Citizens or Servants: How the Overton Window is affecting our Liberty

It’s a valid question.  What would you consider yourself as an American; a citizen or a servant?  I think most people in these United States would say “citizen”, but I hate to be the one to tell them, it’s (not s0) slowly but surely moving in a direction where we are becoming subjects to the federal government.

There has been a lot of talk of the “Overton Window”.  Since a book by the same name was put out by Glenn Beck, most people immediately dismiss the idea as one of “right-wing paranoia”.  However, the Overton Window is a real political theory put forth by Joseph Overton of the Mackinac Center of Public Policy.  In cliff note form, the Overton Window is the window of legislative opportunity that a politician has to enact change and still win elections.  In essence, the window defines acceptable political options based on outlying extremes and political views.  As societal views change (either by growth or reaction), the window will slide to to either the left or right of the political spectrum, thus enabling or restricting legislative action.

Over the few years I’ve become serious in politics, I’ve been able to see the Overton window slide more and more to the left, further in the direction of less liberty and choice for America.  Some of the reactions to move the window were based on real issues, others on contrived/false issues.  Either way, the direction of the slide should be concerning to all Citizens as with each move to left, we lose the very measure of what makes this country great.  With each move, the people of these United States take a step towards citizenship or subjugation.  The slides are often so small, that we don’t recognize them, we don’t see the thefts of our liberty, until several years/decades down the line.  By then, the window has framed a new set of political ideals, making them common, thus making them extremely difficult to reverse.

The shifts do not have to be big to make considerable impact.  In fact, it is these small changes that end up having the biggest consequences.  Changes so small, they are barely noticed, but subconsciously translate to the biggest limitations of our freedoms.   Consider for example, in our earlier history, our country was referred to “These United States”; however, in common times, it is now stated as “The United States”.  Historically, such statements were done in the plural form, but in the last couple of decades, it’s become singular.  To many, it may seem contrite, simply a grammatical choice, but it has considerable impact on our nation.  In the past, in the days of the plural usage, these United States were considered just that, a collection of independent states united.  However, now in the singular usage, we are now a collection of states under one umbrella of a federal mandate.  The states are not independent anymore, but instead a fixture of national government, serving only as agents to further and support a federal power.  It may seem small, but it has led to an erosion of the idea and practice of the 10th amendment.  It has beholden the states to a supreme federal power, allowing that federal power to ever increase it’s scope and authority at the demise of one of our strongest principals, federalism.  It has served to move the window.

Within the executive branch (president) we are already starting to see the adjustments of the window.  I will not go back into history before me, there are much smarter people than I that are able to do this.  I will stick with my own perceptions only.  On Sept 11th, 2001, we were witness to the largest scale terrorist attack on U.S. soil.  As we watched on TV, horrified by the scenes, scared by the implications, the people clamored for more security.  Our government had failed us, things must change.  In response, one month after, the Patriot Act was signed into law.  The Patriot Act drastically reduced the restrictions on law enforcement agencies abilities to monitor and track those suspected of terrorism.  It expanded the scope to include “domestic terrorism”, eased limitations on the policies of search and seizures, arrest and detainment of suspects, wiretaps, email interception, and financial monitoring.  Under the guise of terrorism, the federal government radically expanded it’s powers, and in doing so, ripped a large piece of legitimacy from our 4th Amendment rights.  If “suspected” of being a domestic terrorist, Law Enforcement agencies now had far more flexibility concerning the rights of the citizen.  The window moved.

Then, due to bad accounting practices, financial pressures from big unions, and general mismanagement, we saw various aspects of industry start to fail, namely two of the big three automakers and financial institutions.  Under the guise of saving jobs and with a rallying cry of “Too big to Fail”, the government (starting under GWB, ending with BHO), decided to use federal taxpayer money to bail these “too big to fail” industries out of distress due to actions of their own doing with the Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act.  In essence, the government nationalized the auto industry upon the backs of the taxpayer, but more importantly, they conditioned the concept of “too big to fail”, thusly legitimatizing the use of federal taxpayer dollars for bailouts.  The window shifted.  Today, we are starting to see these same cries in areas of state bankruptcies, union pensions, and the health care industry.

