Criminalizing Democracy

As if the recent events across the world, especially last week in England, were not enough to demonstrate to the establishment that Democracy demands more than lip-service from politicians but, rather actual action when it comes to safe-guarding the people’s right for redress before the government, up comes; El Paso District Attorney, Jaime Esparza, to acknowledge that he is investigating the recall organizers. A petition demanding government action is the second most basic form of the people’s power over government with outright insurrection being number one.

In the case before El Paso voters, the recall organizers may be treading dangerous waters as far as the letter of the law in regards to corporate financing of political activities. Their actions, however, do not and should not be criminalized. Criminalizing their activity by the threat of criminal investigation by the city’s prosecutor only creates the illusion that the powers that be have no interest in the will of the people.

The will of the people is key here. This latest recall activity is not a willy-nilly, last minute; I’m disenfranchised ankle-biters but a continuation of a long process whereby the organizers not only gathered and submitted two petitions but put their demand before the voters who voted in their favor. The people have voted and city council has ignored their will. Now by criminalizing the petition organizers, the local government is telling the voters it doesn’t matter what the voters want and this leads to a disenfranchised population.

This is a dangerous precedent because the people, feeling powerless before government, decides that if government is not interested in their wants then the people have no reason to abide by the rules of government. The recent riots in England are an example of what happens when the people feel that government is ignoring them. All it takes is for an event to trigger a widespread public repudiation of the government. Some will argue, and rightfully so, that the English rioters were nothing more than hooligans and for the most part they are right.

The difference is that the hooligans need the support of everyday people to make the police agencies powerless. This is exactly what happens in most insurrections, the gangs and the criminals are usually the first to take advantage of a social breakup. Once society feels broken then there is no incentive to castigate the lawbreakers. Some in England have rationalized that the riots are a result of the moral decay of the society. Moral decay begins and ends when government ignores the will of the people.

In the case of El Paso, criminalizing the recall organizers is the start of the beginning of the moral decay of the city.  If left unchecked it will eventually explode in unbridled violence, one that the community will be unwillingly to stop as they will quietly celebrate the expression of the power of the people to force government change. English society did not think it could happen to them. Does El Paso really think it can’t happen to them as well?