The upcoming election presents Americans with two clearly distinct visions for the future. Indeed, President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden are perfect proxies that highlight diametrically opposed policies. Correctly understanding our history properly frames the competing agendas so we can make informed decisions.
Since the inception of our Constitution, citizens have debated the proper role and scope of the government. Because the Preamble of the Constitution defines “We, the people” as the source of government’s authority, it has been the responsibility of the American people to establish its legitimacy within the Constitution’s framework.
Americans have always had a healthy distrust of government, because history is replete with examples of its abuse and the collateral subjugation of people. But there is evidence that relative peace and economic security have lulled us into complacency, where we’ve effectively become indifferent to government’s growth, from its modest beginnings to the Leviathan that currently controls so much of our lives. Is the exchange of our freedoms for an ever-expansive government culturally and morally healthy, or is it a Faustian bargain?
Let’s begin with instruction from James Madison, the father of the Constitution. In Federalist 51, he provides the principal justification for government by stating, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” He argued for a government structure of checks and balances designed to provide countervailing influences of each branch against the other two, the “separation of powers” we’re all familiar with. “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition,” Madison wrote, and the degree of countermeasures was meticulously calculated based on the potential severity of abuse.
There is strong evidence that the Founders preferred limited government, but if the balance of power among the branches is skewed, government is vulnerable to unchecked growth — and abuse. To wit, the Founders would be shocked that their implicit trust in the Constitution has been progressively circumscribed by a bloated bureaucracy that rules by Federal Register. That has transitioned us from citizens to subjects, thereby rendering the quaint notion of government by consent of the people a functional fiction.
Combined with a federal phalanx of recently minted agencies, from the Department of Education to the Environmental Protection Agency, that have no constitutional foundation, the sovereignty of the States as enshrined in the 10th Amendment has been essentially nullified.
Because our public education system has failed to maintain a curriculum based on First Principles, we’ve become numb to the incremental encroachment of our hyperactive federal government. Therefore, what would have been summarily rejected as unwarranted abridgements on our freedoms decades ago is now blithely accepted.
Our Founders deliberately enshrined the Legislative Branch in Article I of the Constitution because they correctly understood that in a republic — which is not a democracy — laws and appropriations must originate with elected officials. However, in modern times, Congress has been unduly deferential to the Executive and Judicial Branches, which has led to laws and regulations effectively written by executive or judicial fiat.
For reasons best left to cultural anthropologists, over the past several decades, the left has willfully rejected the core principles of our Founding Fathers as expressed in our Constitution. More alarming is their ignorant reanimation of socialism, a deeply flawed system that has left millions in abject poverty and despair.
The left’s growing trust in big government, from the oxymoronic universal health care to the Green New Deal, as well as leftists’ willingness to abridge our First and Second Amendment rights, should profoundly shock the sensibilities of Americans who cherish liberty.
All our presidents have had personality quirks and moral failings, and President Trump certainly fits that mold. However, he has also upheld our core freedoms and been a tireless defender of our nation in ways no president, Democrat or Republican, has done in recent memory.
It’s become a serial cliché that every election cycle is deemed the most critical. At the risk of abusing that sentiment, it’s clear that the fragile liberties we’ve naïvely taken for granted are endangered and, depending upon the election’s outcome, may be extinguished. A vote for President Trump is our best hope of keeping the torch of liberty burning brightly, today, and for future generations.
Philip Mella writes on politics and history and has been published in The Wall Street Journal, American Thinker, and Townhall. He is former mayor pro tem of Woodland Park, Colorado and currently serves on the 4th Judicial Nominating Commission.