Published January 28, 2022

Rules for Thee and not for Me 

Written by
Greg Demme
| The Dakotan
In the opinion of Greg Demme
Greg Demme, columnist, The Dakotan
In the opinion of Greg Demme
Greg Demme, columnist, The Dakotan

Just about every breathing adult today knows we live in a more polarized society than at any other time in recent memory. And some people will simply vote for whichever candidate is aligned with whatever party they feel most aligned with, regardless of any individual traits that candidate has or stances that candidate takes on individual issues. Such a tendency only increases the polarization we already experience.  

For those readers who are open to some mild persuasion, I want to suggest one trait that I believe indicates a quality candidate more than most other traits: the willingness to uphold rules, laws, procedures, and conditions for other people that they themselves are willing to live by and live under.  

I believe this one trait more than almost any other more clearly quantifies someone who believes in both liberty and in the rule of law. Unfortunately, most of what we see today are elected officials and unelected bureaucrats who are perfectly happy to put requirements and restrictions on you, your businesses, your families, and your lives that they would never accept for themselves. The common expression for this is, “Rules for thee and not for me.”  

I could give numerous examples from the past two years merely about COVID restrictions that have been imposed. Usually, the leaders who imposed the harshest restrictions were the ones who were most likely to be caught not following their own rules. 

More examples abound. For instance, take the recent kerfuffle in the U.S. Senate about the filibuster rule. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-AR, a member of the minority party when it comes to Congress as a whole and the current presidential administration, delivered a rousing speech about the necessity of keeping the filibuster in place. He revealed at the end of his speech that every word had been taken from previous speeches delivered in the recent past by the current senate majority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, when Sen. Schumer had been in the minority, but who is now in the majority trying to eliminate the filibuster.  

I’m not saying that I specifically recommend Sen. Cotton. But I am saying whenever you see people who are willing to flip-flop their reasoning depending on whether or not they are currently in power, as in Sen. Schumer in the above example, that should indicate to you a significant character flaw about such people especially regarding their capacity to lead well. No doubt there are plenty of Republicans who would flip-flop in the same manner when given the opportunity. 

I could give similar examples here in North Dakota. In my opinion, the current struggle in the NDGOP is about this very issue: one group using any means possible to stay in power, being opposed by another group that simply wants to see the Constitution and laws followed and will follow legal and above-board means to achieve their ends, as opposed to illegal or underhanded means.  

However, I’m perfectly aware that on each side there are at least some reasonable people, and likewise on each side there are also people who probably should never be put in positions of power, because if they were granted power, they would wield it just as poorly as those they currently decry and are currently trying to oust.  

Perhaps the best historical example of that is the French Revolution. The commoners had many serious, legitimate grievances against the nobility, but when they seized power, they were as ruthless and as vicious as the nobility ever had been. Contrast this with what happened after the American Revolution, when the Founding Fathers established a system filled with checks and balances to mitigate this power-hungry tendency as much as humanly possible.  

I see another less overt example of this unwillingness to consistently abide by the same set of rules or laws no matter the circumstances. I hear a surprisingly large number of Americans, including many in North Dakota, who quickly leap to discussions of secession and even revolution against a power base they believe have corrupted the U.S. Constitution. Yet this same group that holds up the Constitution so highly has willfully ignored or discarded the very means granted in the Constitution by the Founding Fathers to make significant changes: a Convention of States as provided in Article V.  

My purpose here is not to make a wholesale argument for a Convention of States and against those who disagree, just to point out what I see as a significant inconsistency. A huge number of people who say they want to uphold the Constitution are more willing to hold an outright revolution than they are to first attempt change by the very means the Founding Fathers provided in the Constitution. I find that to be inconsistent.  

May it be granted that we all learn to be consistent in upholding rules, laws, procedures, and conditions by which we will expect even ourselves to live under, not only others.  

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