The politics of the social contract
David L. Horne, PH.D. | 4/6/2017, midnight
From the millions protesting on Jan. 21, in the Women’s March, which was the largest single-day protest in the history of the United States, to the smaller but fervent March 8 protests on the “Day Without A Woman,” the political constituency—the we, the people—has been voicing its considerable displeasure at its new leadership.
Back in the 17th and 18th centuries, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, both explained that government—particularly democratic government—is a social contract between a political constituency and its selected/elected leaders. The constituency agreed to be led by those who agreed to make decisions in the best interests of most of that constituency. If that leadership, however, failed to honor its part of the bargain—that is, if it disdained or trampled on the best interests of the constituency—then the constituency was no longer bound to its obligation to be led by that leadership.
In the best tradition of democracy being government by the governed, the current American constituency is exercising its rights to have proper governmental leadership. It is pressing the issue.
Governmental leadership is not supposed to be about what the leaders personally want. It is supposed to be what the majority of the population wants. In Theodore Roosevelt’s words, ‘democracy best works when government provides the greatest good to the greatest number.’ The greatest number did not vote for Donald Trump.
In spite of the news media almost universally focusing on the cracks in the Republican leadership, and on the relationship between Donald Trump and Paul Ryan as the major reason Republicans and the president failed to get this particular new healthcare legislation passed, the fact of the matter is that the American political constituency killed this bill, and should be recognized for that effort. A large swath of the American people voiced its considerable umbrage at the attempt to force a woe-begotten, badly written piece of legislation ostensibly aimed at repealing and replacing the American Care Act (aka, ObamaCare) onto the public. The version of the pending legislation that was promoted to the public was draconian and literally nasty. People from red, blue and purple states called their congressional representatives by phone, sent texts and e-mails, and challenged those representatives in various town halls assembled all over the country. The vast majority of those communicating to their congressional members said “no,” “absolutely not,” and “hell no, no way! Do not pass this legislation that will take away our healthcare.”
Healthcare is a bedrock issue to the American public, and its members have for a long time been willing to fight to the death to get it and keep it. Many of our elected leaders, apparently, do not get that. To the majority of the American political constituency, access to decent healthcare is now considered a right, not just a privilege.
Congressional members regularly reported that their office phones were being flooded with calls and messages 10-1 against the bill being passed. That public outcry spooked many Republican lawmakers. The ultimate collapse of the effort to vote on and pass the American Healthcare Act, H.R. 1628 (aka, TrumpCare), last week, therefore, was not a function of whatever the president and the Speaker of the House did or did not do. Truth be told, this was a political science exercise in the governed talking back loudly and saying those governing had it wrong. The governed drew a line in the sand and said “no!”
And that’s how democracy is supposed to work. With all the emphasis on Russia’s attempt to demoralize the democratic state and to frighten American citizens, this was the answer by those citizens. Regardless of the investigative reports that will soon come out about Russian interference and the collusion of Trump campaign officials, the American people just spoke elegantly and firmly about how well democracy is doing in this country.
There may well be future perfidies proven regarding the current White House staff, but there will be no lynchings of American democracy, foreign or domestic, anytime soon.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.