A lot of attention is being given to the pathetic political discourse currently plaguing this country. Comparisons are being made, and rightly so, to our Civil War era.
But perhaps equally concerning in many ways are the new and renewed attacks on the U.S. Constitution. When politics becomes all-consuming for the sake of power, inevitably it erodes the principles of the Constitution and rule of law itself. After the largely partisan vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, new shrieks emerged against not only our political process but the Constitution too. It’s broken, we’re naively told.
One example of those attacks came from Ian Milhiser of Think Progress. Milhiser attacked the electoral college and blamed the Constitution for much of our political division and brokenness. Even from a close reading of his piece, however, he’s clearly frustrated about not getting his way politically over the last couple of years.
It’s a dangerous practice to attack the Constitution because of partisan preferences. Its purpose is meant to restrain the government and not the people. The whole concept of the Bill of Rights reinforces that we are above the government. Our Constitution starts out with “We The People,” which means we allow the government to do some things, but the authority comes from us. It was the late North Carolina U.S. Senator Sam Ervin who reminded us during Watergate that even the “president is the servant of the Constitution and not its master.”
The Constitution offers us timeless truths about the importance of curbing the concentration of power. That’s why we have a separation of powers and a 10th Amendment, even though the 10th is woefully neglected to all of our detriment. It’s depressing that given all of our political and cultural divisions that we can’t agree to return more power to the states and remove so much of it from a broken national government in Washington.
It’s clear the concentration of more and more power in the national government is failing all of us, particularly those prone to tantrums when they don’t get their way.
It was Thomas Jefferson who noted, “In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”
But the Constitution by itself is not what makes America great. Without a culture that is committed to upholding and defending the Constitution, it merely morphs into a paper relic.
The conservative philosopher Russell Kirk reminded us well of this fact:
A society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad society—no matter how many people vote and no matter how liberal its formal constitution may be.
It’s not the Constitution that is failing us but it’s largely our culture. Much has been made about “the mobs” concerning the Kavanaugh confirmation. Rightfully so.
It’s undoubtedly a small snapshot into what mob rule would look like. And I don’t mean that people don’t have a right to protest or disagree with their government obviously, but attacks against due process and the rule of law itself. It should serve as a powerful reminder that we prefer constitutional government over the whims of the mob, even when we agree with the political goals of that mob.
Finally, if we are tied to the Constitution we have the ability to keep moving forward in this nation, without it, we will only fall backward.
We should never apologize or be afraid of freedom for our country and its people.