The People Must Regain the Consent of the Governed

by: the Common Constitutionalist

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We often hear, especially from the left, arguments either for or against American democracy. If you’re like me, every time I hear the word democracy mentioned as the correct form of American government, I roll my eyes and wonder if the politician or pundit is purposely trying to plant the notion in the viewer’s or listener’s mind that this is in fact our form of government, or do they just not know we have a representative republic.

I fear that in a lot of cases they just don’t understand the difference, despite being “Representatives” themselves.

Dr Larry Arnn and some students at Hillsdale College briefly covered this very topic in Hillsdale’s new online course – “Introduction to the Constitution.” Specifically, it was lesson five entitled, “Representation of the People.”

I would invite and encourage everyone to watch these short presentations and discussions, for this is not your average Introduction to the Constitution. They cover some pretty heady stuff. There are 12 segments, or mini-courses, averaging only about 9 minutes in length.

Watching these videos also allows for a fascinating juxtaposition of the knowledge of Hillsdale students vs. the pampered know-nothing snowflake variety from “mainstream” and supposed elite schools.

Having thrown off rule by the King of England, the founders had to decide on a form of national of federal government. Their choices were of course, a monarchy, a democracy or a representative republic. Obviously they were not going to return to rule by monarch, but a democracy, as attractive as this sounds, where everyone has a voice and a vote, was utterly impractical. In order to accomplish anything, every citizen would have to be present for every vote. This was as unworkable then as it would be today.
There was no way of assembling all Americans in one place every time a vote was required. read more

There is a Way to Override the Supreme Court

by: the Common Constitutionalist

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Yesterday, I posted an article regarding those on the left whining about the lack of a ninth supreme Court justice. You may review it here.

The author of the piece I quoted went so far as to accuse the Republican Senate of being “nothing less than an existential threat to the supreme Court,” for not confirming, or at least voting on Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. As if this is their duty to accommodate our beloved president, despite the Constitution making no such assertion.

This is the frustration, or impatience of the left. They can wait no longer to pack the high Court with leftists, giving them the means to finally transform America into the socialist utopia they’ve been dreaming of.

But the frustration of the right always seems to end up back at that dastardly decision, Marbury v. Madison (1803), which was the first U.S. supreme Court case to apply the principle of “judicial review,” giving it the power to void acts of Congress that they feel are in conflict with the Constitution.

Over the years, the Marbury v. Madison decision has seen judicial review morph into the high Court becoming the final arbiter regarding all things – legal, social and cultural.

The federal Courts, including the supreme Court, were not designed, under Article III, to adjudicate everything as they seem to today. The federal courts were set up specifically to deal with federal issues, beyond the scope of State Courts. These issues are described in Article III of the Constitution. read more

“Woodrow Wilson and the Rejection of the Founders’ Principles”

by: Ronald J. Pestritto,  Associate Professor of Politics, and Dean of the Graduate School of Statesmanship at Hillsdale College

Overview

Progressives believe that America needs to move beyond the principles of the Founding.  Woodrow Wilson—who served as president of Princeton University, governor of New Jersey, and as America’s 28th president—was one of the earliest Progressive thinkers.  His critique of the Founding—namely, his rejection of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution’s system of the separation of powers—is one of the most articulate expressions of the Progressive movement’s core beliefs.

 

 

Constituion 101 (10)

Lesson 10: “The Recovery of the Constitution”

Study Guide

Overview:

Statesmanship, for Franklin D. Roosevelt, entailed the “redefinition” of “rights in terms of a changing and growing social order.” Fulfilling the promise of Progressivism, President Roosevelt’s New Deal gave rise to unlimited government. In contrast to Franklin D. Roosevelt and his ideological successors, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan sought the restoration of limited government. Today, our choice is clear: Will we live by the principles of the American Founding, or by the values of the Progressives?

