How to Restore Our Constitutional Foundation

By the end of World War II, the beautiful foundational ideas and ideals of our constitutional republic had already been significantly undermined by the Democratic Party. The two pillars of our constitutional republic, federalism and checks and balances among our three branches of government, were being disrupted and distorted. The distortions expressed by so-called progressivism had begun the transformation of our political and economic system, especially under Woodrow Wilson and the Democrat Party, and intensified under the policies and programs of the New Deal. Socialist, fascist, syndicalist, and even communist concepts were finding their way into problem-solving models used by many of our leaders. The Democrats implemented radical modifications of our constitutional system.

Checks and balances has become distorted almost beyond recognition. Since the end of World War II, we have had numerous wars and bombings of other countries without declarations of war by the U.S. Congress. We have the federal judiciary overriding state legislatures and referenda to establish homosexual marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges as the law of the land, to legitimize abortion in Roe v. Wade, and to permit the expansion of eminent domain in Kelo v. New London as total end runs around checks on the judiciary. Can you imagine it? Bible reading and prayer -- the bedrocks of our country -- were eliminated from our public schools by the Supreme Court in the early 1960s, a complete overriding of the First and Tenth Amendments. But no checks or balances to counter the judiciary were implemented. Additionally, the commerce clause has been extended to an extreme point to allow almost any transactions to be considered “interstate” and thus open to federal regulation and control.

The Democrats eroded and eviscerated our beautiful Constitution beginning with the Progressive Era and the New Deal, and accelerating and intensifying those developments in the years since 1945. But the reader may be asking where does the Republican Party and leadership fit into this picture? We have enjoyed many tenures by Republican Presidents during the past 100 years since Wilson, and Republicans have been elected to Congress. Even as the juggernaut of leftwing activism seemed to gather momentum with our defeat and withdrawal from Vietnam and the resignation of Richard Nixon, Republicans seemed to temporarily bounce back with the election of the Republican “morning in America” star, President Ronald Reagan.

Yet the Republican Party leadership after World War I seemed to lose momentum. Warren G. Harding’s inaugural address in 1921 did not mention the Constitution even one time although there are compelling lines about service and application of the Golden Rule. Calvin Coolidge, in a beautifully worded, thoughtful, and moral inauguration speech of 1925 mentions that Constitution a few times, especially in connection with property rights, but does not mention either federalism or checks and balances. Herbert Hoover in his inaugural speech in 1929 mentions the Constitution once in terms of “enforcement of the laws,” but is at least forceful in his insistence that “not Government ownership or operation is the course rightly to be pursued in our relation to business.”

Contrast these with the inaugural addresses of Andrew Jackson, who, although a Democrat (before the creation of the Republican Party), was nonetheless more of a Constitutional conservative than even those three Republican presidents. In his first Inaugural Address in 1829, Jackson goes to great lengths to assure the citizenry that he will act within the confines of his executive role as defined in the Constitution. Thus, he indicates tremendous and explicit respect for the checks and balances pillar of our Constitution. Then, in his 1833 Inaugural Address, Jackson discourses extensively on states’ rights thus communicating his respect for the federalist pillar of our republic. We can see that approximately 100 years later, the Republicans who are far more committed to those Constitutional pillars than the Democrats nevertheless speak about their expectations and duties without reference to these foundational Constitutional principles.

Even in the 1980s, under Reagan, the income tax for the highest levels was slashed dramatically, and even the Democrats were on board with that, but federal government spending continued to increase. According to the Mises Institute, “The result [was] unprecedented government debt. Reagan… tripled the Gross Federal Debt, from $900 billion to $2.7 trillion. Ford and Carter in their combined terms could only double it. It took 31 years to accomplish the first postwar debt tripling, yet Reagan did it in eight.” The increase in budget debt is a serious sign of the increase in influence of the federal government at the expense of state government. In other words, a dilution of the federalist pillar of Constitutionalism.