Then, we have the vagrant overstepping of authority by the executive branch.  President Obama has done more to shift the window in the last few months, than all other presidents combined, and I’m including FDR in that!  We’ve seen the president sue a state over their legalizing, at the state level, what the federal statute already stated, in it’s fight with Arizona Immigration law.  By challenging the law on the basis of personal opinion, the window has shifted in terms of the 10th Amendment and diminishing state’s rights.  In another example, the Obama Administration drops a case voter intimidation because of the color of perpetrators skin, thus shifting the window.  Later, Obama refuses to defend the Defensive of Marriage Act based on his opinion that it is unconstitutional.  He has shifted the window.  He has set a precedent that the office of the Executive can determine which laws it will, or will not, enforce thru the use of a divisive subject such as gay rights.  The President does not have the ability to choose which laws he will, or will not, enforce.  The office does not hold the authority to determine constitutionality of law,  that is under the constitutional authority of the Judicial Branch.  he has sifted the window.  Likewise, we’ve seen the Obama Administration defy legal authority via the defacto moratorium on the Gulf of Mexico oil exploration and on the issue of cap and trade.  By ignoring a court order to break the moratorium, choosing to enact it via fiat instead, placing the administration in contempt of Court, he has established that the judicial branch of government is subservient to the Executive branch.  He has dismissed the ability of the Legislative branch (Congress) to set and enact laws if the Executive branch disagrees.   He has shifted the window. 

It doesn’t take much to make such changes, to slowly rob of us our liberties.  Using any public outcry, those with limiting intent can do just that.  We see it in our every day lives.  Outcries over drinking and driving have led to “DWI Checkpoints” in most every state.  Simply by enjoying the privilege of driving, you are giving your consent to be stopped, questioned, and searched without probable cause.  If you fail to submit to breath test, for what ever reason, you are stripped of your property, ability to drive, and in some cases, your freedom via imprisonment.  By enacting this idea of “implicit consent”, we see the window shift.  What comes next? Will they next say that by simply owning a house, you give “implicit consent” to have your home searched for bomb making equipment, further validated by the Patriot Act?  Does having your paycheck direct deposited thru a federally regulated automated clearing house give your “implicit consent” into having your financial transactions monitored?  Do you give your “implicit consent” to have all your medial records stored and searchable by federal agencies simply because you choose to visit the doctor? 

If you say no, then you best check ObamaCare.  When enacted, it specifically allows for numerous agencies to store and access your personal medical files. 

In short, the window has shifted. 

Lastly, we see shifts when it comes to our constitutionally guaranteed 2nd amendment rights to keep and bear arms.  With each mentally disturbed person, with each gangland violence episode, we see an outcry for safety and the window shifts yet again.  The latest was the attempted assassination of Sen. Gifford in Arizona.  Never mind the fact that this was a mentally disturbed individual, we are now seeing calls for a limitation on “high capacity” magazines.  It’s a small limitation in some peoples minds, but it is a shifting of the window.  First it’s high capacity magazines, then it’s any magazines, then it’s scopes on hunting rifles, then high powered rifles, then concealed carry, then handguns (any guns) altogether.  As the window shifts, we become accustomed, so we hardly notice the shift.  However, in 10-15 years, the “rights” we have are barely recognizable from what they were in the past. 

This is the Overton Window.  This is the path that leads us from being citizens to servants.  As the government seeks to disarm us, as they trample on the rights provided to us by our Constitution, we lose our freedoms; We lose our place as citizens.  What will be done when only the government has arms, and the citizens ( subjects) have none?  No longer will you be able to defend yourself against the lawless, who could give a rat’s ass about control.  We grow weaker when the world realizes that the American Citizen is no longer armed, no longer able to defend themselves.  No longer are we safe from overrun invasion.  No longer are the Citizens able to exert control over a tyrannical government, when said tyranny has no reason to fear those over which they rule.  When we are no longer able to resist unjust search and seizures, when we are no longer working for our personal dreams, but instead work for “societal good”, we will no longer be free men.   We have stood by and let the window shift.  We have allowed the window to move in only one direction, with no attempts to correct.  We have allowed ourselves to become servants.