As I begin my exploration of the Constitution in more depth, I’m struck by the concept of “being a strict constitutionalist”. Two days ago, I would have said that means limited government, Libertarian ideals, and a move towards local control and self-sufficiency.
The idea now comes into my head, however, that if the Constitution is a foundation or framework for government structure, then who’s to say that as long as laws fit within the bounds of the Constitution that they are wrong? What I mean is that if the Democratic party wants to create larger social programs, and their ideas don’t violate the foundation of the document nor any of the amendments, then there’s nothing unconstitutional about those laws.
Problems arise, however, when laws are created that violate the spirit with which the founders wrote the constitution. As I see it, that is what’s happening in our country today.
It seems that our current Congress — and for many years now, actually — feels as though it is they who are in power. Laws are being created and bills are being written that violate — if not the actual letter — the spirit of our Constitution. The President has consistently exceeded his power as executor of those laws, issuing signing statements, acting as war chief, and otherwise trampling on the spirit of the office. For their part, the Supreme Court seems to be happy ignoring the encroaching trespasses on justice, domestic peace, general welfare, and liberty while also allowing the idea of “national defense” to be turned into a “first strike” mentality.
Unfortunately, what the citizens of the United States have not realized is that the elected officials are not who is in control of the country. Or if they are, it is only through our own apathy. Congress has no fear about being re-elected because the people most affected by their violations of the spirit of our foundational rules don’t seem to care. It’s that lack of caring that brings me back to my original point.
Being a strict constitutionalist doesn’t imply one party affiliation over another. What it implies is a willingness to consistently adhere to the principles and spirit represented in our founding document; to eschew apathy; to transcend the general and pervasive air of defeat. Our representatives in Congress are acting within the laws of the Constitution to create laws that may or may not be beneficial to their constituents. It is the constituents’ job, now, to play their part.
Each of us needs to be a “strict constitutionalist”. Each of us needs to understand the spirit of the document, the rules it sets forth, and the roles we must play in the governing of this country. This is not a country of government acting on its own, but for too long the government has acted as though it is. This is not a country run by the powerful, but one where “We the people of the United States” are in charge. It’s no easy task, but it is our job to manage the direction of our government, and this has to be done no matter the party line or ideological beliefs each of us holds. If not, there will be no Constitution left.