In the 1980s, the savings and loans banks went under and were bailed out. Libyan training camps for terrorists were bombed, but our troops were totally withdrawn from Lebanon despite the loss of 241 American lives after a bombing of our Beirut barracks. This was hardly fulfillment of the presidential Oath of Office to preserve and defend the citizenry of the U.S. If we were not there to defend America, then why were we there? When the Executive Branch shows weakness or incompetence that too is a dilution of checks and balances and federalism. Further, the Republican nomination in 1988 of the brilliant and accomplished vice-president, George H.W. Bush, a globalist from his head to the soles of his feet, hardly suggests an America First let alone a pro-Constitutional agenda.

Over the years, the Republicans have accomplished various legislative, military, and policy goals that might be considered conservative. Yet, these were not ideologically driven, as was the Democratic Party agenda. The Republicans have failed to be sufficiently firm and outspoken about the pillars of our Constitution. The Democrats, moving forward covertly as well as openly with an updated cultural Marxism, have believed for these 100 years that they are on the right side of history. However, the Republicans, justified by the foundations executed by our Founders and thus located in the past, are inherently more passive. The past one can see is over; it is established and therefore momentum is not needed. Whereas the Democrats want to remake history based on an authoritarian statist model which they believe is an inevitable reconstruction of the social, political and economic order. Republicans are in a negative, reactive mode and merely seem to be carping that history does not have to be reconstructed. Looking forward inspires and breeds action; looking backward dilutes motivation and breeds passivity.

In order for the Republicans to escape the accusation that they are actually complicit with the Democrats on this march to the authoritarian state or totalitarianism, they must restore the founding principles as an ideology. The pillars of our Constitution must be re-presented to the voting public, and pounded home as though they are new, vibrant ideas for the future. The Republicans must propose and promote checks and balances as well as federalism. These two pillars of our Constitution will appear new and vibrant to generations of Americans who are historically illiterate. If the Republicans are not to be complicit in the Democrat Party’s authoritarian statist drift, they must not only embrace the Trump America First agenda, but additionally and aggressively promote the ideological pillars of Constitutional liberty, checks and balances and federalism, not merely assume them to be a self-evident reality.

E. Jeffrey Ludwig has taught history, literature, and philosophy at Harvard, Penn State, Juniata College, City University of New York, and other colleges and secondary schools. His latest interview on the Hagmann and Hagmann Report can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXl3H1jjZrU 

By the end of World War II, the beautiful foundational ideas and ideals of our constitutional republic had already been significantly undermined by the Democratic Party. The two pillars of our constitutional republic, federalism and checks and balances among our three branches of government, were being disrupted and distorted. The distortions expressed by so-called progressivism had begun the transformation of our political and economic system, especially under Woodrow Wilson and the Democrat Party, and intensified under the policies and programs of the New Deal. Socialist, fascist, syndicalist, and even communist concepts were finding their way into problem-solving models used by many of our leaders. The Democrats implemented radical modifications of our constitutional system.

Checks and balances has become distorted almost beyond recognition. Since the end of World War II, we have had numerous wars and bombings of other countries without declarations of war by the U.S. Congress. We have the federal judiciary overriding state legislatures and referenda to establish homosexual marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges as the law of the land, to legitimize abortion in Roe v. Wade, and to permit the expansion of eminent domain in Kelo v. New London as total end runs around checks on the judiciary. Can you imagine it? Bible reading and prayer -- the bedrocks of our country -- were eliminated from our public schools by the Supreme Court in the early 1960s, a complete overriding of the First and Tenth Amendments. But no checks or balances to counter the judiciary were implemented. Additionally, the commerce clause has been extended to an extreme point to allow almost any transactions to be considered “interstate” and thus open to federal regulation and control.

The Democrats eroded and eviscerated our beautiful Constitution beginning with the Progressive Era and the New Deal, and accelerating and intensifying those developments in the years since 1945. But the reader may be asking where does the Republican Party and leadership fit into this picture? We have enjoyed many tenures by Republican Presidents during the past 100 years since Wilson, and Republicans have been elected to Congress. Even as the juggernaut of leftwing activism seemed to gather momentum with our defeat and withdrawal from Vietnam and the resignation of Richard Nixon, Republicans seemed to temporarily bounce back with the election of the Republican “morning in America” star, President Ronald Reagan.

