Column: Sad state of affairs is no excuse for not voting

Michael Schuttloffel is the executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference.
Michael Schuttloffel is the executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference.

by Michael Schuttloffel

They say knowledge is power.

How strange then that in an era of unprecedented access to political information — 24- hour news channels, iPhones with news apps, journalists live-tweeting committee hearings, politicians’ Facebook pages — the country’s political class feels more disconnected from, and unaccountable to, ordinary people than ever.

Dissertations have been written on voter apathy, and the phenomenon is certainly nothing new. However, there are developments of recent vintage that have made voting seem ever more futile.

It was no accident that the legislative branch of the federal government was established in Article I of the U.S. Constitution. Congress was to be the first among coequal branches, yet the lawmaking branch of government has ceded more and more of its decision-making responsibility to the third and “fourth” branches of government.

The third and supposedly nonpolitical branch of government — the judiciary — has in the last 40 years asserted the right to decide the most important political questions facing the nation.
In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court took the abortion issue out of the hands of the democratic process and decided the matter for itself, sidelining Congress, state legislatures, presidents and governors.

Today, federal courts across the country are striking down marriage laws overwhelmingly approved by state legislatures and voter initiatives. Kansas’ marriage amendment, approved by 70 percent of the voters, may soon be overturned by two guys in Colorado wearing robes.

The Constitution established no fourth branch of government, but that has not stopped Congress from forfeiting power to it as well. Government agencies — aka “the bureaucracy” — are staffed by people who are not elected and who operate largely outside of the lime-light. Yet they are making more of the important decisions than ever.

For the past three years, the federal government has assaulted the conscience rights of Catholics and others through the HHS contraception/sterilization/ abortion-inducing-drug mandate. Yet Congress — the federal government’s lawmaking body — did not vote on and pass the HHS mandate. Rather, Congress passed a health care law which included language authorizing the Department of Health and Human Services to provide for “preventive care.” In was left to the bureaucrats to decide to punish the Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby.

This sad state of affairs is no excuse for not voting, however. Officials working in the bureaucracy are ultimately answerable to someone elected, and judges are appointed and confirmed by elected officials. Kansas’ governor recently appointed a justice to the Kansas Supreme Court, and the U.S. senators from Kansas will vote on whether to confirm federal judgeships, including perhaps a nomination to the closely divided U.S. Supreme Court.

In the end, “the government” is answerable to you, dear reader. But only if you show up on Nov. 4.

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