Happy Independence Day!

July 4, 2014 marked our nation’s 238th birthday, and it may be useful to recall those famous words from the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and “that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

“That when any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

We hate to rain on the nation’s parade on Independence Day, but the legitimate question must be asked: Is our current form of government “deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed?” Or from elsewhere?

The tsunami of unaccountable, unlimited campaign cash from Big Business, the radical right, and assorted corporate criminals inundates us, our rights and our freedoms, thanks to the Supreme Court rulings and unchecked, rigid congressional ideologues.

A government “of the people, by the people and for the people,” in Lincoln’s immortal words?  Hardly.  Try a government “of the one percent, by the one percent and for the one percent.”

Look no farther than the gridlock on Capitol Hill or the latest Supreme Court rulings for evidence.  Thanks to the tea party – funded and controlled by the radical-and-many-would-say-racist right – even simple measures to help workers and the rest of us go nowhere.

Equal pay for women’s equal work?  Never, says the right.  We’ll filibuster it to death.

Reproductive rights?  The court majority just blew a hole in that.

Workers’ rights?  Republican filibusters prompted by corporate cash killed the Employee Free Choice Act.  And the court just trashed unions’ ability to organize thousands of state-employed home care workers, by calling them only partially public workers.

Comprehensive immigration reform, including bringing 11 million undocumented people out of the shadows and into the protection, however little, of labor law?  That move would help the rest of us, by removing the possibility of divide-and-conquer exploitation. 

Over our dead bodies, reply the right-wingers. That leaves President Obama to resort to executive orders – directives his successor can erase with a pen stroke.

All of this, plus oppressive measures, are brought to you by the capitalistic rich, whose overreaching goal is dictatorial hegemony.  “You poor saps,” they say. “You still believe in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.  Forget it.”

Well, yes, we do still believe in the Constitution and the Declaration.  So maybe it’s time to start seriously considering moves to restore those two historic documents’ purpose.

That means, in Jefferson’s words, “It is the right of the people to alter or abolish it” – the present setup — “laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” 

We realize that’s a long-term project.  Indeed, it may take up to 238 years to undo the damage. But it doesn’t hurt to get started. And have a happy Independence Day!

Photo: John Trumbull’s “Declaration of Independence.” loc.gov


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.