Opinion: This Fourth of July, let’s pledge to safeguard Coloradans’ liberties

Estimated read time 6 min read

July 4th has always been a significant day for those in the parts of rural southern Colorado I represent in the Colorado House. The holiday reminds us of our continued fight for independence initiated by America’s Founding Fathers.

Reflecting today, however, on the state I am honored to serve, it would be naive to pretend that Colorado aligns perfectly with that vision of freedom and independence.

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights, for example, was an amendment to our state Constitution limiting the powers of our elected government to spend tax money. Although Coloradans voted to pass the measure, elected individuals have fought endlessly to collect additional revenue, counter the people’s will, to grow government spending.

And this year, progressive members in the majority have made audible comments in front of their colleagues, saying the Republican vote does not matter. This deterioration of decorum at the state Capitol has made a unified legislature impossible.

While our Founding Fathers had a unified vision for their new government, each had their idea of achieving these ends. Their respect for the nation they would create allowed politically diverse individuals to work together.

The measures from within the state Capitol have begun to alienate Coloradans outside the Front Range creating a system of taxation without representation for my constituents.

Before July 4, 1776, the settlers living in the 13 colonies were subject to oppression and abuse by the British monarchy. The settlers came to this land for religious freedom, to take advantage of potential economic prosperity, and to escape British rule. Ultimately, the Brittish rule that continued to govern them became a hindrance to achieving these ends. Instead of the freedoms they sought, colonists faced new struggles at the hands of the British. Despite each colony creating its legislature, the king appointed governors who maintained oversight of these overnments by threat of dissolution.

This mechanism gave the illusion of the self-governance that colonists desired while preventing them from electing a representative government. The colonists found themselves forced to comply with harsher rules than in the country they had just left. The colonies were forced to partake in mercantilist trade, where the goods they harvested and sold were done so to enrich the Crown.

Heavy taxes and the prohibition of trade with other countries left colonists with little ability to profit from the fruits of their labor. If they were to break any of the Crown’s laws, their trial would be overseen by a judge, bought and paid for by the king. While this history isn’t anything new, it is a reminder to us in Colorado today of what happens to a state when we allow oppression to rule over the rights of the people

The Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration criticizing the king of Britain for imposing these unjust laws and exerting excessive control over the colonies. Many grievances described by the colonists stemmed from their desire to self-govern. The colonies wished to create their laws based on their interests, which differed greatly from their British counterparts and the monarch governing them from afar.

Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, summarized their grievances and desires in a single sentence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

These words frame the principles upon which we built our government in Colorado. Previously, both ends of the political spectrum agreed that these principles must continue to shape our lives and governments for our country to remain free. Though, toward the mid-20th century, freedom and justice became a partisan issue.

While the Republican Party continues to uphold the principles enshrined in the documents left to us by our Founding Fathers, the Democratic Party has warped their meanings to further an agenda that stifles free speech, otherwise threatens our Bill of Rights, and undermines what it means to be an American.

We cherish the words written in the Declaration and later the Constitution of the United States, but our efforts to remain free from oppressive government require constant maintenance. The Founding Fathers understood that the fight for independence was to ensure enduring principles of freedom. Another Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

We must remain vigilant in our pursuit of freedom because we understand that living in “safety” can be manipulated into a state of willful indifference. An oppressive government is not born overnight, it begins as an erosion of liberty and justice that could someday leave us wondering what it means to be “free”.

This desire to remain free rings true into our lifetimes, acknowledged by many of the figures we admire. President Ronald Reagan reminded us of the continued need to safeguard our liberties, saying, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

The Founding Fathers and others, like Reagan, warn of the danger associated with complacency. Freedom is not a permanent state of being in the world of men. The Declaration does not say, “life, liberty, and happiness,” it stresses that these are things that require constant pursuit.

When you celebrate your independence this Fourth of July, I urge you to remember the cost of the freedoms we enjoy. As Americans, we are stewards of the legacy left by our forefathers and the country citizens have laid down their lives for. We must defend these fundamental rights to ensure America remains a beacon of hope and freedom for all.

Ty Winter, a Republican, represents District 47 in the Colorado House of Representatives. His district includes Las Animas, Baca, Prowers, Bent, Otero, Crowley and Kiowa counties, along with parts of Pueblo and Huerfano counties. He is a former chair of the Las Animas Republican Party and is a fourth-generation ag producer who lives on a ranch in Las Animas County with his wife and two daughters.

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