- - Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe just vetoed a unanimously passed General Assembly bill that would have removed any possibility or appearance of unethical campaign contribution dealings from a fund he controls. Surprising? At this point, not at all.

In the five short months since taking office, both Mr. McAuliffe and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring have become the radical left’s poster children at the state level for public officials ignoring and even circumventing the will of the people and their representatives.

Shortly after swearing to “uphold the laws of the Commonwealth,” Mr. Herring announced he would ignore Virginia’s voter-approved marriage amendment, help the governor find a way to expand Medicaid whether or not the General Assembly agrees, and in direct contradiction to a law passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by the previous governor, force state-supported colleges and universities to offer in-state tuition rates to the children of illegal immigrants. Mr. McAuliffe recently took steps to undermine General Assembly-passed regulations that mandate abortion clinics to meet the same safety standards as outpatient surgical centers.

To be fair, Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Herring are simply following the lead of the Obama administration, and the bombshell directive of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. to the states’ attorneys general: If you don’t like a law, just ignore it. Don’t wait for the voters or the legislature to change it, and don’t wait for the courts to overturn it.

While this example and directive from the federal level is downright alarming, keep in mind: This is Virginia, the birthplace of our nation, the home of the oldest representative body in the country, the birthplace to presidents and patriots, including of the father of our nation, a co-author of the Declaration of Independence and the father of the Constitution.

These great Virginians were among the most vociferous in warning that if we were to remain free, we must be vigilant — wary of the overreach of government and its insatiable hunger for power.

Thomas Jefferson warned: “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories.”

Our Founders knew that renegade public officials, intentionally bypassing the proper limits on their authority, endanger our republican form of government. Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Herring, by ignoring the will of the people as expressed by their direct vote (as in the constitutional amendment on marriage) or through their representatives, are doing just that. Going rogue and replacing the people’s wisdom with their personal political agendas. That’s just not how it’s done — not in Virginia, and not in America.

Jefferson said, “It is a duty in those entrusted with the administration of their affairs to conform themselves to the decided choice of their constituents.” Jefferson and the Founders were clear: The people, not the few in power, are the “only safe depositories” of liberty, and those in power must abide by their choices. If the “rulers” are allowed to change the will of the people at whim, what is to stop them? Nothing.

Adding insult to injury, Mr. Herring not only ignores the people’s will, he openly scoffs at it. In his brief opposing the marriage amendment following his election, Mr. Herring wrote: “Many good and decent Virginians undoubtedly voted for the Marshall-Newman Amendment because of sincerely held religious beliefs that homosexuality is wrong or that gay marriage conflicts with Biblical teachings. For them, the ban ensured that their strongly held values are reflected in the law. But religion cannot justify State-sponsored discrimination.”

“Undoubtedly”? The attorney general purports to know the very thoughts and motivations of the people who voted, in the majority, in favor of the Virginia marriage amendment. In using his assumptions to dismiss the validity of the votes cast, Mr. Herring is placing his personal beliefs above the people’s.

Irony abounds: Mr. Herring himself voted for the amendment in 2006. Yet now he uses his office to chastise the other 1.3 million Virginians for wanting their values — his values until his Inauguration Day conversion — reflected in their laws.

Whether those values stem from faith, life experience, study, statistics or a combination of things, it is not for the people’s representative to deride or dismiss. A vote is a constitutionally protected way of voicing one’s opinion. It is the attorney general’s job to defend that voice when challenged in court. If he won’t, no one else will.

It’s the Virginia’s attorney general’s job, indeed his sworn duty, to defend that vote, not arbitrarily disregard it.

James Madison wrote: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

President Obama tells our young people that they “should reject these voices” warning of tyranny. Apparently Mark Herring and Terry McAuliffe are doing just that. In doing so, they are rejecting the admonitions of our Founding Fathers — those whom we credit for the great liberty our nation has known. Before too long, we will know who we can credit for its demise.

Kate Obenshain is the author of “Divider In Chief: The Fraud of Hope and Change” (Regnery, 2012) and a former chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.

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