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editorial

Thank you, Congressman Hinchey


February 9, 2012

The news we received two weeks ago that New York State Congressman Maurice Hinchey plans to retire at the end of his current term saddened us on two counts. It is, first, a loss for the 22nd District, which he represents. But second, and even more importantly, it is a loss for the nation.

All Congressional representatives fight to bring home the bacon, and Congressman Hinchey was no exception, with a seat on the appropriations committee that made him especially effective. Many are the fire companies, municipalities and other organizations that owe thanks to the congressman for efforts on their behalf. It was largely through his effectiveness that Sullivan County was established as part of a Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zone, which has facilitated funding for purposes ranging from wastewater plants to the proposed meat processing plant in Liberty.

But where Hinchey has had few equals is in the consistency of his championship of democratic principles in a wide array of contexts, many of them not especially glamorous, or popular, or politically advantageous, frequently when there were few others—including in his own party—willing to stand up with him.

The issue of media consolidation may sound wonky; but if only a handful of multinational corporations control everything you believe to be a fact and every opinion you read, who do you think is controlling your vote? That’s why Hinchey was a tireless opponent of media consolidation, writing, for instance, with regard to the recent Comcast/NBC merger, that it would “further limit the American people’s access to a wide array of information and broadcast content that is inherently necessary for a properly functioning democracy.”

Following 9/11, legislation like the FISA amendment act of 2008 (which allows the executive branch single-handedly to deprive individuals of their Constitutional rights) and other abuses of executive power were implemented in the name of “national defense.” Hinchey resisted the temptation to throw the rule of law out the window in exchange for physical safety, reminding us instead of the dangers posed to democracy when too much power accrues in any one branch. In testimony at a hearing in July of 2008, he said, “The Founding Fathers of this great country set up a system of checks and balances to make certain that the three branches of government did not abuse their power. They did not set up the system of checks and balances as an option but rather an obligation, which is why I consider it to be imperative to offer my voice on behalf of so many others who could not speak out of fear.”