Yet the Republican Party leadership after World War I seemed to lose momentum. Warren G. Harding’s inaugural address in 1921 did not mention the Constitution even one time although there are compelling lines about service and application of the Golden Rule. Calvin Coolidge, in a beautifully worded, thoughtful, and moral inauguration speech of 1925 mentions that Constitution a few times, especially in connection with property rights, but does not mention either federalism or checks and balances. Herbert Hoover in his inaugural speech in 1929 mentions the Constitution once in terms of “enforcement of the laws,” but is at least forceful in his insistence that “not Government ownership or operation is the course rightly to be pursued in our relation to business.”

Contrast these with the inaugural addresses of Andrew Jackson, who, although a Democrat (before the creation of the Republican Party), was nonetheless more of a Constitutional conservative than even those three Republican presidents. In his first Inaugural Address in 1829, Jackson goes to great lengths to assure the citizenry that he will act within the confines of his executive role as defined in the Constitution. Thus, he indicates tremendous and explicit respect for the checks and balances pillar of our Constitution. Then, in his 1833 Inaugural Address, Jackson discourses extensively on states’ rights thus communicating his respect for the federalist pillar of our republic. We can see that approximately 100 years later, the Republicans who are far more committed to those Constitutional pillars than the Democrats nevertheless speak about their expectations and duties without reference to these foundational Constitutional principles.

Even in the 1980s, under Reagan, the income tax for the highest levels was slashed dramatically, and even the Democrats were on board with that, but federal government spending continued to increase. According to the Mises Institute, “The result [was] unprecedented government debt. Reagan… tripled the Gross Federal Debt, from $900 billion to $2.7 trillion. Ford and Carter in their combined terms could only double it. It took 31 years to accomplish the first postwar debt tripling, yet Reagan did it in eight.” The increase in budget debt is a serious sign of the increase in influence of the federal government at the expense of state government. In other words, a dilution of the federalist pillar of Constitutionalism.

In the 1980s, the savings and loans banks went under and were bailed out. Libyan training camps for terrorists were bombed, but our troops were totally withdrawn from Lebanon despite the loss of 241 American lives after a bombing of our Beirut barracks. This was hardly fulfillment of the presidential Oath of Office to preserve and defend the citizenry of the U.S. If we were not there to defend America, then why were we there? When the Executive Branch shows weakness or incompetence that too is a dilution of checks and balances and federalism. Further, the Republican nomination in 1988 of the brilliant and accomplished vice-president, George H.W. Bush, a globalist from his head to the soles of his feet, hardly suggests an America First let alone a pro-Constitutional agenda.

Over the years, the Republicans have accomplished various legislative, military, and policy goals that might be considered conservative. Yet, these were not ideologically driven, as was the Democratic Party agenda. The Republicans have failed to be sufficiently firm and outspoken about the pillars of our Constitution. The Democrats, moving forward covertly as well as openly with an updated cultural Marxism, have believed for these 100 years that they are on the right side of history. However, the Republicans, justified by the foundations executed by our Founders and thus located in the past, are inherently more passive. The past one can see is over; it is established and therefore momentum is not needed. Whereas the Democrats want to remake history based on an authoritarian statist model which they believe is an inevitable reconstruction of the social, political and economic order. Republicans are in a negative, reactive mode and merely seem to be carping that history does not have to be reconstructed. Looking forward inspires and breeds action; looking backward dilutes motivation and breeds passivity.

In order for the Republicans to escape the accusation that they are actually complicit with the Democrats on this march to the authoritarian state or totalitarianism, they must restore the founding principles as an ideology. The pillars of our Constitution must be re-presented to the voting public, and pounded home as though they are new, vibrant ideas for the future. The Republicans must propose and promote checks and balances as well as federalism. These two pillars of our Constitution will appear new and vibrant to generations of Americans who are historically illiterate. If the Republicans are not to be complicit in the Democrat Party’s authoritarian statist drift, they must not only embrace the Trump America First agenda, but additionally and aggressively promote the ideological pillars of Constitutional liberty, checks and balances and federalism, not merely assume them to be a self-evident reality.

E. Jeffrey Ludwig has taught history, literature, and philosophy at Harvard, Penn State, Juniata College, City University of New York, and other colleges and secondary schools. His latest interview on the Hagmann and Hagmann Report can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXl3H1jjZrU 

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