Latest in a series of rhetorical choices that are the equivalent of using an ultrasonic dog whistle to beckon sovereign citizens, Stonewall Emmer's campaign has chosen to highlight this Rasmussen Poll for its followers. It perfectly fits the theme of the 2010 GOP - that we are a nation of slaves under an illegitimate socialist, fascist dictator. "Factoid: We live in a totalitarian dictatorship." Stonewall's just sayin'.....
If you go to the Rasmussen website, you can see the actual question that was asked:
The Declaration of Independence says that governments derive their authority from the consent of the governed. Does the federal government today have the consent of the governed?62% of those polled said "No." The natural conclusion, at least the one that Emmer has drawn, is that the federal government is illegitimate. And the other corollary is that if consent is not the wellspring that the authority of the federal government draws from, it must be a dictatorship.
Please, let's get some perspective.
The question being asked is terrible, and it feeds into the worst impulses of the self-centered, reality-TV parts of American society. Apparently, if you didn't vote for Obama, your answer to this question is "No, dadgummit, I didn't give MY consent!" But that's not how a democracy works. A popular majority of Americans voted for Barack Obama. 8.5 million more people voted for Barack Obama.
I know it's ancient history by now, but the disputed 2000 election might provide some context. Four years of control of the federal government turned on a 5-4 Supreme Court decision and less than 1,000 votes in one state. I don't need to rehash the whole sordid affair, but let's be clear - if there was a case where the legitimacy of an election and by extension, the consent of the governed was in the air, it was this one. The only thing that was not in dispute was that Gore received more votes nationwide than Bush did. You'd expect that angry, bitter Gore voters would think the Bush presidency was illegitimate, right? That huge numbers of loony, lefty DFL'ers would have been posing like revolutionaries? And you'd certainly expect that in the immediate aftermath of Bush v. Gore that those feelings would be strongest, right? Well, you're wrong - even in the immediate aftermath of Gore's concession, these people reaffirmed the legitimacy of American democracy, even in its most flawed manifestation.
CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll 12/15-17/2000Can you imagine, just imagine, what thermonuclear explosion of indignation would have resulted if the Democrats had campaigned using themes of Bush illegitimacy and calling the U.S. a "nation of slaves?"
Now that George W. Bush has been declared the winner and will be inaugurated next January, will you accept him as the legitimate president, or not?
National Adults Yes 83 No 16
Gore Voters Yes 68 No 30
This Rasmussen poll highlights that Republicans are perfectly willing to precipitate a constitutional crisis, to grind into dust the democratic institutions of our country when they are not holding the levers of power. When they are in control, any suggestion of their own legitimacy problems is tantamount to treason. This can be construed as simple hypocrisy, but I think it is more dangerous. This strategic outrage, this selective attack on democratic legitimacy weakens the very notion that democracy can exist. And if voters ratify this approach as a winning strategy, it will undoubtedly become part of the playbook of the party in opposition from this point forward.
It's important to highlight to voters that this is not some sort of game, where it's completely in-bounds to flirt with the craziest of the fringes to gain electoral momentum. It's fun to play dress-up revolutionary and carry silly signs, but you are playing with fire. If we are entering an era where nobody believes in the social contract of democracy, then we're heading toward an era of true dictatorship. And Emmer may pose as a Freedom(TM)-loving revolutionary, but he's contributing to a movement that will happily destroy American democracy in order to "save" it.