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David Op’t Hof: The Constitution does not support insurrection

Threatening violence when you don’t win an election is not the way America works.

(Jason Andrew | The New York Times) A pro-Trump mob storms the Capitol building in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. "Almost five months later, the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, fought like hell to block a bipartisan independent commission to investigate what happened during that insurrection and what caused it," writes New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow. "It is yet another clear indication to me that America wasn’t ceasing to be a country, it was ceasing to be a democracy."

Throughout history, leaders have typically risen to the top of societies by violent means. They amassed the largest army, subdued all their rivals and chose themselves to be the leader.

The Greeks and Romans experimented with electing leaders for a time, but eventually the voice of the people became only a symbolic vote, confirming what the dictator or general had already decided.

In most civilizations, leadership became a hereditary thing, with families ruling for decades, the firstborn rising to power upon the death of their father or mother. In civilizations like ancient China and Egypt, dynasties ruled for centuries.

In England, the country from which the American people first arose, the right of monarchs to rule was believed to be appointed by God, and the “divine right of Kings” became the justification for kingly rule. Who could argue with God’s will?

Governments established by this doctrine have been notoriously insensitive to the needs and rights of the people. The people were serfs, pawns whose purpose was to serve the royal family by producing food and dying in their armies. They lived in abject poverty while paying taxes to support the lavish lifestyles of the ruling class.

The unchallengeable power of the monarch allowed them to declare whatever they wanted as law, including the deaths of citizens for trivial and unjust causes. As Lord Acton, British historian and politician, famously declared, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Getting rid of an unjust leader usually involved violence: assassination, a coup or a civil war leading to citizens fighting their own countrymen in years of warfare. Not exactly conducive to the safety and prosperity of the citizens.

This is the place where the citizens of the English colonies found themselves in 1776. They were citizens in the British commonwealth but had no vote in deciding the laws or people that governed them. They were viewed by the crown as a “cash cow” which existed to increase the prosperity of England. Consequently, laws passed by Parliament took advantage of the colonists and became more and more onerous. The Declaration of Independence lists 27 ways in which the British government had taken advantage of the Colonies.

The colonists had petitioned for redress of their grievances over and over again, only to be ignored. They finally decided that they no longer wanted to be subject to such unrighteous rule and declared that the colonies were now a separate nation, free and independent of the British sovereign. It is important to note that the Declaration of Independence was not a declaration of war. It was merely a declaration of independence. Did the signers know that their action would lead to war? Most certainly. They knew King George would not stand for their rebellion.

We now find ourselves in a situation wherein citizens of these United States are using the Declaration of Independence as justification for insurrection in our present day to reverse the result of the 2020 election. The Declaration of Independences does indeed state that “... whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [securing the rights of the people], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government...”

Matt Goetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Michael Flynn, the members of the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 and others undoubtedly have the above passage in mind as they call for a coup or insurrection. So does Donald Trump, when he states that he will be re-instated as president in August. Those calling for insurrection have demonstrated their lack of understanding of our history and our supreme law of the land, the Constitution of the United States of America.

The Constitution makes no provision for reinstating a former president who is unhappy with having lost reelection. It does not allow for a losing president to declare an election as invalid because he doesn’t like the outcome. It does allow for courts to review political proceedings to ensure they followed the law, and various courts throughout the country have declared the election as valid, not once agreeing with the contention of Trump and his minions that the election was stolen, despite the wasting of $529 million of taxpayer dollars in that effort.

But Trump and his supporters continue to push the Big Lie that the election was stolen and Trump should be reinstated by any means necessary. This is dangerous talk that should be recognized as the treason that it is.

Once before in our history, a group was so unhappy with the outcome of an election that they rebelled. It was the election of 1860 in which Abraham Lincoln was chosen to be the President of the United States of America — the first Republican president, incidentally. But the people of 12 states — all slave states — were unhappy with this result. Lincoln was an abolitionist who believed that slavery was wrong. So those 12 states declared themselves separate from the United States and formed the Confederacy. Their action was illegal. It was not sanctioned by the Constitution.

The Civil War resulted from this insurrection and led to bloody fighting for almost five years and the deaths of almost a million soldiers. The insurrection was put down, but the cost to the country was immense. Vestiges of that conflict sadly remain, and the insurrectionists of today often carry the Confederate flag as a symbol of their rebellion.

Unbelievably, a great number of Republicans, the party Trump represented in the election, still support his bid for reinstatement. If you are one of them, I challenge you to re-read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and educate yourself to the fact that Trump’s claim to the presidency is completely without merit.

The Constitution establishes voting as the means by which we choose leaders. It is not the “divine right of kings.” It is not the man who whines the loudest. It is not the businessman who feels he wants to be king. It is the will of the people, and the will of the people chose Joseph Biden, both in the popular vote and in the Electoral College.

Insurrection is illegal. It is not Constitutional. It is not necessary, because we change our government by voting, and anyone who says differently does not deserve to hold office in this great land. We must wisely shun these efforts at insurrection and Republicans would be wise to abandon their support of Donald Trump and look for a leader who sustains the Constitution of the United States of America to represent them.

David Op't Hof

David Op’t Hof, Lehi, is a retired educator who believes in the United States of America as the light of the world.

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