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Midterm Anger

November 6, 2010
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This last Tuesday, the Republican Party benefited from an en masse migration of independents to their ranks. The nation voted, then watched the GOP candidates systematically dismantle the massive majorities the Democrat Party had in the House and Senate. While the Democrats did not yield control of the Senate, their ability to proceed with carte-blanche will be a memory with the inauguration of the 212th Congress. The question of these midterms is simply this: was the anger that carried the Republicans to power justified? The people were clearly enraged with the sitting Democrat Congress on election day,  holding a public approval rating of less than 20% according to RealClearPolitics.com (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/congressional_job_approval-903.html).

The argument could be made that Lockean principles are at work here. We can see clearly that the anger of the people had reached a fever-pitch as the District of Columbia’s continuous ignorance of the popular demand pressed on through the mandate they had been given.

Locke spoke extensively of the different iterations of Governmental interaction in his piece, “Second Treatise of Government.” Locke stated in the chapter, “Of Tyranny,” that tyranny is the wrongful use of power. He also gives the people the prerogative for rebellion in this instance, or a “right of revolution” when the people’s trust is violated by the powers that be. Although there was no real revolution, the people did have a somewhat of a ballot box revolution with a “kick the bums out” mantra. The question here is simply this, though, did the people have a right to revolution here? Is this “tyranny” as Locke defined it (or at least tyranny enough to change the powers that be within the bounds of the election process)?

I would argue that the people did have a right to this electoral rebellion that swept across the nation on this most recent Election Day. Locke contends that the people are the “Supreme Power,” and that the members of the Government in the main branch, the Legislative, are there to represent them, from chapter “Of the Extent of the Legislative Power.” Locke states in this particular chapter, “…the legislative which the public has chosen and appointed…” meaning that the Legislative exists to exert the power given to them by the people. However, when this Legislative power deviates from the general purposes for which they were employed by the people, they are abusing their power as Locke defined it, for when they cease to act in the interest of their charge, the people, they give up the claim to the power with which they were endowed. These deviates from public desires are reflected in the passage of the HealthCare Bill, which remains unpopular according to Rasmussen Reports (http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/mood_of_america/right_direction_or_wrong_track), along with the extraordinary amount of spending that the public has come to view with contempt. The outgoing majorities in the U.S. Congress had used their power in improper ways, ignoring the will of the people they were meant to represent and from whom they drew their power. According to Locke, this is tyranny, and the people had every right to anger. It was a righteous anger, and they made their will known in a resounding fashion. One can only hope that the next Congress will obey the directives of the people, and act accordingly with their reason for being there.

 – Brandon Tomlinson

4 Comments
  1. mikeking0717 permalink
    November 6, 2010 5:53 PM

    I think that this is an interesting argument. If I were to play devil’s advocate for a moment I guess I would have to question the people’s right to rebellion. Our social contract gives us the right to choose who will make decisions for us, but not the right decide what they choose. If we disagree, our contract has scheduled election that allows the people to remove our retain elected officials. If these officials are acting withing their rights in our social contract, would Locke still support revolution?

    • dmalks permalink
      November 10, 2010 1:36 AM

      I think there are many good points made in the comment above, but I do think Locke would still support revolution. I believe this because Locke feels that the people are the “supreme power”. If the “supreme power” feels a revolution is necessary then they should have the right to do so.

  2. November 8, 2010 4:04 PM

    This blog is a good follow up to one I wrote about Locke and the midterm elections. My blog focused on why people are able to change their legislature according to Locke. This blog explores why the people did it specifically in this situation. I definitely agree with the theme of this article, that the Democrats did not hold up their end of the bargain during their reign of power. It seems that during the elections the Democrats made a lot of promises to the American people and many of these promises especially ones involving the financial crisis they did not uphold. And since they did not uphold these promises and instead did others thing or did nothing at all it is not wrong to say that the Democrats, with all the power they had could be considered a tyranny. Hence, the people have a right to amend their government under conditions of tyranny and the American people did this exactly by putting the Republicans in power in the House of Representatives. This in turn moved the government closer to more of a state of equilibrium rather than a tyranny.

  3. Christine Irish permalink
    November 10, 2010 12:35 AM

    I have to disagree somewhat with the idea that the Washington’s pre-midterm leaders were being tyrannous in any way. The voters chose the leaders that they thought would best represent their ideas and beliefs in congress, and the leaders more or less stuck with the political ideologies and ideas that they had presented to voters when they ran for office. The voters may not have been happy with all of the results of the decisions that they made, but if the people were supposed to create their own policy and vote on every single issue individually, there would be no need for an indirect democracy at all. I also disagree that the voters were revolting. They were only following the social contract that they prescribe to by selecting new leaders every four years like they were supposed to.

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