- Wednesday, 19 October 2011 07:11
- Written by Mark Kreslins
This might seem like a ridicules question from the above average intelligence of one of the Forgotten Men. But is it really? Are you sure conservative and Constitutionalist mean the same?
I don't think so.
Having followed and been intimately involved in national politics for decades now, in my former years I would have thought that in all cases a Constitutionalist was the same as a conservative. I had my pocket Constitution ready to be pulled out at a moments notice. I even knew a little bit of the Declaration of Independence (though I would often mingle the Preamble of the Constitution with the Declaration of Independence). All in all, if you would have asked me in the 90's if I was an adherent to the Constitution, I would have looked at you as if you were from another planet...of course I was!
But, upon further examination, during my tenure on Capitol Hill as a Senior Legislative Assistant to two Members of Congress, I supported wildly extra-Constitutional legislation. I wrote position papers and letters attesting to this. My head was swollen with all the power and prestige that working in Congress affords a staff member. Following my time on Capital Hill, I went on to financially and materially support every extra-Constitutional republican candidate for President until 2008. Extra-Constitutional candidate for President...what's that? Well, think back to 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 and think of the policies of the candidate, regardless of the party. Medicare Part D, invading other sovereign countries without a Constitutional Declaration of War, debt ceiling increases, creation of departments, No-child left behind, etc. Yet, if you had asked if I was a Constitutionalist, again, I would have been stunned at the question.
Then I ran across a ideological changing article by the famous Dr. Walter E. Williams, Professor at George Mason University. The title of the article was "It's Time to Part Company" and it forced me to begin a process of rediscovery. A rediscovery that would eventually lead to me change my entire understanding of the 50 States, 13 of which the Framers referred to as the Union. This process also led me to no longer define myself as a conservative and instead a Constitutionalist in relation to the national government even though I remain conservative in my general views of governance. So what's the difference Mark...isn't this just semantics or a play on words? Not in the slightest, it defines how I look at Washington DC, the elected officials that ask for a vote to go there and the bureaucrats that occupy vast amounts of space there.
A Constitutionalist demands from elected officials 100% compliance with the limitations placed on them by the Constitution. No wiggle room just because they will vote for our favorite extra-constitutional program.
A Constitutionalist decides that the Constitution is not a living breathing document that entitles us to vote for politicians that will give us what we want; whether it be a new entitlement program, farm subsidy, war, or aircraft carrier.
A Constitutionalist is not impressed with a politicians claim to support the Constitution simply by carrying and whipping out the pocket Constitution at opportune times.
It is really that simple. A Constitutionalist demands allegiance to the Constitution, all the time, every time, every vote....no exceptions!
My road to rediscovery of the principles of liberty pronounced in the Declaration of Independence and codified in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights demanded a change to how I viewed national politics. I realized that my allegiance to the republican party had to be replaced with a new found commitment to dual federalism so eloquently described by the Father of the Constitution, James Madison in Federalist 45:
"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State."
Seriously, is it even remotely possible to believe that the federal (national) government thinks its powers are few and defined? If you believe so, then stop reading right here...you are not even close to becoming a Constitutionalist. A Constitutionalist must support dual federalism...it is a defining characteristic.
The national government is completely out of control, and I cannot emphasize out of control enough and as a former conservative I contributed to its current status.
While working in Congress, I drank in the power and prestige of the position I held. I felt empowered to suggest any legislative idea I could come up with or be talked into by a special interest group. I went to reception after reception, at times five nights a week being wined and dined by those who wanted me to "suggest" to my boss how to vote on a certain project or bill that was coming to committee or the floor. Not once, and I'm ashamed to admit this in writing, but not once during my tenure in Congress did I or anyone in my office ever pause and ask ourselves whether a piece of legislation was "Constitutional!" Not once!
And yet I would defend to my last word that I was a conservative; of course I was! I supported Reagan, worked on presidential campaigns, rode in George Bush Sr's motorcade, interacted with the Secret Service on numerous occasions, met face-to-face with George Bush Jr. believed we needed to attack Iraq in Kuwait, Granada, Panama, Korea, Iraq again, Afghanistan, Vietnam even though we attacked everyone of them without a Constitutionally required declaration of war. Not to worry, we had the War Powers Act to fall back on I'd say.
Farm subsidies, transportation projects, Medicare Part D, Jack Kemp's Enterprise Zones, strengthening Social Security, Medicare...yep, that was absolutely the role of government. An explosion in military spending, why, what's a few billion here and there even if the program was not even being asked for by DoD, after all, to be a conservative meant no military expenditure was ever allowed to be questioned. If you did, your allegiance to the conservative movement would be suspect.
Even though I knew Washington DC was broken all the while, my Congressman, well he/she was one of the "good guys." As a campaign operative and legislative staff member, I'd count on a portion of the party to elevate my boss, the Congressman, to near rock-star status. We needed groupies or how else would we be able to hold on to our positions of power. Angling for that new Committee seat was the goal...fidelity to the Constitution, well everything we were doing was constitutional; right? The nine black robes on the Supreme Court either said so or would stop us if we weren't.
