Power without consequences

By Benjamin Chase of the Plainsman
Posted 7/6/24

In this From the Mound, the writer examines recent news to discuss how power can be abused

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Power without consequences


“Hesitation, awkward conversation
Running on low expectation
Every siren that I was ignoring
I’m paying for it”
“Consequences” - Camila Cabello

Cabello co-wrote this emotional tune, released in October 2018. Two versions were released, one stripped down with basically piano and Cabello’s incredible voice with the other having Cabello (no other voices are needed) accompanied by full orchestra. The song got a lot more play online than on mainstream radio, but it definitely got the attention of many, earning an award in the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Awards for best lyrics and being requested for performance on multiple morning shows and award shows.

The song is a ballad regarding young love and the warning signs that the writer ignored in pursuit of elongating the relationship. The two versions have combined for more than 75 million views on YouTube, and many of the comments over the years have been from those who can relate to the words in the song about missing tell-tale signs that should have warned of an impending disaster to come.

With everything going on in the world today, one has to wonder if we’re in the midst of a moment that we’ll look back much like the person in Cabello’s song, wondering why we missed the signs.

On a local note, one of the more notable “plays out in the media” battles recently was Basin Electric and Dakota Energy going toe-to-toe over Dakota Energy’s desire to get out of their extended contract with Basin and seek other services.

I’m not going to play on either side of that divide, but in researching at the time, one of the things that I consistently ran into is the absolute lack of desire to regulate the electrical industry from the national to the state level - especially when it came to potential “green” energy.

Basin Electric took advantage of that and was recently held accountable for going much too far, now owing up to $471 million in customer rebates due to using costs for new plants it was building as reason for increasing rates to member cooperatives. The judge in the case presented a ruling of over 900 pages.

The crazy part of this whole incident, which has been covered by the Bismark Tribune, as Basin is based out of Bismark, is that it could be much more significant, except for deregulation. Basin was exempt from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) oversight until late 2019. In his ruling, Judge Scott Hempling referenced that and stated that many of the practices that were being cited in this ruling had been going on within Basin before it came under FERC review.

One of the major pushes this year among certain factions of the Republican Party is to implement Project 25 on a national level - however, the goal is not just to implement changes in Washington, D.C., there are also dozens of the items that aim to affect change all the way down to the local level.

Project 25 has some incredibly scary rhetoric within it that removes governmental oversight positions, especially those aimed at providing for those less fortunate and those intended to regulate the ultra-rich in this country.

I’m by no means someone who believes government involvement is the solution to every issue. In many cases, government agency involvement only mucks things up further - but that’s not due to the agency being inherently bad. Many social service agencies and regulatory agencies simply aren’t allowed to respond to “feet on the ground” changes in what is going on in the world because of incredible bureaucracy from the top down in the system that oversees their actions.

Any change to that bureaucracy requires working together of political parties to change rules in place, and in our current environment, that rarely happens on the legislative level, leaving the “middle ground” to our judicial system - and with appointments within the federal judicial system all the way up to and including the Supreme Court becoming highly political, those judicial rulings are frequently motivated by one-sided politics.

Take, for example, the Supreme Court ruling on Presidential immunity that was issued this week. I am by no means a legal scholar, but the ruling was discussed heavily by “media” sources on both sides of the line extensively before I picked up a podcast with multiple legal scholars on it. They explained that the ruling itself was almost forced upon the Court, but it could be quickly defined with an act of Congress, the way the government was set up to work.

That’s the issue, though. Which Congresspeople are going to step forward with a bill that defines the limits of what is in-office Presidential activity and what is outside the scope of regular duties of the office? Either side pushing forth a bill to better define the terms is going to be attacked by their D.C. counterparts, and that’s the issue we run into.

Allowing power to run without recourse is going to lead to violations of individual rights for the purpose of gaining additional power through subjugation of those who are considered of a lower class (socially, racially, economically, etc.) or through amassing of more and more resources, whether that be finances, land, or whatever thing of value can be gained through abuse of power.

The best way to combat that abuse is to work together, living our lives in the middle where compromise has to occur and humility is expected and not denigrated. So many of our major issues in the country right now simply come down to the fact that there’s a very reasonable middle ground that the overwhelming majority of Americans may not fully endorse, but can live with. The issue is that we approach many of those tough conversations letting the loudest voices get time, and social media and the easily-duped faux media consumers are swayed by the loud, extremist 5% on either side to turn each thing into a battle.

Fifty years from now, are we going to be looking back at what is going on right now in our country and say, “We saw so many signs before everything collapsed” or are we going to figure out that we have significantly more in common with those who believe something opposite our own beliefs than we do differences and learn how to work together using those commonalities rather than accentuating the differences?

I sure hope so because the consequences could lead to a very different American society.