For the offense of petitioning government for a redress of grievances, the state of Oklahoma is bringing felony charges against an old friend, Paul Jacob, who has already shown his mettle by standing up against state coercion and violence. This case is important for many reasons, including simple justice, but high on the list is that opportunities for citizens to influence — or even choose — their governments are being choked off one by one and that process must be resisted. Paul’s case is but one element in the attempt to limit the ability of citizens to influence their rulers. Political campaign finance is so highly regulated that “outsiders,” third parties, and independents are severely hobbled. As “loopholes” (read, exercise of freedom of speech and association) are discovered in the restrictions (e.g., Political Action Committees, independent expenditures, etc.) they are closed off. There is increasing talk of restricting the broadcast media, of placing campaign-finance-like restraints on non-governmental grass-roots, advocacy, and research organizations, and even of controlling the rights of newspaper owners to editorialize in their own papers.
The legislators don’t want to “represent” the people; they want to direct and control them, and above all, they want to be free from meddlesome, uppity citizens who put initiatives on ballots, recall elected officials, and even dare to put limits on how long the politicians keep their offices.