Editor’s note: On Friday, as usual, I had a piece in The Patriot Post. Normally it is published pretty much as I send it in, but when I got the response from my editor Nate Friday morning he noted that my submission was a little long and he boiled it down to some extent. So I decided to do this post with the deleted parts added back in as originally written.
While he’s in the news, based on his recent podcast interview with Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post, for a different reason, it’s interesting to hear these words from a certain Senator: “I trust the wisdom of people. And I’m confident – especially after having traveled (my state) for two years – people are good, fundamentally, and if given the choice to do the right thing, they will. To do the good thing, they will.”
Robert “Beto” O’Rourke may or may not be running for President in 2020, but we can be assured that neither his previous comments on the “exhaustion” of the Constitution nor his favored “progressive” policies square with that stated philosophy of trusting people will do the right thing. Naturally, conservatives have had a field day criticizing Beto’s notion that the Constitution is an outdated document, but they’re also giving some thought to the state of our government and whether it’s even trying to keep the checks and balances that were designed into it. Exhibit one: David French at National Review:
We’ve reached this point in large part because Congress has utterly abdicated to the president its constitutional responsibility and authority to declare war. It’s simply handed over one of its most important powers, and it stubbornly refuses to take it back. And that’s not the only power it’s given to the president. Donald Trump has lately been able to make sweeping, unilateral decisions about immigration (the travel ban, for example) and tariffs (our trade war with China) precisely because of previous congressional acts delegating an enormous amount of authority to the executive branch.“Beto’s Constitutional Folly,” David French, National Review, January 16, 2019.
Is Congressional oversight really a thing of the past? The answer may be “yes” if you believe French’s cynicism. But the funny thing about the situation is that even those who inhabit the progressive Left get it. This passage comes from one of their more recent political Bibles, the Indivisible Guide:
(C)onstant reelection pressure means that MoCs (members of Congress) are enormously sensitive to their image in the district or state, and they will work very hard to avoid signs of public dissent or disapproval. What every MoC wants – regardless of party—is for his or her constituents to agree with the following narrative: “My MoC cares about me, shares my values, and is working hard for me.” (Emphasis mine.)The Indivisible Guide
Our nation came into being because men with foresight and a sense of altruism wanted to allow the rest of us to have the freedom of controlling our own lives without answering to a tyrant not of our choosing. They carefully set up a government with three co-equal parts in the hope the triangular split would keep itself in balance, not allowing one side – especially the Executive Branch – to dominate. But that freedom came with the responsibility of maintaining diligence and a strong sense of morality, and as we became farther and father removed from the generation that founded our nation, our people backslid into trying to take shortcuts and passing the buck away from being responsible for our actions. “It’s not my job” became the national mantra.
In the case of Congress it meant figuring out ways not to have to take unpopular votes – and risking electoral defeat – by delegating its authority, as French points out. So something had to fill the vacuum, and ambitious progressive chief executives have too often been the ones who stepped up to do so, winning elections on the emotional appeal of promising a life of ease (or at least taking from those who have the means) if you didn’t mind ceding a just a little bit more of your freedom and fortune in the process.
Perhaps the earliest example of this was President Woodrow Wilson, whose election in 1912 (by a mere plurality of the vote thanks to a Republican Party rent between its own Roosevelt progressives and those who were Taft conservatives) ushered in a plethora of radical changes in the form and powers of government: in his first term the Constitution was changed to allow for taxation of income and direct election of Senators, and the Federal Reserve was formed. Wilson’s second term brought further Constitutional changes on a more social front with Prohibition and women’s suffrage. All those changes, enacted within an eight-year period, permanently altered the direction of the American republic and set the stage for a century of liberty erosion through the New Deal, Great Society, and, finally, Obamacare.
Some might call that which Wilson began “fundamental change,” but the problem with its evolution from Wilson to Barack Obama was succinctly addressed by our Mark Alexander: “If you believe government has whatever power it desires and is the answer to every problem, as Obama clearly does, you should at least competently run it. Instead, systemic bureaucratic corruption and craven political considerations rule the day.” Career bureaucrats have carved out their own fiefdoms in this modern-day age of kings.
So those who – perhaps naively – believed the days of incompetent progressive government were over when Donald J. Trump rolled into town have certainly been disappointed with his lack of progress in draining the Swamp. Surely many of those Trump believers were also the ones confident the TEA Party would restore the vision of our Founding Fathers based on a single election only to be disappointed by the excuse – passing the buck at its finest – that they only controlled half of one-third of the government by virtue of a House majority; however, that majority in the House became one in the Senate four years later and grabbed the White House in 2016, meaning work could be done on righting the Judicial Branch.
So the good people thought, finally, all the pieces are in place for a reform where the right things would be done to restore our Constitutional republic. But they failed to foresee a process that started out being made doubly difficult by the national Fourth Estate and its unrelenting negative coverage of everything Trump and became all but impossible because of a midterm election where the issues were subordinate to the personalities and emotions involved.
Given the midterm results, a better question to ask regarding the Constitution is whether the people really want it at all? In the midst of the 2017 Obamacare battle, writer W. James Antle pointed out an inconvenient truth about modern America, noting, “In practice, the American people want a much bigger federal government than the Constitution currently authorizes. Not long ago, a conservative wag quipped that if a president actually tried to enforce the Constitution’s limits on federal power, he or she would be impeached.”
On January 3, 2019, articles of impeachment against President Trump were re-introduced in Congress. While it’s claimed that the impeachable offense is obstruction of justice, the reality is that Trump was obstructing the transfer of power to the unelected bureaucrats amassing their fiefdoms and making their favored friends wealthy on the backs of the long-suffering taxpayer. It’s a process that makes a nation one of well-connected “haves” lording it over the hapless “have-nots” who see opportunities snatched away and reserved to a select few.
If power is ceded to the unelected few, or if differences in philosophy become so great as to be irreconcilable, the last resort becomes violent revolution – and our nation already tried that, twice. The harder but necessary responsibility for good people to undertake and – more importantly – demand from their leaders would be that of getting back to honoring the intentions of those who wrote the document we’re supposed to be living by. Restore our checks and balances.