the whitestick papers

looking at politics from a different perspective

Archive for December 2010

The power of an engaged citizenry

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Even though not a single citizen voted on it, on 16 December 2010 the citizens of the United States showed they had dramatically changed  how the political elites in Washington DC thought of them.  A massive omnibus spending bill, riddled with special interest spending of all sorts and made necessary by the inaction of the sitting legislators who were too afraid to pass spending bills before Election Day, was withdrawn in the face of citizen opposition.  Although now called a “lame duck session”, this is the same group of Senators and Representatives who blatantly disregarded the consent of the people less than a year earlier to pass Obamacare.  They did it then in spite of spirited and vocal opposition, using backroom deals and parliamentary tricks but flinched now, even though many of them won’t hold their seats in a little over a month and it’ll be nearly two years before any of them face another election.  (For information on the bill and its aftermath, go here:

The date of this citizen victory is interesting.  It’s probably just coincidental – it’s unlikely Senate President Harry Reid would do it on purpose – but 16 December is already a significant date in American history.  After blocking transfer of taxed tea from England from the ships to the dock, a group of citizens stormed the ships and tossed the offending crates into Boston harbor.  The Boston Tea Party took place 16 December 1773 and is the event most directly tied to the War of Independence.  Today, a ideologically- (rather than personality-) driven citizen rebellion that ironically has come to be known as the Tea Party Movement saw the results of their growing impact on politics in America.

For years, we’ve heard people say their vote doesn’t make any difference.  It may even have been true –at the time.  It isn’t any longer.  The close elections of Ron Maurer vs. Susan Castillo last May, Chris Dudley and John Kitzhaber this November and a number of other close elections in Oregon and around the country demonstrate the importance of even a few votes.  Every person who can be registered should be; if you’re reading this in Oregon and not registered, change that today – you can do it online at so there’s really no excuse.  If you’re registered and don’t always vote, we do it by mail here so there’s really no excuse.  If you live elsewhere, it’s not all that difficult to register and to vote, so you really don’t have an excuse, either. Your vote matters; do it.

But, more importantly, the decision by the arrogant and dismissive Senator Reid to recognize the will of the people, as expressed by the unwillingness of Senators from both parties to conduct business as usual in the face of citizen input and even though some of them had supported it in committee, shows the power of each individual citizen in this country when we band together and exercise our authority over government.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident…that to ensure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed…” reads, in part, a key section of the Declaration of Independence.  The Ninth and Tenth Amendments of the US Constitution codifies this by stating the federal government has no power except those stated in the document and, if it’s not given there, the people or the states have the power.   The political elite believes and acts as if they have all the power but, in reality, the power rests with the people.   Thomas Jefferson noted, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty,” and, until recently, it would be safe to say most Americans feared their government.

For too long we’ve allowed the politicians and bureaucrats, the special interests and public employee unions, the elite and those not affected by the laws they pass or administer to rule over us without regard to the consent of the governed.  But on the 237th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, we got a glimpse of the tremendous power an engaged citizenry can have.

May their tribe increase!


Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

18 December 2010 at 3:01 am

Posted in Events

Tagged with , , ,

You’d think we’d learn…

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Thanks to NW Republican for bringing this to our attention: which, in turn, referenced Jeff Mapes’ blog:

In a year which saw a Republican tsunami change the shape of the US House, US Senate and a number of Governorships, even poor little blue state Oregon should have seen something more than the red tide that evened out our House and Senate, more or less.  But, because our Republican candidates keep hiring the same consultants, we keep getting trounced – even in banner Republican years.  A friend of mine is fond of saying, “If you keep doing what you’re doing you’ll keep getting what you’re getting,” but Oregon Republicans keep hiring the “certified smart” people who have lost election after election.

Now that the dust has settled from last month’s game-changer, we’re seeing stories like this crop up.  The guy who talked center-right Senator Gordon Smith into becoming center-left has now hired the former spokeswoman for the guy who’s just now realizing Oregon has a budget problem.  Dan Lavey’s last major Republican client turned out to have voted for Obama in 2008 and, despite heavy name recognition, couldn’t overcome an unprecedented third-term by a guy who left saying the state was ungovernable.  It’s enough to make you wonder where the guy’s loyalties lie.  It sure doesn’t seem to be with promoting Republican ideals and tapping in to the thirst for liberty that’s taken over most of the country.

If and only if Republican candidates in Oregon stop paying attention to advisors who tell them to run toward the center and to not make waves can we hope to see a powerful Republican surge in the state.  For the time being, however, it looks like we’re only going to keep getting what we’ve been getting.

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

7 December 2010 at 3:45 pm

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