On the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City are the following Latin words: “Salus populi suprema lex esto.” Translated into English, it means, “The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law” or “Let the good of the people be the supreme law.”
It is a reminder to all of us that we live in a constitutional representative democracy where the will of the people is the supreme law. Unfortunately, Gov. Mike Parson has forgotten this fact.
When Gov. Parson came into office, he stated repeatedly that he would follow the will of the people. On Aug. 4, the people of Missouri approved the expansion of Medicaid in this state. It would provide much-needed health care for approximately 275,000 Missourians. While Gov. Parson has never been in favor of Medicaid expansion, it seemed he would fulfill his constitutional obligation to follow the will of the people. But, Thursday, Parson stated he will not expand Medicaid.
Parson’s refusal to follow the will of the people is troubling indeed. I do not want to call Gov. Parson a liar, but his actions indicate that he does not understand what it means to lead with integrity.
We who were born and reared in Missouri grew up with a motto, “Your word is your bond.” We were taught that is a motto to live by. Clearly Gov. Parson has forgotten this motto or has willfully ignored it.
One must ask, “Why has Parson reneged on his word to uphold the will of the people?” Several excuses come to mind, but here are two. Perhaps it is because he wants the support of conservative “Re-Trump-licans” so badly that he is willing to violate his constitutional and moral obligation to obtain it. If that is the problem, then he is unfit for office. Ideological compliance is not good leadership; it is merely political prostitution.
Perhaps he really does believe that Medicaid expansion is a bad idea for Missouri. I can respect his opinion, yet I must remind him that the sovereign state of Missouri is not an aristocracy, but a representative democracy. As such, the will of the people rules over his opinion.
Many Missourians would be helped by the expansion of Medicaid. Missourians know it. That is why Missourians approved it. The quality of life for more than 275,000 Missourians could be improved dramatically. That is why Missouri Faith Voices, Jobs with Justice, medical professionals and others all urged the governor to move forward in expanding Medicaid. Why? Because Medicaid expansion is not just a political issue; it is a moral issue as well. Supporting Medicaid expansion demonstrates what Aristotle calls “arete” or excellence of character. Not expanding Medicaid illustrates a lack of moral integrity.
Is it not interesting that Republicans are so concerned about the “integrity of elections” to the point of trying to institute voter suppression laws but are uninterested in expanding Medicaid to the citizenry, which will improve life? Which action displays authentic integrity?
We all know how this will — or, at least, should — end. The issue of Medicaid expansion will go to the courts. The courts will rule that Parson’s decision is unconstitutional. Parson and his cronies will appeal until the courts give a final judgment in favor of expansion. It will cost Missourians millions of dollars in tax money.
All of this could be avoided if the governor would have acted with a sense of compassion and integrity. Spencer Johnson was correct when he wrote, “Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.”
The Rev. C.W. Dawson Jr. was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy at MU. He teaches at Columbia College and Moberly Area Community College and writes for the Missourian.