Why the rush to remove monuments, change names of Universities and sports teams all the while denigrating their historical meanings?
Actually, what we are seeing is the fulfillment of Barack Obama’s major campaign promise when running in 2008: “To fundamentally change America.” Think about it: how could one change a nation fundamentally without altering its history? He did not say he wanted to alter the course of America or to change the processes in the U.S. Government. No, he wanted to fundamentally change America.
“Fundamentally” America was structured to operate as the most unique country on Earth. Our forefathers took the best of the political frameworks of European countries and added to it “liberty and justice for all.” They then memorialized that new type of government in the roadmap of roadmaps — the U.S. Constitution. That document and its contents are the fundamental backbones of the United States of America. Sure, people fight over whether or not the framers intended for it to be used in perpetuity as literally written or that it be a “living, breathing,” the process of laws that morph in interpretation to fit the inevitable changes in American life as they happen. But the argument today by some is to alter not the interpretations of the intent of the framers but to actually add, delete, and/or change phrasing and wording of the document.
That seems to be the justification used for the efforts to destroy offending monuments and statues and the removal of slogans and stone markers from places highly visible to the public. Which specific offensive historical reminders should be removed and which should stay? That remains to be seen. Of course, there are many that vigorously object to ANY removal, strictly for historical purposes.
To me, removing, hiding, or changing locations of these pieces of history is not the danger I am writing about. What petrifies me is the slippery slope America is now at the brink of sliding down into an abyss of societal culture never before experienced in America. So far the only thing that has prevented that slide is the strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution and the greatest judicial system on Earth. However, that too is under attack.
What did the Framers envision the Constitution to be? I think the best way to answer that question is to list the items in Article 1 Section 8 (powers of Congress) and Article 2 Section 2 (powers of the President) of the Constitution. Here is the link:
Upon reading these sections of the Constitution, most people will be shocked to see just how little power the Constitution gave to the new federal government. The federal government is mainly responsible for dealings with foreign countries such as treaties, commerce, wars., and little else (immigration, coining money, etc.). Yet today, Constitutional “detractors” on the Left want to tear up the Constitution and start from scratch!
We’ve all heard about the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. Those are the first ten Amendments that are simply called the Bill of Rights. Thomas Jefferson and others involved in creating the U.S. Constitution had just after living under a European national government with top-down repressive and totalitarian operations for generations chose to move to a New World and establish a country that worked instead of top-down as a bottom-up governed nation.
The First Ten Amendments were the MOST important parts of the Constitution for those who had memories of awakening every day under that governmental oppression. Those ten amendments were written to make as easy as possible the understanding by all that the American people were creating a federal government that would operate using ONLY THOSE SPECIFIC RIGHTS AS GIVEN TO THAT GOVERNMENT BY THE PEOPLE. No other federal government rights were ever to be used unless and until they were expressly given to the government by the People!
An all-powerful central government had destroyed Western Europe. Those American settlers wanted nothing to do with that lifestyle then and certainly not moving forward in the new nation.
What Did the Framers Actually Think?
Let’s look at their OWN words:
On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed. —Thomas Jefferson
The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it. —James Wilson, in Of the Study of Law in the United States
The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution, which at any time exists, ‘till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. … If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. — George Washington
Can it be of less consequence that the meaning of a Constitution should be fixed and known, than a meaning of a law should be so? — James Madison
The important distinction so well understood in America, between a Constitution established by the people and unalterable by the government, and a law established by the government and alterable by the government, seems to have been little understood and less observed in any other country. — James Madison
Our peculiar security is in possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction. … If it is, then we have no Constitution. — Thomas Jefferson
To take a single step beyond the text would be to take possession of a boundless field of power. — Thomas Jefferson
How does all this compare to what some contemporaries in politics had to say about the Constitution?
Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and in practice. Society is a living organism and must obey the laws of life, not of mechanics; it must develop. All that progressives ask or desire is permission—in an era when ‘development,’ ‘evolution,’ is the scientific word—to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing and not a machine. — Woodrow Wilson, The New Freedom, A Call For The Emancipation Of The Generous Energies Of A People
The United States Constitution has proved itself the most marvelously elastic compilation of rules of government ever written.” — Franklin Roosevelt, President
It is the genius of our Constitution that under its shelter of enduring institutions and rooted principles there is ample room for the rich fertility of American political invention. —Lyndon B. Johnson, President
The words of the Constitution … are so unrestricted by their intrinsic meaning or by their history or by tradition or by prior decisions that they leave the individual Justice free, if indeed they do not compel him, to gather meaning not from reading the Constitution but from reading life. —Felix Frankfurter, Supreme Court Justice
This understanding, underlying constitutional interpretation since the New Deal, reflects the Constitution’s demands for structural flexibility sufficient to adapt substantive laws and institutions to rapidly changing social, economic, and technological conditions. — Stephen Breyer, Supreme Court Justice, Federal Maritime Commission v. South Carolina State Ports Authority
I cannot accept this invitation [to celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution], for I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever ‘fixed’ at the Philadelphia Convention … To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start. —Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court Justice
It can be lost, and it will be, if the time ever comes when these documents are regarded not as the supreme expression of our profound belief, but merely as curiosities in glass cases. —Harry Truman, President
If we’re picking people to draw out of their own conscience and experience a ‘new’ Constitution, we should not look principally for good lawyers. We should look to people who agree with us. When we are in that mode, you realize we have rendered the Constitution useless. —Antonin Gregory Scalia, Supreme Court Justice
Just talk to me as a father—not what the Constitution says. What do you feel? — Joe Biden, Vice President
The Thread of Commonality
Wow! All of those quoted above — those from the 1700s, the 1800s and the 1900s as well as this century — represent different perspectives and different understandings of the intent of the framers and the actual meaning of the Constitution. But, thankfully, they acknowledge the significance of our nation actually having a roadmap to American governing that is recognized as the greatest in the World.
But there’s on more commonality that runs very obviously through each: Opinion. Yep. Each of those who weighed in with thoughts did so based on opinion — THEIR opinion.
And who among us is any different?
Several things about the framer’s offerings are very obvious:
- they recognized that they could not foretell the future and therefore could not imagine what legalities their great, great, great, great grandchildren would face but would still need the Constitution for guidance;
- they acknowledged that events in the future would dictate the necessity of flexibility in interpretations demanded by contemporary and unimagined occurrences in American life at the time of its creation;
- they knew there would, therefore, be demands for actual editing of their original constitution.
To anticipate exactly how to adjudicate these future certainties they knew was a possibility in the 18th century. They therefore brilliantly included the ability and the process to alter the Constitution. That process is called “Amending.” But because of the importance of the strictest adherence to the blueprint of governing they created, they purposely made the amendment process extremely difficult. Why?
They hated the political process and knew that if allowed, that process would destroy true freedom created by the Constitution. They knew that political partisanship would initiate continuous amending of the Constitution not to better serve the basis of the Laws of the People, but to only satisfy the hunger for political power for the elite. They had lived through that and knew it could NOT be allowed to devour this new nation.
Democracy or Republic?
The cries from partisan political parties for either a Democracy or a Republic for a description of the form of government established by the Constitution have gone back and forth for the life of the United States. The winds of the political party in power have determined which form is desired at the time.
Jefferson and Company knew this would happen. They made clear how the U.S. government would work. And they guaranteed Americans would live in a Representative Republic with the establishment of the Electoral College that governs the process of electing the U.S. “Executive in Chief,” the President and Vice President. Also, states are to determine U.S. Senators: 2 from each state originally appointed by each state’s governor but changed via Amendment to be elected by each state’s electorate, Members that serve in the “People’s House,” Congress, are still elected by voters from each House district in each state.
Today, the political Left doesn’t accept the structure of the Republic, rejecting it for instead a Democratic government. Why? In a pure Democracy, there ARE no federal representatives of the People. Each person gets one vote. That sounds reasonable, right? Consider this:
”IF” the U.S. was a true Democracy, every federal election outcome would simply be what those from the states of California, New York, Illinois, Florida, and Texas voted to be. Election results would be determined solely by the most heavily populated states and their voters’ desires. “Fly-over” Americans would have no say so at all in their government.
Without the Electoral College, Hillary Clinton would be President instead of Donald Trump. That was the choice of the U.S. popular vote when the Electoral College elected Trump in something of a landslide. The same happened in the Bush 43 presidential elections.
So what’s fair?
That answer is simple: NOT A DEMOCRACY.
Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99 percent vote.
True democracy is the tyranny of the majority. True democracy is mob rule. Thankfully we do not live in a democracy. We live in a republic. Article 4, Section 4 of the Constitution: “The United States shall guarantee to every state in this Union a Republican form of government….”
And living in this republic means that every voice matters, majorities do not rule, and those with the loudest voices do not automatically win.
The will of the People means ALL the People.