public even knew what happened.

    This happens continuously in California and across the nation with obscure local agencies enacting enforceable dictates upon unsuspecting citizens until they run afoul of some regulation and hauled before an inquisition with little legal recourse. On a State or National level such an experience can be devastating, especially financially, with levied fines of tens of thousands of dollars for the smallest of infractions, even if innocent. Running afoul of the Environmental Protection Agency, the IRS, the Corps of Engineers or Fish & Wildlife for an environmental offense can and often does bankrupt people. Stories abound of unsuspecting citizens obtaining local and State building permits and suddenly confronted with draconian fines and threats of imprisonment as an EPA agent decides that their locally approved driveway is suddenly a threat to the “three-spotted louse-wart” spotted half a mile away.

    Last week, the California legislature refused to pass SB 350, which imposed unreasonable restrictions on the ability of Californians to drive their cars; it arbitrarily raised energy and fuel costs via regulations on the energy industry. The Democrats in the legislature revolted, realizing that the poor, working-poor and middle class would be severely impacted by SB 350. They joined Republican legislators in opposition, but Governor Brown, taking a leaf from the Obama playbook, stated he would impose the goals of SB 350 anyway via regulations through the State Air Pollution Board. We don’t elect those people; the governor appoints them. The ultimate effect will be to raise the price of gas by many dollars per gallon, forcing the public to cut their driving by half, whether they want to or not.

    In California we often vote on constitutional amendments or initiatives, such as Proposition 8 to defend traditional marriage. Prop 8 won but a federal judge, who was gay, ruled it unconstitutional, even though the U.S. Constitution has not a single word giving the federal government jurisdiction over marriage. The 10th Amendment dictated such power was delegated exclusively to the States. Governor Brown and his Attorney General refused to appeal the decision, thus millions of California voters saw their votes nullified on the whim of three lawyers. A county clerk in Kentucky is being pilloried for refusing to issue marriage licenses for gay marriages on grounds of religious conscience, which is supposed to be protected by the First Amendment. She requested a religious accommodation to simply replace her name with that of the “Commonwealth” or the governor. The “establishment” refused and insisted she violate her conscience, “or else.” Today, her critics piously state “The law is the law, but was it always?

    In 1850 Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which compelled everyone to assist in the apprehension of fugitive, run-a-way slaves. Failure to assist could cost you your property and your freedom. An accusation of being an escaped slave was sufficient to compel a free black man or woman of a northern free state to be transported to the South in chains, without legal recourse. Northerners revolted, used violence against “slave-catchers” and assisted free blacks to escape to Canada. About 20,000 free northern blacks fled to Canada for political refuge, most remaining till this day even though the Civil War emancipated American slaves.

    In modern context, should a doctor be forced to violate his conscious and be mandated to perform abortions, late-term “partial-birth abortions” or participate in assisted suicide should that become the law? Should we eliminate Conscientious Objector status for those faced with compulsory military service who’ve declined direct participation in combat? At what point do we deny who we are and who we’ve always been?

    Trump reflects the growing anger of an abused, ignored American electorate. Government ignores this anger at its peril.

    Written by Al Fonzi
    5th District Chairman, Republican Party, SLO County
    Past President, SLO County Lincoln Club