Susan Eggman and Josh Harder were in downtown Modesto Saturday morning, urging volunteers and their fellow citizens to exercise their most fundamental right under the Constitution of the United States — the vote.
When the Founding Fathers debated about what kind of government should shape the new nation they envisioned as an “experiment,” they rejected many alternatives. Learned men, they had recent history as a lesson against monarchs and, “divine right.”
Though most of them were aristocrats, they knew enough from ancient history to reject aristocracy. They feared oligarchs, tyrants and autocrats as well.
When they settled on a democratic republic, the Founders were well aware that most experiments in democracy had failed. Nonetheless, they decided that the final source of power in the new United States would reside in the people, expressed through the principle of majority rule.
Thus it was that in his first inaugural address, George Washington reaffirmed a profound faith in the American people to preserve a government framed by the values of liberty and equality:
“The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
Above all, the Founding Fathers knew they were imperfect men and that the tide of history would require that the Constitution change over time. The first changes were almost immediate, in the form of a Bill of Rights that became the first amendments to the primary document.
The second President of the United States, John Adams, reaffirmed the power of the people and their right to amend the Constitution when he wrote,
“Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.”
Change and reform have seldom come easily for the country whose original motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” still animates an ideal that fuses a multitude of differences into a single nation, “with liberty and justice for all.” But no nation can have justice for all that applies the law with a double standard. That’s why John Adams also insisted the new union be a, “government of laws, not of men.”
When the Majority Leader of our Senate refuses to allow the introduction of evidence during the impeachment of a sitting president, we no longer have a government of laws, we have a government of men. When that same Majority Leader avows a principle for seating justices for the Supreme Court during an election year and reverses that same principle four years later, we have a double standard. And when a president and his political party attempt to deny the power of the people by suppressing the vote and threatening to resist a peaceful transition of power, we become the subjects of an attempted tyranny, not the agents of our nation’s democratic destiny.
It was only after over a hundred years and through the 19th Amendment that women got the right to vote in the American experiment with democracy, and today women like Susan Eggman and men like Josh Harder are working to keep that experiment alive. And it’s only through the exercise of the right to vote as urged by today’s generation of Democratic leaders that the American experiment will continue to live and move forward toward the ideals that animated the formation of our democratic republic.
During times of great crisis, the American people have again and again shown themselves worthy of the trust the Founding Fathers placed in them. This is a time of great crisis, and once again, the people have been called to the aid of their country. Vote. Vote now.