COMMENTARY: We the people

By Harvey Santana

"We the people." The first three words of our United States Constitution tell us much more than who is writing the document, The Constitution gives us our form of government - a representative democracy in which the American people are the ultimate power and elect representatives who will make decisions on our behalf.

The core of this system is the right to vote for the people who represent us. Every elected official from our President to a local council person should always be chosen from amongst the people.

Earlier this year, the Legislature pushed a law to the Governor's desk that gave new and broad powers for Emergency Managers to take over municipalities in our state. Public Act 4 strips the right of the people to elect their own local government. Republicans made a decision: WE THE PEOPLE cannot be trusted and our right to vote must be denied.

President Abraham Lincoln said "a government of the people, by the people and for the people". In 2011 however, the communities of Benton Harbor, Flint, Pontiac and Ecorse have had their governments toppled.

It is incredible to believe that those who consider themselves patriots are allowing our state to overthrow local government. It is extremely hypocritical to use LIBERTY as the bedrock of a belief system but defy this value through action. Thomas Paine once wrote "The duty of a patriot is to protect his country from its government." It seems as though Michigan's patriots are asleep while on watch.

Currently, a petition drive is underway by Michigan citizens to put Public Act 4 on hold and bring it before the people of Michigan for a vote. This right is guaranteed to the citizens by the Michigan Constitution. Republicans who were behind this law in the first place are now conspiring to quickly negate that citizen right as well. Republicans in the Michigan legislature want to quickly rewrite the law and undermine the efforts of the petition drive with a procedural tactic used to circumvent the Michigan Constitution.

As an elected representative of the people I am disgusted and ashamed to be in a body which would attempt to spit in the face of our very foundation of government as well as the people of Michigan. Honest people on both sides of the aisle can have open and heated differences of opinion about public education, taxes, budgeting and other issues that come before us. But no elected member of the State Legislature should ever go against the right of the people to vote for their government. To do so is a betrayal of the people they were elected to represent. To do so is a betrayal of the very foundation of the American system of government. To do so is a betrayal of America itself.


State Representative Harvey Santana (D-Detroit)can be reached at (517) 373-6990 or via email at

Published: Fri, Dec 16, 2011