Conservatives need to remember the Constitution in 2016

The overriding message in the 2016 election should be just two words:  “The Constitution!”  After Obama’s Constitution-shredding governance, 2016 is America’s last chance to return the Constitution to its central in American politics. 

America’s Founders had the unique opportunity to build a government from scratch. They had several models from which to choose, such as a British-style monarchy, a communal approach (which almost killed the Pilgrims), or Plato’s elite philosopher-rulers. They chose none of those.

The Founders’ genius was realizing that that all existing government models, no matter their nature (monarchies, theocracies, etc.), invariably had a pyramidal structure, with power vested in the top of the pyramid.  The Founders wanted power at the base of the pyramid, with the people, as they stated in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these end§s, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Unlike other so-called revolutionaries who substituted themselves for the rulers they overthrew, the Founders created a true revolutionary paradigm.  They broke governing authority into its constituent parts (legislative, executive, and judicial) and divvied that power amongst three different, but equal, branches of government.  No government branch could act alone.

The theory was that each branch would guard its power jealously, thereby keeping either of the other two branches from becoming dominant.  We know this system as one of “checks and balances.”

As an additional check on government power, the Founders enacted the Bill of Rights, a list of inviolate rights vested in the individual that the government can neither give nor take away.  While the First through Eighth Amendments detail these rights, the Ninth and Tenth hammer home the limits of government power. 

The Ninth Amendment affirms that Americans have more rights than those listed in the Bill of Rights, with unlisted rights presumptively in the People. The Tenth Amendment holds that, unless the Constitution specifically reserves an affirmative right for the federal government or prohibits it to a state, all other rights — the universe of rights, whether or not articulated — belong to the states or to the people within those states.

This extraordinary document makes the United States the exceptional nation it is.  We are the only nation in the world ever, at any time or in any place, that truly places power in the individual. In other modern nations, although citizens may gain some temporary material benefits before their bureaucratically-controlled economies run out of other people’s money, they are as fully enslaved as they ever were in the bad old days.  Our uniqueness is also demonstrated by the fact that we are the only nation in history that, after shedding our blood to free other countries, turns back control to their self-rule, secure in the belief that the benefit we receive from our efforts will come about solely because we serve as their friend and role model.

And then there’s President Barack Obama. . . .

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
— Presidential Oath of Office

Progressives misleadingly claim that Obama has issued fewer Executive Orders than past presidents, including Reagan.  In fact, as of January 2016, in addition to executing 230 Executive Orders, Obama also executed 273 “Presidential Memoranda.”  While Memoranda are identical in effect to Executive Orders, they’re not formally published in the Federal Register. Obama is therefore responsible for a grand total of 430 unilateral executive actions. 

Obama’s unilateral acts also differ in scope from past presidents’ acts. Executive orders are intended to be managerial documents, along the lines of closing offices on December 24. Obama, however, uses them for substantive actions encroaching upon Congress’s purview. 

After Obamacare’s disastrous debut, Obama amended the law to prop it up.  He enacted amnesty, directly contravening federal immigration laws he was unable to pass even with a Democrat Congress.  He entered into a treaty with Iran, freeing billions of dollars for Iran and putting America’s imprimatur on Iran’s continuing nuclear development.  Obama ludicrously contended his “engagement” with Iran wasn’t a treaty, which would require Senate approval; it was a just a “non-binding agreement.”  Most recently, Obama began his unilateral executive push to limit American’s all important Second Amendment rights, something else he could not get through Congress.

These unconstitutional power grabs should not surprise anyone.  During a 2001 radio interview, Obama already spoke slightingly about the Constitution:

The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society… [The Supreme Court] didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. [It] says what the states can’t do to you. [It] says what the federal government can’t do to you, but [it] doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.

What conservatives see as the Constitution’s greatest virtue – namely, that it elevates the individual over the government – is something Obama sees as its greatest defect.

Obama’s disdain for the Constitution reappeared when he touted his new limitations on Second Amendment rights:

This is a ritual about this whole thing that I have to do. I believe in the Second Amendment. It’s there written on the paper.  It guarantees a right to bear arms. No matter how many times people try to twist my words around, I taught constitutional law and I know a little bit about this.

The Second Amendment is not just something “written on paper.”  It is an inalienable right fed by the blood of every American who has died in liberty’s defense.

