The Power Of The Constitution That WE THE PEOPLE Have Forgotten How To Use!
Do you even Constitution Bro? Do you know the tools that the American people were given to control their government? Do you know what it means to be “self-regulating”? Do you know the separation of powers, the responsibilities of each branch of government and the limits to those powers? Even if you THINK you do, you may be surprised by what I am about to share with you.
First, a brief overview of the 200+ year old document that established a new nation and a new form of government, The Constitution. What type of government did it create? I’ll give you a hint, it is NOT a democracy. While there are some democratic elements, like elections, the actual form of government is a Republic, or more specifically a Constitutional Republic. Some refer to it as a “representative democracy”, but that is not entirely accurate. Yes, we elect representatives to govern on our behalf, but they do so within the confines of the limited powers afforded them by the Constitution.
It is that express limit of powers that differentiates a Constitutional Republic from a simple Republic, which is government by elected representatives (representative democracy) rather than a monarch or dictator. A simple Republic can also be an Oligarchy, which is basically an elite ruling class elected democratically, but above those they supposedly represent. As our federal government routinely exceeds their Constitutional limits, it could be argued that what we have now is in fact an Oligarchy of democratically elected ruling elites.
In a Constitutional Republic, those elected officials ONLY have the power to represent the people on the specific issues outlined in the Constitution. In addition, the Bill of Rights sets forth more specific protections for the people, which are beyond the control of those elected officials and reserves certain rights and powers for the individual States or the citizens themselves. So, no matter how popular any elected official may be or how much power any particular political party may have, they are still (or should be) limited to the “enumerated powers” contained within the Constitution. However, with all that being said, we have allowed of government to exceed its power and wreak havoc on society, because we have forgotten how to Constitution, Bro!
How do we fix it, you ask?
Well, the Constitution gives us all the tools we need, we just need to relearn and USE them! Elections are the most obvious tool we have at our disposal. Since we elect our representatives, our first level of control is in WHO we elect. In order to elect the right representatives, we need to know what powers their offices hold, so we can put the right representatives into those positions. For example, the House of Representatives is technically “The People’s House”. They represent the individual interests of the citizens in their district on issues that they are empowered by the Constitution to control. Generally speaking, the House’s responsibility revolves largely around THE MONEY. They control the purse strings and how the money collected from We The People is spent. So, electing Representatives with a good head for finance, budgets and fiscal responsibility is a good start. They also have the power to IMPEACH government officials who abuse power, so electing Representatives that have an intimate knowledge of the Constitution, the separation of powers and Constitutional limits of power is another top priority when deciding on who will represent you in the House.
The Senate on the other hand, has a very different set of responsibilities. Chief among the Senate’s responsibilities is to represent the States’ interests. Originally, Senators were appointed by State Legislatures, because their job was to protect State interests and sovereignty. The 17th Amendment changed that to a statewide popular election by the people of each state. However, that change did NOT change their responsibility to represent their state’s interests. Over and above the people’s interest even, which are represented in the House. When electing a Senator, the people must still know their role in our government and choose their candidates accordingly. A key criteria for electing a Senator should be their position on State’s Rights. Whether they support the Constitutional power delegated to the States or seek to consolidate more power at the federal level. The Senate also has the court power of TRIAL for government officials Impeached by the House. Now, the House and Senate have to work together to get things passed, so the same financial and Constitutional credentials that are important in the House are also important when electing Senators. The goal is balance, by giving the people a voice in the House and the State’s a voice in the Senate, federal legislation should balance the concerns of “all of the above.”
Of course the top dog of elected representatives is the President of the United States. Being the head honcho makes the Presidential election a little different, which is why the Electoral College was created. Again, it is about balancing individual votes and state interests. It is not enough for the President to simply have the support of the majority of the people or even the majority of the states. The President should represent the broadest cross-section of American citizens possible. The Electoral College was created to ensure that broad support and representation. If a simply popular vote was all it took, presidential candidates would only have to concern themselves with the needs and opinions of those in the largest urban areas of the country. They wouldn’t have to address the concerns of the sparsely populated rural areas. If all they needed was a majority of states, then they’d need only concern themselves with the 26 or 30 largest states and ignore the needs of the smaller and less populous states. Or they could campaign in all the small and medium states where it is cheaper to advertise and ignore the big states and population centers where it’s more expensive. The Electoral College forces presidential candidates to address the needs of all people, urban and rural, as well as all states, large or small, to the greatest degree they can in order to build the broadest coalition possible. So, be wary of those who would seek to replace the Electoral College with a national popular vote, because that is the pure democracy that our Founders feared most – the tyranny of the majority, 50% of the population plus one dictating to and/or oppressing the other 49.99999%.
But what about between elections?
First of all, we live in the “Information Age” with all the knowledge (and propaganda) of the world at our fingertips. Ignorance is no excuse, but critical thinking skills are a must. What do we do with that knowledge? We use it to provide “adult supervision” for our representatives, who are basically kids in the candy store of Washington D.C. Not only do we have access to proposed legislation at all levels of government, but we also have 24/7 access to our representatives as well. Via letter, petitions, phone, email, social media, etc… we can remain in near constant contact with our representatives. Yet, the vast majority of Americans DON’T. How can they represent you if they never hear from you? If they’re not hearing from you, then who are they hearing from? Special interests, lobbyists, corporate donors, etc. The first rule of representation is to give them someone or something to represent and if YOU don’t then someone else will.
The right of assembly, free association, petition, etc… are all tools at our disposal year round. Everyone knows that the “squeaky wheel gets the grease,” but far too few Americans take the time to squeak. This is the other tyranny that the Founders feared, the tyranny of the minority or the squeaky few setting the agenda for the “silent majority.” So, do you even Constitution, Bro? Or are you apathetic, complacent and content to silently “suffer, while evils are sufferable” as the Founders noted in the Declaration of Independence?