I suppose I may as well go and speak what has been on my mind for quite some time and let the chips fall where they may; I have come to the conclusion that ratifying our Constitution was the biggest damned mistake our country has ever made. It is not because the system of government outlined in that document is a bad one; it is not because the powers it granted government are too extensive or that the rights later protected by Constitutional Amendment are insufficient; it is because nobody cares what it says anymore.
When someone like me tells others, and it matters not whether those others are Democrats or Republicans that we have no intention of voting for either of the candidates seeking the presidency, we are told that by our not voting we are essentially giving the office to the ‘other’ guy. This belief that their party, be it Republican or Democrat, has all the answers and the other is all that is wrong with politics today. The moment you bring up the Constitutional limitations upon the power given government it is like an off switch goes off in their heads and all logical discussion ceases. In short, the Constitution does not matter to the overwhelming majority of people in this country; only that their party wins.
If I may be so bold to ask; why put limits upon the powers granted government if those responsible for ensuring that government does not exceed those powers, (the people) do not know what those limits are, or don’t care? Why put restrictions on government’s ability to infringe upon our rights if the people are so willing to sacrifice them just to make them feel a bit safer and more secure?
We; you, me, your neighbor, the guy who delivers your mail, and everyone else in this country are responsible for ensuring that those we elect stay within the powers outlined by the Constitution. If government oversteps those powers it is because we allow it to.
In November of last year CBS News reported that the voter approval rating for Congress had dropped to a pitiful 11%. Yet the re-election rate of these same members of Congress is somewhere in the vicinity of 90%. How can people be so disgruntled with Congress, yet go out and re-elect their representatives time and time again? Explain that to me; if you can.
Americans have gotten into the bad habit of seeking to assign blame for things anywhere except where it really belongs; that or they condemn others for the same crimes their party of choice is guilty of. Just look at the Democrats now; wailing and gnashing their teeth because Hillary lost to Trump; trying to place the blame for the loss of their chosen one upon the Russians. They seem to have forgotten that their own party was guilty of doing all that it could to ensure that Bernie Sanders did not get the Democratic nomination.
But it doesn’t really matter does it? If you really were to think about it, Hillary, Trump, or even Sanders; none of them ran on a campaign of adhering to what the Constitution actually says are the powers for the office which they sought. Yet the overwhelming majority of voters would have made their choice from amongst a Republican or a Democrat no matter who gets their party’s nomination. Where is the voice of the people who stand for the Constitution?
If you were to do some research on how well the Constitution Party did in past presidential elections you would find that it hardly ever garners more than 1% of the popular vote; sometimes only getting .04%. That’s roughly four out of every 1,000 voters voting for someone who runs on a constitutional platform. Shows just how much people care about what the Constitution says; they’d rather be on a team that stands a chance of winning than stand for the principles found within our government’s founding document.
And that’s why I say ratifying our Constitution was a huge mistake on the part of those alive back in 1789. James Madison once wrote, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” Knowledge, facts, reasoning, common sense no longer matters in this country. All that matters to people today is how they feel about something and the Constitution does not allow for feelings; its precepts are black and white; either government has the power and authority to do this or do that, or it doesn’t. In short, the Constitution stands in the way of the majority using coercive power of government to get what they want.
For our system to work as intended the people must hold those whom they elect accountable for any violations of the limits imposed upon government and they must jealously guard their rights. For our system to work people must not only know what the Constitution and Bill of Rights say they must care as well. That simply cannot be said about enough people in this country; and that is why our country is in the mess it is.
Our country was not established as a democracy where the people could gather together and pass laws that affect the whole. It was established as a Constitutional Republic where we elect people to do the lawmaking for us; but being restricted by a written Constitution as to what powers they have been granted to act upon. For our system to work as designed the people must not only be knowledgeable about how it was supposed to work, they must also be constantly engaged in ensuring that it remained true to the purposes for which it was created.