When Americans in 2010, 2012, and 2014 rebuked Obama’s overreach by denying him a Democrat Congress, Obama’s response was to dismiss the People’s will:

We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.  And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.

Obama is not the first Democrat to find the Constitution frustrating. Since Wilson, Progressives have championed the bureaucratic state as a way to govern outside of the Constitution.  Under Democrat administrations federal agencies routinely passed regulations with the force and effect of law, effectively voiding the Constitution’s checks and balances.

Where Obama differs from his predecessors is his abandonment of subtlety, incrementalism, and popular support.  He simply launches all-out attacks on the Bill of Rights and the balance of power. Here are just three egregious examples:

(1)  The EPA’s unilaterally designated carbon dioxide as a pollutant, even though a Democrat-controlled Congress’s refused to pass legislation to that effect. 

(2)  The EPA’s implemented cap-and-trade through their new power plant rules, another concept a Democrat-controlled Congress rejected.

(3)  The HHS published rules requiring all health insurance to cover birth control and abortifacients, something that impinges on many American’s religious beliefs and that would never have survived Congress.

Congress bears some blame for Obama’s power grab. During his first two years, a Democrat-majority Congress actively encouraged his “fundamental transformations.” After Americans booted that Congress, though, the new Congress was quiescent when Obama’s encroached on its sphere of interest. The Founders were therefore wrong about one thing:  When the executive branch strengthened itself at the legislature’s expense, the latter did not jealously protect its power; instead, it collapsed.

Obama’s dangerous rule by bureaucracy means that Republican voters in 2016 have a very stark choice facing them:  Do they vote for the candidate who promises to make American great through his charisma, or do they vote for the candidate who promises to make America great by restoring the Constitution to its central place in American governance?  The answer to that question lies within the question itself:  You cannot “restore” America unless you first restore the Constitution to its rightful place in American politics.

If elected, Donald Trump will probably fulfill many of his promises to undo some of the damage Obama has done. The problem is that his free-wheeling stump promises and well-known business history indicate that he’ll carry out his promises the same way Obama did it:  Using executive ukases, manipulating existing laws to his advantage, playing the crony capitalist game, and smearing his political opponents.

Trump’s past statements about Constitutional issues reveal that he used to be a liberal Democrat.  Thus, the pre-primary Trump identified himself as a Democrat on those issues, being wholeheartedly pro-Choice, pro-government land grabs, pro-Obamacare, and anti-gun:

Given Trump’s past disdain for the Constitution, even if he carries out his promises, the cost to America may be too high.  Trump appears set to wreak more of the same havoc on the Constitution that Obama already has.

Ted Cruz is the only candidate who has had a decade’s long reverence for the Constitution. He appreciates that the Constitution is the only document in human history to vest power away from the elite and in each individual, making it a bulwark against tyranny. Moreover, Cruz can clearly articulate his constitutional convictions and is willing to stand by them, even if it means taking on his own party.

Cruz has promised to issue Executive Orders voiding Obama’s extra-constitutional legislative activities, but after that he will return power to the People through their representatives in Congress.  He’ll also reliably nominate Supreme Court justices who understand that American constitutionalism means a limited government tasked with individual liberties.

That this constitutional fealty will appeal to the general public was demonstrated during Cruz’s appearance on Stephen Colbert’s show. When Colbert asked Cruz about gay marriage, the reliably Leftist audience started booing Cruz.  However, after Cruz explained that gay marriage is a decision for the people, not the political anointed, he got a round of applause from that same audience (at 2:58):


Cruz effectively used the Constitution to reassure Progressives that they need not fear his presidency because our constitutional structure prevents demagoguery. Instead, it vests power in the people where it belongs. This is a very appealing, all-American message.

Even if you agree with Trump’s stated goals or his possible effectiveness, you should think twice before you vote for a person who appears to be a vaguely conservative, populist “white Obama.”

Meanwhile, remember that Cruz has long supported the causes that Trump suddenly espouses:  He’s always been for strong national security; a strong military; strong borders; free market, not crony, capitalism; freedom of worship; Second Amendment rights; support for Israel; and enmity to jihadist Islam. Even better, Cruz’s history shows that he’ll govern through, not around, the Constitution. That’s certainly got my vote.

Bookworm is the proprietor of Bookworm Room