Constitution Day, which falls on September 17, is the national observance holiday that most Americans have never heard of. Yet this year, 2018, it may well be our most important holiday. For the Constitution is threatened more now than at any time since seven southern states seceded from the Union and Civil War broke out on April 12, 1861.
To understand the present peril, it’s worth going back in time to appreciate how the Constitution was conceived as both the founding and governing instrument for the United States.
The War of Independence lasted five long years from 1776 to 1781, with the impoverished colonial army being mostly on the defensive. It was a miracle that this small and rather disorganized American militia could defeat Great Britain — then the most formidable military power in the world.
The second miracle in the formation of the United States was in the drafting of the Constitution some years after the final and decisive military victory over the British at Yorktown in 1781. By contemporary standards, it is inconceivable how delegates from 13 extraordinarily disparate states could muster the forbearance and magnanimity to agree on the terms of a new Constitution after only four months of deliberation.
But even as good as that Constitution was, it had to be ratified by the states to become the law of the land. Several states withheld support out of fear the Constitution did not adequately protect citizens and states from the inevitable overreach and corruption of federal government power. In order to win over the hold-outs — the large and influential states of Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts — Patrick Henry, George Mason, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock were among those who helped each of the three states to ratify the Constitution on the condition of adding to the legal document ten amendments called the Bill of Rights, which defined citizens’ and states’ rights.
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were revolutionary political doctrines because they clearly delineated citizens’ rights and established that these rights came from God and not the state. These rights being then sovereign and unalienable, the people are in charge and government is to serve them — not the other way around.
The genius of the Constitution was that it limited government abuse by creating checks and balances of power between three separate but equal branches of government — the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The Constitution also separated power between the federal and state governing authorities.
Frequent elections established by the Constitution provided yet another check to limit the extent and duration of government incompetence and corruption. This also meant that the most sacred responsibility of citizenship established by the Constitution was and is the right of the people to vote and decide who shall govern.
This combination of limiting governmental power and maximizing peoples’ rights makes the U.S. Constitution unique and led to the U.S becoming the longest-running constitutional democratic republic in history. These constraints on government by the Constitution also empowered Americans to exercise their freedom and ingenuity to create and build — driving the United States from colonial poverty to world economic superpower in just 200 years.
The Constitution makes it clear that everyone — whether in the public or private sector — is equal before the law. Additionally, every elected federal government office holder, judicial appointee, and executive branch cabinet secretary is required to pledge an oath before assuming office, to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
So it comes as an unprecedented shock to learn that a significant number of high-ranking U.S. Government officials — most appointed during the Obama administration — betrayed their oaths of office and refused to accept the will of the people manifest in Trump’s 304 electoral college vote victory over Clinton’s 227 votes. A new civil war has begun, but it is very different from the one fought 157 years ago.
The Report from the Inspector General of the Justice Department, testimonies and documents of subpoenaed government officials, and reams of government documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act lawsuits provide overwhelming evidence that the Director of National Intelligence, the Directors of both the CIA and the FBI, along with a number of high-ranking subordinates, and top officials in the Justice Department, took concerted actions to undermine candidate Donald Trump leading up to the November 2016 election. The FBI and the Justice Departments were politically weaponized and FISA courts were repeatedly deceived in an unprecedented effort to destroy a presidential candidate and throw the election to the opponent.
When that failed and Trump was elected, this same cabal continued undeterred in concerted actions to undermine the duly elected president — only now those actions were tantamount to a coup d’état.
The Constitution was designed and drafted in such a way as to prevent coup-like conditions from ever developing in the U.S. If voting is the sacred right and responsibility of citizenship, elections and honest vote counting are the sacrosanct mechanism for establishing the legitimacy of government. Voter fraud or nullifying an election by coup are a betrayal of the Constitution and represent the highest crimes and misdemeanors.
Donald Trump’s persona and style have remained reasonably consistent since he began campaigning. But the frenzy to trash Trump keeps escalating, notwithstanding significant accomplishments in his first 20 months in office, which have greatly improved the economy and restored America’s respect on many fronts of the world stage. There is clearly more going on than disagreement with policy choices and dislike of personality.
In spite of the inscription “Equal Justice Under Law” carved in stone on the front of the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., no president in recent memory has taken this societal ideal very seriously. That is, until Donald Trump became president in 2017.
Without much fan-fare, on December 21, 2017 Trump signed Executive Order 13818, which authorizes the blocking or freezing of any property of persons involved in serious human rights abuse or corruption. Two months later on March 1, 2018, he signed Executive Order 13823, which provides for enhanced judicial proceedings for U.S. officials and civilians involved in high crimes.
President Trump’s specific strengthening of the law and his frequent invocations to hold corrupt government elites accountable, just as everyday citizens are held accountable before the same laws, explains why Trump is both hated and feared by the deep state.
Trump is vilified by the national media more than any prior president for the simple reason that he unrelentingly exposes the media’s dishonesty, double standards, and bias. As a result, more people than ever now understand the “fake news” phenomenon.
Additional accomplishments for which Trump deserves recognition on Constitution Day include his success in appointing a large number of outstanding constitutionalist jurists to the high courts — perhaps his most important contribution to strengthening the Constitution. That also deepens the bench needed to adjudicate the considerable number of cases of people from high places who committed crimes — apparently assuming they were above the law or that their actions would never see the light of day after crooked Hillary won.
There is reason to take heart this Constitution Day. The frenzy against President Trump is probably a contrary indicator, with the panic getting more animated and louder as the day of legal reckoning gets closer.
Constitution Day is an occasion to remember that equal justice under the law is the standard, that we the people are in charge, and that the federal government should answer to us, and not the other way around.
Scott Powell is senior fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle and managing partner of RemingtonRand LLC, a recruiting consultancy for AM Law 100 firms. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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