Sunday, November 2, 2014

Georgia's youngest representative runs unopposed, defends agenda

Georgia’s youngest Representative Michael Caldwell, after both losing a run for State legislature in 2010 and becoming the state of Georgia’s youngest state representative, runs unopposed in 2014 defending his views on small government by articulating the rights Americans have that makes us unique from the rest of the world.

A dual citizen of the United States and the United Kingdom, Caldwell has a wide knowledge on the government’s role in citizens’ rights. He cites the Constitution’s statement of unalienable rights from our creator as rights separate from the government and the issue of divinity, that we have these rights not because they are given, but because we are human beings. Caldwell states that we are among the “Fortunate five percent” to take part in the Great American experiment of self-government that makes the United States stand out from the government of other nations.

”The sole fundamental difference in American government is that in our founding documents we recognize that our rights are given to us by our creator” said Caldwell. “And whatever you believe about divinity couldn’t matter less because what the difference is that we are the first nation in the history of the world, the only nation since, to recognize that our rights come from something other than government.”

Youth and adults that Caldwell have spoken to have been unable to articulate a strong answer to the question “What makes America the greatest nation in the history of the world?” They are rarely taught, Caldwell says, this principle in governing. When we are taught the difference between America and every other “free” country we can take pride in the liberty that we established in the Western world.

“When I travel under my United Kingdom passport, when I deal with their government, they understand that I have rights solely because her majesty the Queen of England has granted me her sovereign rights. That’s the only reason I have rights. Any time she decides I don’t have rights, she is the sovereign. I no longer have rights.” said Caldwell “Under my American passport, I am the sovereign. I have rights because I’m a human being. The core princle here is the approach that you have rights that I didn’t give you is a unique approach.”

Caldwell has observed that the debate of rights often turns into a discussion of the separation of church and state, in which he argues is a different subject than that of unalienable rights. However you believe the rights originated, there are certain rights core to us as individuals. Aside from the primary purpose of government to protect these liberties of the people, the smaller the government the better.

Caldwell weekly hosts a coffee discussion held with other District representatives at Copper Coin Coffee in Woodstock, Georgia.  Around a small table with slow jazz music playing and each person in attendance holding a cup or mug, the discussion of rights shifted to the state of police not being aware of the rights that citizens have in the instance of police encounters without a warrant. “By no means do I believe that we are on a frightening police path yet, but we are on an interesting path if we don’t state precedent” said District 21 representative Scot Turner “And not just educating police officers, but educating citizenry. That’s the problem is that police become 007’s. ‘I feared for my safety, so I shot him. Okay he’s following procedures’ I mean, it keeps happening. We’ve had one shot dead in Cherokee County and the guy in Lawrenceville that was executed in his own home and nobody’s going to get punished.” Wisconsin is setting up a system that a third party review panel under departments of the state will review a police afflicted death along with other efforts to curve no knock warrants in both the Senate and the House.

Liz Baxter, Council Member Ward 4 in Woodstock, just finished police academy and has been considering her stance on the issue. “I have bent my views on different things. For lack of a better term, I guess I’m on the fence right now.” Baxter said “Several years ago, they had a set up where you go into the place and either shoot or not shoot. It was an exercise that was all paper, but I don’t know what it would be like in real life.”

The consensus amongst those in attendance was to focus the issue around the motives behind the polices actions. Discussing from the police perspective, SWAT team training to be prepared to kill depending on who they are dealing with along with the lack of research on both the Cherokee County and Lawrenceville incidents. Caldwell argued from the perspective of the officer rather than the fourth amendment posing the question if it was justifiable to put the officers in danger.

Caldwell affirms, however, that the idea of rights endowed to us as human beings are not a product of the government but must be protected by the people and the government at all costs. “There is a frightening lack of understand about American exceptionalism, rights, and history in this generation” said Caldwell “When our citizens understand these principles, they are prepared to safeguard them for themselves as well as for future generations.”

The idea of unalienable rights is not only integral to Caldwell’s beliefs but his whole philosophy on government. Caldwell’s first bid for office was in 2010 at the age of 21 which despite his strong beliefs, it was not likely that he would attain much of the vote. “At the beginning of my first bid for a seat in our State Legislature in 2010, I sat with an influential State senator. We spoke for nearly an hour and at the end, he told me that although he appreciated my ideas and beliefs, that at my age if I took 10% of the vote, I would change the way he viewed Georgia politics.” said Caldwell “I decided that instead of bowing out, and if we weren’t likely to take a victory, that I would run a campaign exactly the way I thought a campaign should look. This involved things like self-limiting campaign contributions, prohibiting myself from accepting funding from anyone other than Georgia’s citizens or businesses, setting a new standard for transparency through tools like online fund trackers and legislative trackers, and more. I had no preconception of what a campaign “should look like” Though that felt like my biggest weakness at the time, hind sight has shown me that it was actually my biggest strength.”

Caldwell took 46% of the votes on Election Day, losing by about 200 votes, an experience that made an impact on his career as a politician. “Now that I have won and lost, I have a clear favorite, but I wouldn’t trade my loss in 2010 for anything. I learned more through that process and experience than I could have learned in five wins.” Caldwell stated that both the State of Georgia and the United States face a “daunting” number of issues in the future. He informs voters that we could solve 90% of America’s problems “if we could just get elected officials to maintain their oaths of office, to uphold the Constitutions of ‘this State and the United States.’

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