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Ray Haynes

Freedom is Fragile

The history of government in this world tilts almost totally towards authoritarianism. A free society is the exception, authoritarianism is the rule.

People, driven by fear, are often willing to give up their freedom for protection from some amorphous, imagined, unseen or even perceived evil, and there is usually someone in government willing to capitalize on that fear to consolidate their power. In a constitutional Republic, those in position of government authority need more than just the bald assertion of power to institute an authoritarian government. Throughout history, authoritarians have used many excuses to displace the legislative process and consolidate power, and many have used an emergency as a reason to displace constitutional processes, because those processes “are just too slow” to deal with the effects of the emergency. If a political officeholder has authoritarian tendencies, any excuse will do. That is why the exercise of emergency powers in a free society must be strictly limited in scope and in time. The potential for abuse of freedom is just too great.

Which leads to the discussion of the corona virus responses by our California government. I begin with this famous observation by Hank Williams “No matter how I struggle and strive, I’ll never get out of this world alive…” Strictly speaking, we all start dying from the day we are born. Disease surrounds us on a daily basis. The problem in California now, however, is that is quickly becoming evident that no slowing of the disease will curtail the Governor’s exercise of autocratic power through this so-called emergency.

In their lawsuit against the Governor for his abuse of power, Assembly Members James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley list off the breadth of the Governor’s exercise of his so-called “emergency” power (see, see exhibit A to the complaint). The number of laws enacted by the Legislature that the Governor has allowed to be totally ignored is staggering, and crosses almost every part of the codes of California. The Governor’s most recent rulings about how we are to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas are absurd on their face.

Yet through it all, our other elected officials, ALL of whom have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the State of California, sit silent. We are guaranteed by the US Constitution a republican form of government. The California Constitution states clearly that the legislative power resides in the Legislature, not the Governor. Yet, the Legislature stands mute, tacitly accepting the illegal exercise of power by the Governor. All of the other elected officials in this state meekly cave into the threats of the state government. Some sue, but none have yet to say “NO” to his unconstitutional efforts. Even the courts don’t limit the power that must be limited. The evidence supporting his authoritarian use of power is weak, and there is little link between the means he is using to inject himself into every aspect of our lives, and the ends he says he wants to achieve by the use of that power. More important, there is no foreseeable end to the exercise of that power. Unlimited power exercised for an unlimited period of time is inconsistent with the structure of a constitutional Republic, no matter the excuse.

Other Governors have issued emergency executive orders, but they have been limited in size, scope and time. When Pete Wilson was Governor, he declared an emergency suspension of the California Environment Quality Act for the sole purpose of rebuilding the Santa Monica Freeway after the Northridge earthquake as quickly as possible. Turns out it could be done in 60 days. Then the emergency order went away. One code, one place, one project, two months. That is the correct use of an emergency order. What Newsom is doing now cannot be justified on any level. Yet he continues to justify his exercise of authority. That is why I have referred to him as an Arrogant Lazy Authoritarian (ALA).

Yet the silence from our other political leaders is deafening. Like every other legislative body in history, from the Roman Senate to the German Reichstag, that capitulated to executive abuse, our state legislature is abdicating its responsibility and the members are abandoning their oath, to protect the Constitution and our freedom. Why is it only Assembly Members Gallagher and Kiley that are fighting the Governor? Why are our legislative leaders not fighting to protect their piece of power? What can possibly justify their lack of action? And if we return them to power on Tuesday, who are we as citizens of this great state? Are we conceding to our elected leadership that we no longer desire political or economic freedom?

The bible tells us that God raises up evil leaders in a society to discipline the people in that society. Have we fallen so far from a “righteous society” that we deserve ALA Newsom and his apparatchiks in the Legislature? The evidence I see says we have. Our government is falling apart, and we are descending into the autocratic exercise of authoritarian power in total contravention of the constitutional limits on that power.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. We deserve the government we get.