Although I am mad that my government; and this goes for my State as well as the federal governments, pass laws I do not like, it is not them who are the focus of my anger; it is the American people. As Lord Acton is quoted as saying, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” So I don’t blame those who have been given the power to make laws on our behalf; I blame those who were supposed to watch them and ensure that they did not overstep the limits upon their power and authority; I blame the people of this country for what is wrong. The ignorance, the apathy, and the complacency of the people are the real problems in America; not the fact that either the Republicans or the Democrats are in control of our government. In 1962 President John F. Kennedy invited 49 winners of the Nobel Prize to the White House. While they were there Kennedy remarked, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
That is quite the compliment to Jefferson considering that he was in the presence of the winners of prizes for the entire spectrum of human thought; from literature to peace to science. Yet today were one to provide quotes from Jefferson regarding a plethora of subjects ranging from rights to the powers given the government, it would go in one ear and come out the other without ever stopping to spend some time in people’s brains for consideration. It’s like I said in a recent article, facts no longer matter; the people’s brains only have room for feelings and emotional responses to situations.
If Jefferson was so smart, so smart that he was entrusted to write the document which would form the basis for our becoming a free and independent nation, don’t you think it would be wise to at least read some of the things he wrote? Or is that asking too much of you?
In 1816 Jefferson wrote to Samuel Kercheval, ” [Our] object is to secure self-government by the republicanism of our constitution, as well as by the spirit of the people; and to nourish and perpetuate that spirit. I am not among those who fear the people. They and not the rich are our dependence for continued freedom.”
Almost twenty years prior he wrote in a letter to Arthur Campbell, “It was by the sober sense of our citizens that we were safely and steadily conducted from monarchy to republicanism, and it is by the same agency alone we can be kept from falling back.”
The sober sense of our citizens…now that’s not something I encounter on a daily basis. How can one have a logical discussion on the problems with our government today when one side refuses to even allow the Constitutional limits upon government into the discussion?
That is why Franklin, on the final day of the convention which produced our Constitution, said the following words; that our government “…can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”
For our system to work as designed we were not simply to be those who went to the polls to choose whom would represent us; we were to be essential, no crucial elements in ensuring that government stayed within the limits assigned to it.
It is because we the people have failed in our duty that our government has grown into this monstrosity that passes all kinds of laws it was never intended it be allowed to pass. It is why our government routinely violates our rights and the majority of the people applaud them for keeping the masses safe.
I think the Founders knew that this was going to happen…eventually. A quick perusal of the writings of many a Anti-Federalist would confirm this. Men like Patrick Henry and George Mason feared that the system of government created by the Constitution would become tyrannical and oppressive.
If these men knew that it would eventually become, as Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, destructive of the ends for which it was established, if they knew the people would become ignorant and corrupt, the only real solution to the problem would have been to reject the Constitution before it went into effect.
It would have been better never to have given government any power whatsoever if it was a certainty that the people would become ignorant and corrupt and the government would become tyrannical and oppressive.
In 1819 Jefferson wrote a letter to John Adams in which he stated, “[If a] people [are] so demoralized and depraved as to be incapable of exercising a wholesome control, their reformation must be taken up ab incunabulis. Their minds [must] be informed by education what is right and what wrong, [must] be encouraged in habits of virtue and deterred from those of vice by the dread of punishments, proportioned indeed, but irremissible. In all cases, [they must] follow truth as the only safe guide and eschew error which bewilders us in one false consequence after another in endless succession. These are the inculcations necessary to render the people a sure basis for the structure of order and good government.”
Ad incunabulis means ‘from infancy’ in case you’re interested. What Jefferson means is that to restore our system to the way it was intended to work we must begin with our youth; teach them the principles upon which this country was founded and that they are the true masters, not government.
That will never happen because the people would not want their children growing up to limit the powers government wield; thereby cutting back on the benefits their government provides them. Besides, with government itself dictating the curriculum of our schools they are not likely to teach our children that they are, in fact, guilty of overstepping the limits imposed upon them.
For any reformation to come about it must come from within the body of the people. There must be those who understand the Constitution and the principles upon which this nation was founded; and they must seek to educate the masses.
Believe me, I’ve been trying; but nobody cares. Oh they care just fine about things that entertain them, but they don’t care that 99.9% of the things their government does violate the law which created government in the first place.
And until that attitude changes, nothing else will.
As Washington said in his Farewell Address, “… the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
If this was, in fact, an experiment entrusted to us for its success, then the only conclusion I can come to is that the experiment has been one monumental failure; or as modern slang likes to say; EPIC FAIL.