Opinion

Individual rights and responsibility

In the 2020 election, 360,737 voters in Maine’s Second Congressional District delivered one electoral vote for the Republican candidate for president, a 7.5 percent margin of victory. These 360,737 votes represented individual citizens of Maine and the United States of America, certainly not a collective based on race, creed, color, national origin, or any other diversity of identity. 

Too few voices are representing these 360,737 individuals in Maine’s Second Congressional District, and in Washington, D.C.

As individual citizens, living under a constitutional republic specifically designed to protect, preserve and defend individual rights through a representative form of government, we must accept our individual responsibility to ensure that those whom we elect to represent us in local, state and national government act to protect our individual rights against collective ideology or “group think” and to represent the views of the citizens who elected them.

To avoid political shifts to the extreme left or the extreme right, which ultimately lead to totalitarian dictatorship, we should return to the balanced center of the political spectrum where the founding principles of a constitutional republic, the representative form of government, operate under the rule of law, protecting individual rights from the rule of an unjust majority, or a mob. This government of the people, by the people and for the people, through their elected representatives, has the primary mission to protect the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (e.g., where to live, who to live with, where to work, what to buy in the marketplace, etc) — without regard for any diversity of identity other than citizenship.

Any move to nationalize or centralize power in the name of the collective is a threat to individual liberty. The answer is not to tear down our democratic republic through acts of violence and anarchy; the answer is for informed citizens to operate this government correctly, beginning with electing representatives who understand exactly who they represent and why limited government works better to protect individual rights than unlimited government. 

If any elected representative fails to protect individual rights, under a constitutional republic there is a regular and orderly process of re-election or recall. This would include election integrity measures such as Voter ID, in-person local paper ballot voting day of election, no voting machines, no mail-in ballots, strict rules for absentee voting, transparent vote counting, etc.  

Rebalancing our political and economic systems should begin with: (1) reading and teaching the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, the Preamble of which reads:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

And (2) reading and teaching the Maine Constitution, the Preamble of which reads:

“Objects of government. We the people of Maine, in order to establish justice, insure tranquility, provide for our mutual defense, promote our common welfare, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of liberty, acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity, so favorable to the design; and, imploring God’s aid and direction in its accomplishment, do agree to form ourselves into a free and independent State, by the style and title of the State of Maine and do ordain and establish the following Constitution for the government of the same.”

Citizenship is a privilege that carries with it the corresponding responsibility to understand and operate our political system correctly. In the immortal words of Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Hayes Gahagan is a former Maine state senator, state representative, and chairman of the Aroostook County Republican Committee.

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