I should really be getting some sleep, as I fear I may be getting a cold (just what I need), but I just had to comment on the insanity The Guardian, the far-left British newspaper, is unleashing on unsuspecting voters in Ohio. That's right, a British newspaper is trying to influence the American election. The Guardian has initiated Operation Clark County, an idea
stolen they "came up with," encouraging British readers of the leftist paper to write to voters in the swingingest county of the swingingest state of the United States: Clark County, Ohio. (Side note: I got to meet Ohio's Governor Taft today. Boy, I would have loved to have asked him about this, but alas I didn't see it until tonight.)
Tim Blair, originator of the idea (as a joke, mind you) has devised Operation Guardian, to tell the editors over there what we all think of this. (Via Instapundit) The Lizardoids at Little Green Footballs weighed in as well.
What I find particularly irritating here (aside from the audacity and invasion of privacy) is the continuation of the idea that the rest of the world should have some say in American elections. I remember when Hans Blix visited Lehigh in March and commented that he wished he could vote in November. I've heard this a lot from non-Americans and the argument is usually that because the US is so powerful and so influential, American policies affect the entire world and therefore it would be right for the world to have a say about American policies. The Guardian used a similar justification in this column discussing their initiative. Well, actually, they didn't really justify it much at all. They simply declared it a crucial election, noted that lives in Britain are influenced by White House policy, and then cited an incredibly misleading quote from the Declaration of Independence in an attempt to show that the US is not living up to it.
I want to address the quote from the Declaration, since it has been taken wildly out of context and amazing interpretations have been projected on it. The paper says to its readers, "And yet, though the US Declaration of Independence speaks of 'a decent respect to the opinions of mankind', you don't, of course, have a vote." They are reading this quote as saying that Americans should seek and respect the opinions of the rest of the world and then carry it even further by implying that this applies to voting in American elections. Of course, it says nothing even remotely close to this.
It is actually a phrase in the very first paragraph:
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
This is really a preabmle to the declaration. The first paragraph is explaining the purpose of the document, a declaration of political separation and establishment of a nation "among the powers of the Earth." Jefferson (well, everyone who collaborated on it, but for simplicity's sake, Jefferson) is saying that when the "course of human events" compels one people to separate politically from another, it is incumbent upon those declaring the separation to state their reasons before the world, so that they may be judged on their merits. The phrase "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind" is not a statement of inclusion and deference to an ideal of global opinion. Rather, it is Jefferson's belief that causes for separation from great Britain should be declared before the world, so that mankind may see the wrongs committed and the righteousness of the decision.
Many people forget that the Declaration of Independence is not just a declaration of the rights of man, it is also a justification for the act of splitting with Britain, as well as a list of the grievances against George III that made such an act necessary. Jefferson actually lays out the whole case for just revolution.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.... But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government...
He then proceeds to list the abuses of the king, to prove his injustices. Jefferson writes, "let facts be submitted to a candid world." The "respect for the opinions of mankind" is a reference Jefferson's belief that because doing away with an existsing government is such a radical action, the rest of the world must be shown why it is an appropriate and unavoidable action.
At the time, absolutism and the divine right of kings were the philosophies that dominated the thinking about government, but the idea that governments derive "their just powers from the consent of the governed [and] [t]hat whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it..." was a radical departure. Jefferson truely believed this, though, and he felt compelled to demonstrate that the American separation from Britain was just, in part so that other peoples with oppressive governments might realize this, but also to establish the United States as "free and independent states" and that they should be treated as such. This was Jefferson persuading the world that the dissolution of political ties to Britain was a legitimate and necessary action and that the United States should now be members in equal standing "among the powers of the Earth."
The "decent respect to the opinions of mankind" was Jefferson saying that a respect for the opinion of the world demanded a philosophical explanation for what the Americans were doing. It was not, as The Guardian
implies, an invitation for the world to submit their opinions for the consideration of Americans, but instead an American declaration of opinion to the world in the hopes of eliciting agreement. For The Guardian
to bend this statement to their purposes as it did shows either a complete ignorance of the Declaration, or a willful disregard of it because it did not fit their agenda. I suspect it is the latter.