Thomas Paine, in his essay Common Sense, clearly defined the relationship between the legislator and constituent in a representative democracy:
“This will point out the convenience of their consenting to leave the legislative part to be managed by a select number chosen from the whole body, who are supposed to have the same concerns at stake (as) those that appointed them, and will act in the same manner as the whole body would were they present.”
Unfortunately, the 2020 Utah state legislative session again revealed the principle of a representative democracy is simply beyond comprehension for many legislators. They are obsessed with control (abortion, amending referendums) and show no interest in what citizens want.
Despite salaries paid from taxes, once elected legislators feel free to do anything they want, they find serving special interests far more rewarding and lucrative. This is a total violation of Thomas Paine’s standard for a representative democracy, where special interests are not even mentioned.
Citizens who work hard to support their families and pay taxes can’t begin to compete with well-paid lobbyists who hover over legislators like hornets circling meat. And this happens all day, every day during the session, with lobbyists hosting lunches and providing rewards for bills passed. Lobbyists for special interests have become more important than citizens.
Many civic-minded organizations focused on improving society also have lobbyists, but their goal is to promote legislation that improves society. The PTA, League of Women Voters, League of Cities and Towns, many municipalities, social action organizations and the teachers union are good examples, and they are often at odds with the greed-driven special interests whose self-serving bills may prove harmful to the community.
The manic support of the NRA and unlimited gun rights with no regulations is a good example of a criminal indifference despite Utah's annual death toll of 400. And Charles Koch still insists man-caused climate change is a hoax.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints demands special liquor laws, yet says nothing about toxic air, lack of gun regulation, health insurance for the poor or pitiful public education funding, the family values that matter most.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), comprised of various profit-driven businesses and corporations, the Eagle Forum and the Sutherland Institute are other compromised forces with ties to the Koch conspiracy. Their lobbyists are always present at hearings, where legislators feign interest in issues that have already been decided in caucus. Like a kangaroo court, these are kangaroo hearings.
The 2020 Legislature exhibited a stunning indifference to the vast majority of citizens. Issues of immense importance were simply dismissed as irrelevant. No one wants the inland port (massive pollution), or a dump for radioactive waste. The few who benefit are legislators and developers with money in hand. Thomas Paine, were he alive, would be appalled.
Representative democracy is a shared community, where enlightened citizens and honest legislators work together and create an optimal environment for freedom, justice and equality to work their magic.
It is time for social action groups to join together and remove the greedy, ideologically maimed legislators responsible for this tyranny. Instead of focusing on their separate issues, social action groups should join together in a citizens’ union, raise money, hire lobbyists, fire up the media and take back their government.
The coronavirus is frightening, but it will eventually go away. But the political plague of anti-democratic practices that places special interests first will take a united, well-funded social action PAC to reclaim democracy.
When the will of the majority is not honored there is no democracy.
View the website taxrep.us which addresses citizens concerns.
Ron Molen, Salt Lake City, is a retired architect currently painting and writing novels.