Franklin D. Roosevelt announced his campaign for the presidency in 1932 by emphasizing the Progressive understanding of history and by calling for the “redefinition” of the old idea of rights. His “New Deal,” a series of economic programs ostensibly aimed at extricating America from the Great Depression, vastly enlarged the size and scope of the federal government. Unelected bureaucratic agencies—“the administrative state”—became a fact of American life.

Roosevelt’s call for a “Second Bill of Rights” sought to add “security” to the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Describing the “old rights” of life and liberty as “inadequate” without underlying economic security, Roosevelt called for new economic rights for all, including the right to a job, a home, a fair wage, education, and medical care. With these rights guaranteed, Roosevelt argued, real political equality finally could be achieved.

Following President Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy’s “New Frontier” and Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” continued the transformation of the relationship between the American people and their government. President Johnson redefined the government’s role by redefining equality itself: equality must be a “result” rather than a “right.” Expanded federal control over education, transportation, welfare, and medical care soon followed.

Announcing that “with the present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” Ronald Reagan appealed to the principles of the American Founding in seeking to reduce the size and scope of the federal government. Maintaining that Progressivism and the consent of the governed are incompatible, Reagan called for a return to individual self-rule and national self-government.

Constitution 101 (8)

Lesson 8: “Abraham Lincoln and the Constitution”

Study Guide

Overview:

Abraham Lincoln’s fidelity to the Declaration of Independence is equally a fidelity to the Constitution. The Constitution takes its moral life from the principles of liberty and equality, and was created to serve those principles. We are divided as a nation today, as in Lincoln’s time, because we have severed the connection between these two documents.

Lincoln’s “Fragment on the Constitution and the Union” contains the central theme of Lincoln’s life and work. Drawing upon biblical language, Lincoln describes the Declaration of Independence as an “apple of gold,” and the Constitution as the “frame of silver” around it. We cannot consider the Constitution independently of the purpose which it was designed to serve.

The Constitution acts to guard the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. As the embodiment of the Declaration’s principles, the Constitution created a frame of government with a clear objective. The Constitution is not a collection of compromises, or an empty vessel whose meaning can be redefined to meet the needs of the time; it is the embodiment of an eternal, immutable truth.

Abraham Lincoln defended the Union and sought to defeat the Confederate insurrection because he held that the principles of the Declaration and Constitution were inviolable. In his speeches and in his statecraft, Lincoln wished to demonstrate that self-government is not doomed to either be so strong that it overwhelms the rights of the people or so weak that it is incapable of surviving.

Constitution 101 (3)

Lesson 3: “The Problem of Majority Tyranny”

Study Guide

Overview

America was governed under the Articles of Confederation from 1781 to 1789. Unable to redress the problem of “majority tyranny,” the Articles were abandoned in favor of the Constitution, which created a “more perfect union.”

Constitution 101 (1)

The following is Lesson One in a Ten Part program presented by Hillsdale College on understanding The United States Constitution. Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we understand our founding documents, particularly the Declaration of Independence & the Constitution.

Lesson 1: The American Mind

You may feel free to simply watch or follow along with the attached Study Guide

Lesson Overview:

America’s Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson said, was the product of “the American mind.” Our Constitution was made with the same purpose as the Declaration—to establish a regime where the people are sovereign, and the government protects the rights granted to them by their Creator.

The word “constitution” means “to ordain and establish something.” It also means “to set a firm thing strongly in place.” It is linked to two other words: statute and statue. All three words—constitution, statute, and statue—connote a similar idea of establishing something lasting and beautiful.

The Constitution, then, is a work of art. It gives America its form. To fully know the “cause,” or purpose, of America, one must know the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson, its author, mentioned four thinkers for their contribution to molding “the American mind”: Aristotle, Cicero, Algernon Sidney, and John Locke.

Studying these philosophers is a wondrous task in itself, and it greatly helps our understanding of America, just as it informed the statecraft of the Founders. Knowing the meaning of the Declaration and Constitution is vital to the choice before us today as to whether we will live under a Constitution different than the one bequeathed to us.