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Who determines the Common Good?

Rep. Lori McCann, Republican, has now been censured by the Republican central committees of all three counties within legislative district 6. Latah County named five votes they considered censurable–four were killed by the 28 Republicans in the Senate and did not become law.

The bill not allowing employers to require a COVID-19 vaccine did become law. The bill allowing people to sue librarians if children get their hands on library books deemed inappropriate was vetoed by Republican Governor Little, and the Senate–80% Republican– did not have the two-thirds necessary to override his veto.

As for McCann being a Republican-in-name-only, the Idaho Freedom Foundation rated 27 Republican legislators lower than her.

McCann’s defense is that she voted the way the majority of her constituents wanted her to vote. The Republican leadership in Latah, Lewis and Nez Perce counties apparently doesn’t think that excuses non-obedience.

For over 20 years now many Idaho Republicans have insisted that democracy is “mob rule.” In other words, they don’t trust citizens to make decisions. Representatives aren’t to vote as the masses might, but to educate people on the wisdom of the Republican platform.

I’ve no doubt they can claim to be acting for the common good–protecting children from drag shows and from learning the evils of slavery, protecting women from the guilt of an abortion, protecting us all from depending on government health insurance.

But if “we the people” don’t get to decide what the common good is, who does? Just who has the responsibility of serving others rather than just themselves?

The Founding Fathers believed the responsibility was shared by all citizens. As James Madison said, “To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical idea,” that is, one impossible to achieve.

Visiting the United States 70 years later, Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville stated that self-government made Americans different from other people. Through governing themselves, Tocqueville asserted, Americans learned to put public responsibility over selfish interest (Robert Reich blog, Aug. 4).

Not everyone, certainly, nor 100% for anyone, but Americans were aware that many of their great-grandparents' generation had fought for–and bequeathed to them–rights that few in the world had. Thirty years later, Lincoln called America “the last best hope” for the world, i.e., for civilizations that had been ruled by the rich and powerful for centuries.

Those that distrust the majority of the voters are not republicans–or democrats–but oligarchists. The Idaho Republican leadership would abolish our rights to initiatives and referendums. They have blocked the majority from taking part in primary elections; a recent proposal would require people to register as Republicans for two years prior to being allowed to vote in a Republican primary. And this year the Idaho legislature considered dozens of bills–and passed five–to make voting more difficult.

The Republican Party no longer tackles the problems of poverty, housing, and inequality of opportunity. Instead, they make up problems that further their attacks on our democratic institutions. What would our forefathers have thought of making librarians responsible for the reading material your child chooses rather than parents? What would they have thought of banning whole sections of history from student studies?

In his book The Common Good, Robert Reich points out that Americans may disagree on many things, but they must share commitment to the things that “make us a people.”

“The most basic of such commitments are to democracy, the Constitution, equal political rights, equal opportunity, and the rule of law. These commitments bind us together.

“Although we have fallen short of achieving them, they have been our shared ideals.”

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