"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." - King Solomon, Book of Ecclesiastes.
We Americans find ourselves, yet again, playing a game repeated once every four years. As we look out at the landscape and consider the stable of potential candidates for the highest office in the land, we desperately search for a savior. Not an ecclesiastical savior, no, instead we sort through a short list of politicians and hope upon hope that we can choose one that will be the nation’s savior.
Along partisan lines, Democrats and Republicans attempt to choose the savior for their party. Who will be the person to lead the party to victory and save them from defeat? As a nation, we have been engaging in this endeavor in earnest since the last of the Founding Fathers retired from service and we had to choose from a list of newcomers.
Casting a vote for George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, or John Madison, while a historic undertaking, does not seem that it was so much a risk. The founders, though they varied slightly in their application, could at least be trusted to support the original documents that were used to forge the nation. From a practical standpoint, the train began to leave the tracks when the generation that succeeded the founders began to vie for the nation’s top seat.
(AP Photo/The Muskegon Chronicle, Tommy Martino)
During the early period in our nation’s history, when individual states still maintained a strong hold on the liberties guaranteed by Article 10 of the Bill of Rights, the president had little effect on the day-to-day lives of the residents of said states.
Since the usurpation of state’s rights, which took place during the period of reconstruction and the continued loss of individual rights with the passage of the 16th Amendment, the American citizen has been encouraged to look to the Federal government for salvation. This naturally directs them to the titular head, the president, as a national savior.
In Federalist Paper 18, Alexander Hamilton advised that the citizens of the United States must be wary of the:
“…wantonness and lust of domination would be sufficient to be that disposition.”
Hamilton was speaking directly of the tyranny in the head of government. To that end, he advised further:
“…still it may be safely affirmed that the sense of the constituent body of the national representatives, or, in other words, the people of the several States, would control the indulgence of so extravagant an appetite.”
James Madison, in Federalist Paper 10, warned against the misuse of the power of taxation.
“The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every schilling with which they overburden the inferior number is a schilling saved to their own pockets.”
Throughout the Federalist Papers John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton give strict warnings regarding the separation of powers and the use of checks and balances in a Federal government. Hamilton refers to the people of the various States as the “natural guardians of the Constitution” in Federalist 16.
Despite the founding documents and all of the admonitions and advice we were given by our predecessors, in the modern enlightened era we find ourselves in a constant search for the one person who can, by virtue of their election, save us and restore the Republic to its former glory.
Washington insiders and “party leaders” extol the virtues of compromise. We are told that we must be flexible and practical in our decision making. The candidates we are offered tend to be more akin to Scylla and Charybdis than the omniscient political messiah we desire.
Historically, even when our chosen savior is elected, we soon find ourselves disappointed and suffering from buyer’s remorse. The person upon whom we attached our hopes and dreams turns out to be a mediocre leader and weak-willed compromiser. Despite our fervent effort to “make a difference” through campaigning and voting, we end up with more business as usual. Like the clinically insane mental patient, we keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
[sharequote align="center"]Like a clinically insane mental patient, we keep doing the same thing, expecting a different result[/sharequote]
How can it be that a nation founded on individual rights and liberties, a Representative Republic (not democracy) with a Constitution that expressly establishes a system of checks and balances and a separation of powers, has fallen into such an infinite loop of politics as usual and more of the same? Where did we go wrong and is there any way to make it right again?
Though it is impossible to pinpoint an exact date in history when the ship left course and headed toward the rocks, it has been a long time coming. Benjamin Franklin saw this coming when he said:
“When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”
To that same end, Alexis de Tocqueville seconded Franklin’s motion when he said this:
“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.”
If we honestly consider the founding principles upon which our nation was built and the structure and order by which the Republic was created how can we not understand our current predicament?
The Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights clearly establish the fact that the power of the Federal government was expressly limited and the remaining powers reserved for the States and to the People.
It is the civic duty of the people of the United States of America to hold their representatives responsible for their actions and inactions. The tools necessary for liberty were bestowed upon us more than two hundred years ago and they still remain.
If all those who were registered to vote in the United States were educated and understood both the limited power and the duties of the President of the United States we would not need to search for a savior every four years. As a practical matter, if the stable of presidential candidates entered the race with the understanding that they would indeed be closely scrutinized and held accountable to the standards of the U.S. Constitution, we could elect any person who met the Constitutional criteria.
Yet here we remain, in the great enlightened era, the “age of information”, and we spend innumerable hours discussing this candidate versus that.
Who is most “electable?” Who is going to be our savior and lead us back from the brink?
I would submit to you that the savior of the United States does not and will never reside at the White House.
Alexander Hamilton knew exactly who the “natural guardians of the Constitution” were; you and I. Whether we assume our role, and accept our civic duty to police our representatives, is the question that every man and woman must answer for themselves. The other choice is more politics as usual accompanied by a desperate, and hopeless, search for a savior.
For the past three decades Paul Markel has had the privilege to study with some of the finest instructors the U.S. Military and Law Enforcement world have to offer. Visit http://www.studentofthegun.com/
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