Peninsula Voices for Change Blog



Growing up, I learned that there were three branches of our government: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. I didn’t pay much attention to this information, outside of needing to know it in order to pass an exam. I took for granted that there was a President who was well-qualified and knew his job. I took for granted that there were congressmen and senators who were looking out for the best interests of the people of our country. I took for granted that the court justices could accurately interpret the Constitution and make fair decisions.

Over the past 40 years, I have continued to take these things for granted. My mind paints pictures of stately men in gray wigs creating the canvas of our nation. I imagine them protecting us for generations to come. I see them laying out a foundation that is so unbelievably strong that it cannot be shaken by anything; not a corrupt President, not even Russia.

Fast forward to the 2016 election. The Democrats have a whispy-haired, charismatic gentleman running against one of the most tenacious, nasty women who ever walked the earth. These two incredible forces represented the Democratic party as elections for the executive branch of government got underway. On the other side, a large group of conservative men and women were all vying for the Republican spot. Hillary Clinton won the Democratic vote, and an unseemly businessman secured the Republican nomination.

During the months running up to the election, a fourth branch of government emerged: the media. As the candidates squared off in the debates, we witnessed them being moderated by representatives of the press from NBC, Fox, and CNN. As the candidates held their rallies, we were able to capture them on social media via posted articles and Facebook Live. Every night, we relived the most critical and enlightening moments through hilarious recaps by the fabulous Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, and the ensemble that is Saturday Night Live.

Leading up to, and most importantly, after the election, a fifth branch of the government arose, the branch composed of the American people. The American people are typically a quiet bunch. Very few seem to enjoy getting involved in the political adventures of their country. This is evidenced by low voter turn-outs, and U.S. congressmen, U.S. senators, and state and local representatives often running unopposed for re-election. However, as the American people learned, and are still learning, they are a very important part of American politics.

Due to a breakdown in two of the branches of government, the executive and legislative, the two newly realized branches have been forced to take a stronger role in fighting for the country and the rights of its citizens.  Members of the fourth branch, the media, find themselves working harder than ever. Not only do they have to uncover and deliver the news, they also have to sift through an increasing level of alternative facts and make sure they have credible sources before publishing any information. As the fifth branch, the American people are finding themselves on the phone daily, calling their representatives. They are also attending town halls and participating in marches and rallies across the country. This may be the first instance where all five branches of the government have been fully activated at the same time. I expect the results of this engagement to be powerful.

The other day, I was reading a conversation on Facebook where a person who voted for our 45th President patted himself on the back for not protesting the Obama era as the rest of us are protesting his President. My first thought was, of course you didn’t protest; despite the fact that you weren’t in agreement with his policies, he never threatened any of your rights. We didn’t protest the Bush administration because they didn’t threaten our rights. At this point, both the executive and legislative branches of the government are threatening the rights of the American people. In order to stop this, the fourth and fifth branches of the government must activate and #resist.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” We must always remember the fourth and fifth branches of the government exist. We must not lose the current momentum as we continue to make sure their voices are heard.