This post was updated.
There generally isn’t a lot of discussion about Article 1, Section 2 because all it does is lay out some basic details about the House of Representatives. It’s fairly easy to understand and, for the most part, it’s not controversial (I’ll take on the controversial part next week).
But even though Article 1, Section 2 is easy to understand and implement, that doesn’t mean that we should rush past it. There is so much more to this section than just what it says. If we take the time to learn why it says what it says, there is a lot we can learn about what we need to do to get our government to run effectively.
[sharequote align="center"]Freedom doesn’t just happen by accident. It has to be created intentionally and vigorously defended.[/sharequote]
For now, let’s consider the three qualifications that a person must meet before becoming a member of the House of Representatives.
1. You Must be at Least 25 years old
The idea here was that a person needed to go out and get at least little bit of life experience before becoming a member of Congress. It’s foolish to think that the moment someone becomes a legal adult, he is instantly prepared to make decisions for the rest of the country.
Instead, you were supposed go out and spend some time experiencing what it’s like to be a regular citizen. Once you’ve done that, then you can try to become a representative of the regular citizens of this country.
But what do we do today? We are constantly electing people who have either never held a job outside of government or have been working in government for decades. These people are career politicians. They have absolutely no idea what life is like for average citizens like you and me. And yet, somehow we expect them to be the voice of the people. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out why Congress seems so out of touch.
2. You Must Have Been a Citizen for at Least Seven Years
A major part of the reason for this qualification is the fact that it protects us from foreign governments interfering with our government. Without this restriction, it would be much easier for another country to send a person over here to become a citizen and run for office with the intention of causing trouble.
But this qualification serves another purpose as well. It helps to ensure that any immigrants who choose to run for office have had at least seven years to get accustomed to how we do things in this country. Before someone can be capable of representing the American people, they need to understand our customs and our way of life.
Our Founders blessed us with the greatest system of government in history. But if we want to enjoy the benefits of that system, we have to elect representatives who know how our Constitution was intended to work.
That’s just common sense. If we repeatedly elect people who don’t understand our American form of governing and insist on implementing ideas that destroy freedom, it won’t matter much how well-designed our Constitution was originally.
Compare that to our current situation. Most members of Congress have absolutely no understanding of American history or the United States Constitution. In fact, many of them are hostile to both! For anyone who thinks I’m exaggerating, I submit Exhibit A:
3. You Must be an Inhabitant of the State in Which You Are Elected
The idea here was to make sure that our members of Congress have an attachment to the area they are representing and a personal interest in its future well-being.
Even though today’s members of Congress technically meet the requirement of being “inhabitants” of the states they are elected in, many of them have a much greater interest in the well-being of the Beltway Culture of Washington, D.C. than they do in their home districts. Because of that, they rarely bother to visit their local communities unless it’s time to campaign for re-election.
It’s amazing to me that we accept that type of behavior from our representatives. Remember, they are supposed to be our voice in the government. We ought to expect them to be back in their districts often and for them to be accessible to the people they represent. How can they possibly speak for us if they never get out of the Beltway bubble and listen to our concerns face-to-face?
The lesson here is simple. In order for our government to run properly, we need to expect our representatives to be people who have some real life experience, people who have a solid understanding of our traditions and our system of government, and people who are actually a part of the communities they represent.
I know this might seem trivial and nit-picky, but there are certain things that we absolutely must do if we want to stay free. We have to realize that freedom doesn’t just happen by accident. It has to be created intentionally and then vigorously defended.
In this section of the Constitution, the Founders are giving us some critical guidance on the minimum standards we should expect from the people who want to represent us. We would be wise to take their advice and expect at least that much from our members of Congress. After all, the government impacts every aspect of our lives in one way or another. If we want to have a quality government, we have to choose quality people to run it.
Chad Kent is an author and speaker with a unique style that makes the Constitution simple and fun. Listen to Chad every Saturday during The Chris Salcedo Show on TheBlaze Radio and visit his web site at www.ChadKentSpeaks.com.
Feature Image: Courtesy of author.
TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.