And the deception continued unabated and continues even to this day by some of my friends who identify themselves as conservatives. The reality is this; both ideologies behind our national politics, conservative/liberal, rarely if ever, uphold the Constitution. This is why I no longer identify myself as a "conservative." Conservative has come to mean big government with a conservative bent to national governance. It certainly cannot be defined by adherence to the Constitution.
Talk-radio, the very medium of communication currently I find myself in adds to the deception. Day after day for literally hours upon hours we're told it is the liberals against the conservatives. Those scoundrels on the left, well all they want is a dictatorship or those dirty rat conservatives all they want to do is invade another country or rip an entitlement program from the mouths of seniors or infants! Neither side pauses and ponders the real problem; the national government that has been created and supported by conservatives and liberals alike, for generations now, have enabled both side to have this great "war if ideas." To be frank, most self identified conservatives and liberals are being used as pawns by political elitists to gain power for four, six or eight years and stick it to the other side with conservative or liberal ideas cloaking it in the Constitution when needed in order to advance their ideas. Yet, by any rudimentary assessment, 90% of what Washington DC does on any give day cannot be found anywhere in the 7 Articles of the Constitution. That is unless you are bent on growing a national government which I might add was an idea most of the Founders and Framers would be appalled at.
But this is the conundrum we find ourselves in during the infancy of the 21st century.
The antiseptic to this conundrum is NOT GETTING OUR GUY ELECTED PRESIDENT! Should you continue this thinking, you will join the leagues of people who will sit by and fiddle while Rome burns. Believe me, right now every campaign, whether liberal or conservative is expecting, anticipating your commitment to past behaviors. They are expecting you to be insane as in doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.
No the real antiseptic is dual federalism as the Framers understood it when they adopted the Constitution in 1787 and the States ratified it in 1788. If this salve is not applied to the open, festering, and expanding wound of the battle for power some call democracy, I predict either secession or a civil war on the horizon. There is no bridge available that will span the gulf between the two ideologies, conservative/liberal, left/right. The Framers had it right and Reagan echoed it when he offered that people should be able to vote with their feet:
"Your generation is being wooed by many who charge this way we have known is inadequate to meet the challenges of our times. They point to the unsolved problems of poverty and prejudice as proof of the system's failure.
As students, you have a duty to research to find if the failure is one of system - or is it the inadequacy of human nature?
You should also inquire if those who would replace the system have anything to offer in exchange other than untried theory packaged as Utopia. It sometimes seems strange that what is so often described, as the brave new world of the future must be upheld by the collectivist philosophy of nineteenth century theorists like Rousseau, Fourier and Marx.
You have lived your entire lives in a governmental framework tending ever more toward the welfare state and centralism. We still have government of the people, by the people and for the people, but there seems to be a lot more of ''for'' the people and less ''of'' and ''by''. This is justified on the claim that society has grown so complex we can no longer afford too much individual freedom.
To invoke ''states' rights'' is to be suspect of wanting to deny ''human rights'', and similar charges of selfishness greet any attack on the tendency of government to grow, but more particularly when attention is called to failures by government in the field of human welfare.
But you are students and therefore engaged in a search for truth.
Has the idea of a federation of sovereign states been proven unworkable because here and there selfish individuals used state government to impose on the freedom of some? Isn't there something to be said for a system wherein people can vote with their feet if government becomes too oppressive? Let a state pile on taxes beyond a bearable limit and business and industry start moving out and the people follow.
Let us think very carefully before switching to a system in which these states become administrative districts enforcing uniform laws and regulations." Ronald Reagan, 1967 Landon Lecture
Simply put, dual federalism allows you to move to and live under the type of governance you desire, not forced to live under a national one controlled by whomever is in power at any given time. The reality is, in dual federalism, your ability to influence your elected officials and create the type of governance that best fits your ideology or beliefs is MUCH GREATER than the national government approach we have now. Do you agree?
Do you want to display a Creche or Menorah at your county office or State Capital? Dual federalism offers you the ability to do so.
Do you want to offer cradle to grave entitlement programs for the people you believe deserve it? Dual federalism offers you the ability to do so.
Do you want green technology to be the standard by which everyone must live? Dual federalism offers you the ability to do so.
Want open carry gun laws? Dual federalism offers you the ability to do so?
Want to stop the Westboro Baptist Church from protesting at a soldiers grave site in your state? Dual federalism offers you the ability to do so.
So, will you continue the charade or join with a growing number of people across the country, both left an right (by the way, please don't buy into a knee-jerk reaction to the Occupy Movement) who want what the Founders and their generation shed blood for in 1776 and the Framers attempted to codify in 1787? Will you shed your label conservative or liberal and replace it with Constitutionalist? Will you pledge your allegiance to the dual federalism of the Constitution, all the time, every time, every vote...no exceptions?
If you will, then we're one person closer to the antiseptic and one step farther away from secession or a civil war.