Alaska Brief Newsletter–July 2018
I believe in the three branches of government because the check on any one branch’s power is what protects our democracy. Our founders knew that, and built that balance into our Constitution.
Right now, though, we’ve got a self-appointed ring master maintaining chaos to distract everyone from the damage being done to our environment and our rights. That’s no way to lead a democracy.
Remember the lesson in “I’m just a bill,” one of those School House Rock cartoon lessons from the 1970s? It explained how the legislative branch passes laws. It also compared the three branches to a three-ring circus, only today that three-ring circus is a reality.
The balance of powers is what prevents the executive branch from behaving like a dictator or monarch, and what makes sure that no one is above the law, but now our three branches are veering off balance.
Our president is not above the law
The President is not above the law, but his actions and those of his appointees have left lasting scars. It will take a long time to claw back from this administration’s regressive attack on the rights we all share and the laws that protect us.
Scott Pruitt may be out, but the harm caused by his dismantling of protections of our air, water, lands and communities will last for years. Worse yet, the revolving door of the Trump administration seems to replace every self-serving henchman with another.
These appointees do not serve the American public. They give our resources to extractive industries and then force us to pay for their toxic messes with our tax dollars and health.
Now, the skewing of the Supreme Court ensures the scales of justice will not be balanced. With the departure of Justice Anthony Kennedy, we should expect a continued politicization of the Supreme Court, the ultimate arbiter of our rights and freedoms–the branch that makes sure our laws are constitutional and applied that way.
President Trump has made it clear he will appoint a justice he believes will support overturning Roe vs. Wade. In other words, he wants to appoint a justice based on political preference rather than on whether that appointee will follow precedent and uphold long-established legal principles.
That kind of appointment will undermine the judiciary’s role in balancing power in a healthy democracy. If that is how this administration chooses a Supreme Court justice, then all of our rights, laws, and regulations are at risk. We will see judicial decisions that undo rules keeping our homes and families healthy and safe.
Public servants should protect the public
Regulations are meant to even the playing field–to put the responsibility for preventing, fixing or mending harm onto those industries, organizations and people who do harm. That kind of accountability is an American value.
Stripping away rules at any level of government means shifting the responsibility for harm to those to whom harm is done. Why should the people who can no longer fish or hunt the salmon or caribou their families have relied upon for thousands of years pay for the pollution caused by a foreign mining or oil company? What’s equitable about Americans suffering the health consequences of toxic drinking water and polluted air?
When industry is not held financially accountable, Americans pay with their tax dollars, jobs and health. As our system of government tilts off balance, so does the long-term well-being and cohesion of our communities.
Where is Congress in all of this? Busy with partisan squabbling, taking money from industry, and pointing fingers rather than listening to their constituents and leading by example.
Our government serves us, and we don’t have to stand for a continuing three-ring circus. Take the time to let your elected officials know that they are failing us and ignoring their constitutional duties. Let them know that there is too much at stake to play partisan games. Let them know that you will vote them out if they don’t lead us back to balance.
Fighting for our democracy right now means fighting for our planet, human rights and communities–and we need all hands on deck, for all of us.
PS: Your support of Trustees for Alaska is critical now more than ever.
Our legal director Valerie Brown spent time sharing the wild with bears this summer. Now she invites you to help protect them.
I just returned from my fifth trip to McNeil River State Game Refuge and Sanctuary. It’s one of my favorite places in Alaska. It’s an exceptional area because our state officials decided a long time ago that you should not only let nature run wild, but you can also witness and feel its awe by protecting it.
Almost all Alaskans have heard of the proposed Pebble mine, but many do not realize that it threatens McNeil River and Katmai National Park. The proposed Pebble Mine site is just northwest of McNeil.
The proposed mine threatens this crown jewel of wilderness and bear watching.