The Republican Utah Legislature and our Republican governor, in their consensual redrawing of congressional maps, have done more than just placed bizarre lines on a map. Jointly they have added to the growing mistrust of government.
Democracy can only function properly when the governed believe the political leaders and institutions that rule over them are just and fair to all.
Experience shows that human insecurities draw some to fountains of control. However, there is a hopeful expectation that everyone will act for the communal good despite this inner need of self. A commitment towards a more perfect union should direct all who step forward into the public arena. Sadly, we have learned this is not the case.
Representative democracy is a government that ideally fulfills the righteous will of the people. But, as necessary or perhaps more so, it is an experiment of representing the principle that all men and women are created equal. This embodied principle is in all political actions that promote the theme; every voter counts. Lincoln called it “the government of the people by the people for the people.”
To avoid the need for a police state to maintain order, the people must feel, beyond knowing, that laws are just and equitable. This internal sense is the propelling force for good. The conscientious citizen lives with this institutional belief, not unlike faith in the Divine. Therefore, it follows those who write the laws and those who enforce them will act with blind justice as the goal, much like others speak of blind faith. In a doctrine of a small frontier religion, they confirmed, “that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.”
This perception is often invisible, only displayed in thousands of daily personal actions. For example, people write checks in the privacy of their domiciles to pay their taxes. They don’t think of cheating. In the marketplace, they buy and sell honest goods at reasonable fares. They restrain their anger. They love their neighbor as themselves.
This idea of self-rule is familiar to Utah’s original highly European pioneers, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.” The question then arises, what happens when elected representatives practice incorrect principles such as hubris, disregard for the good of society, or lust for power?
I believe we have all witnessed this exercise of misguided principles that unfolded before us in the redrawing of districts. The people expressed their will forcefully when over one-half a million voted to establish The Utah Independent Redistricting Commission. When Republican legislators wholly ignored and even mocked the commission’s and people’s recommendations, there was a betrayal of trust. Likewise, Gov. Spencer Cox demonstrated that he is subservient to politicians, not a servant of the people.
The carnage that is left is an amplified disrespect for our representatives in our democracy. They have made our state neither representative nor, in this matter, a democracy. One of the most significant casualties of this misfiring of truth and hope is a crushing of faith. As in religion, when belief fades, it wounds the entire community. Parishioners cease to participate. There is a pandemic affliction of paralytic despondency. Concomitant with a rise of incivility, radicalism and anger emerge as the favored means of expression. To be held accountable, the players in this game of shame deserve expulsion by election. Yet, by their Frankenstein, they have sequestered themselves from the threat of defeat.
This only increases the frustration. Just when this country is more divided than ever except for the Civil War, the Beehive Republicans have added one more reason to believe the system is rigged. Lawsuits are assuredly in the wings. However, for now, concerned citizens of all party stripes need to awake and rise to the challenge to be more involved in our own political fate emphasizing democracy since the representative half failed us.
Joseph Grant Cramer, M.D., Murray, is a pediatrician who launched the first Children’s Primary Hospital outreach clinic in Kearns and practiced for more than 30 years at Cottonwood Pediatrics in Murray. He is a former president of the Utah Medical Association.