Letter: Government is 'We the people,' it is not the enemy
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To the editor:
President Joe Biden said in his recent speech on the American Rescue Act, something that is 40 years overdue. “The government isn’t some foreign force in a distant capital. No, it’s all of us. We the people.”
Since the southern Democrats left the party in 1948 to form the anti-integration “Dixiecrat” Party because President Harry Truman and the Democratic Party advanced Civil Rights legislation for all Americans, there has been an ugly and misleading idea that the government is separate from “we, the People.” That the government is the enemy.
President Ronald Reagan, successfully seeking to capture those anti- civil rights Southern voters, stated the big lie that “government is not the solution, it is the problem.”
When I was teaching high school civics, the most important thing I wanted the students to remember was that they were “we the people.” Each one of us is a part of what we call the government. The government is not just Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C., but each one of us.
We can disagree on all sorts of policies. That is as it should be on policy debates.
That is why the American Rescue Act, whether you support it or not, is bi-partisan. The vast majority of Americans support it, with even a significant percentage of Republicans supporting this legislation, even though not one Republican in Congress did. It is Congressional Republicans, not “we the people,” who fail to see this plan as serving the common good. But that government as enemy myth, sadly, has the entire Republican Congress in its grip. That is not a policy disagreement. That is a failure to understand the very basis of democracy.
Republicans have managed to convince a significant swath of the American public that government is their enemy. Even Democratic presidents allowed this myth to continue unchallenged by not taking it head on, and allowing the Republicans to make the anti-government message the dominant one in American political discourse. This thinking came to a head on Jan. 6, when Trump supporters tried to stop the peaceful transfer of power by fomenting a violent and fatal insurrection against a democracy, their own government, that they had come to believe was their enemy, and that they were not a part of “we the people.”
Another place we can see Republican anti-government thinking on this myth is the idea that taxes, which pay for our defense, our infrastructure, education and health and safety, is not something “we the people“ freely do to support the common good, but rather “tyranny.”
Think of how all Americans pulled together to fight the Great Depression, and the Nazis and Japan in World War II. All Americans sacrificed for the common good. But even faced with the deadly twin enemies of the pandemic and the damaged economy it created, Republicans sought to depict the governmental, scientific and medical community efforts to fight the pandemic as “a fraud,” something that will “go away soon.” The resistance to science, to facts (think of the big lie that the election was not safe and fair) is now another front where the Republican Party is choosing to demonize another place where the common good is needed to serve the whole of the nation.
So Trump and Republican Party have taken the anti-government thinking to the next level. All we need do here in Becker County is see how wrong-headed this thinking is. We even see some of our local elected officials refusing to wear masks for the safety of all , confusing freedom and liberty for rank selfishness witness our 7th District Congresswoman Michelle Fischbach, along with two-thirds of all House Republicans voting not to certify the already recounted, court challenged safe and fair Electoral College vote thereby being a part of an insurrection against the peaceful transition of power upon which our democracy depends.
Major challenges to the nation can only be effectively addressed by a government of “we the people,” where as President Obama said, “there is no blue America and no red America, only the United States of America.” That is all of us, “we the people!”
If Biden can help America remember again that to defeat the pandemic, getting our economy going strong, our infrastructure repaired and ready for our future, addressing climate change and restoring American leadership in the world, the government is all of us, “we the people,” will have to to once again be the dominant narrative of our common life together. The government is the enemy narrative Republicans have pushed for decades nearly ended our democracy on Jan. 6. It’s time that myth is rejected.
The nation’s founders bet the future of the nation on us, “we the people,” uniting to keep this Great American experiment in democracy alive. We dare not fail them.