I had great respect for Dave Ball a few years ago. Not long ago, drillers, frackers, and pipeliners were running roughshod over our local communities taking advantage of the fact that our local ordinances had little in them to regulate drilling activities. Dave Ball, as a township councilman, recognized what was happening and worked hard to “hold their feet to the fire” and force them to be responsible for poisoned water wells, contaminated streams, damaged roads and property, general havoc, and illegal activity. I am quite sure that Ball was “following his conscience” and doing “what he thought was right” rather than doing what some of his constituents wanted. Many of our local farmers have worked many years, seven days a week, daylight to dark, to eke out a living for their families, but discovered they could live in financial comfort by selling their mineral rights. They could have made the same statement about Ball as he made about Sen. Pat Toomey.
What many of us seem to forget at times is that we live in a republic, a representative democracy, a form of government that historically has had considerable difficulty surviving. It requires that citizens be diligent about who they elect to represent them in any office from our local municipalities to our federal government and avoid sending demagogues and would-be dictators to any office. We failed to do that in 2016, which we undeniably discovered on Jan. 6. We should all be happy that our representative Toomey rediscovered his conscience and did what was right instead of what Mr. Ball wanted him to do.
We also seem to forget that the survival of our republic requires that we respect the will of the majority while assuring that those who dissent have every opportunity to express their objections without being threatened or intimidated for their dissent. John Stuart Mill once wrote, “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”
Ball has every right to express his opinion about Toomey’s action, but in this case, he seems to have forgotten one of the basic tenets of our fragile democratic republic and one that he practices as an elected official. We expect Mr. Ball and all our representatives to do what is right and listen carefully to a well-developed conscience that is consistent with our cultural norms, morals, and values.