How The Constitution Should Influence the 2016 Election

by contributing author

Dr. James Harlanimage

We are in the midst of an election cycle in which the two parties could not possibly be more opposed. On virtually every single issue, one party’s view is the exact opposite of the other party’s view. There is almost zero room for compromise. One party wants to abolish abortion, the other wants to increase access to abortion and extend the time frame in which it is legal. How do you compromise on that? Only allow abortion in odd-numbered years? One party wants to expand gun rights, the other would gladly send the police door-to-door to round up all the guns if they thought they could get away with it. How can you compromise? One party wants to abolish government-funded healthcare, the other wants to not only expand it, but to establish it as the only healthcare. How can you compromise? One party wants to deal with the national debt by cutting spending and decreasing taxes, the other wants to raise taxes and increase spending. We couldn’t possibly be more opposite.

At the end of the day, when two views are completely opposed, only one can be right—or at least, more right. So how do we decide? Fortunately, the Founding Fathers saw this moment coming. They were all educated people who had experienced firsthand what happens when a government becomes corrupt. The greatest empires in history—including the British Empire which the colonists overthrew—all became corrupt or too big to sustain themselves and eventually failed. Likewise, the Founding Fathers knew that, given enough time, the United States government could become corrupt. Hard to believe, I know. So, rather than doom future generations to a violent revolution, they decided to create a list of rules constraining the government, and a list of rights granted to the citizens which could not be constrained by the government. In so doing, they provided us a document—in essence, a rule book—to define what is “right.” Or at least, what is legal. They outlined the structure of the central government, and more importantly, the rights of the people. The latter subject is defined in the Bill of Rights, the former in the Constitution. Our government was never intended to be strong, and it was never intended to rule We the People. It was never intended to provide for us, nor to take from us (other than what it needed to carry out its day-to-day work). However, with each new administration and each new Congressional session, the government has grown. New laws are enacted while old ones remain on the books. The government creates new departments without removing existing ones. And every year the budget increases. The government we have today is vastly different from the one established in the late 1700’s.

Which brings us to our present conflicts. Today we really have two separate conflicts going on in politics, which many people (myself included) often forget to separate. One is the argument about what is ethically and morally just, and the other is about what is legal. Each party demonizes the other using a different argument. Unfortunately, what is legal is not always morally just, and vice versa. Is it moral to split apart immigrant families and deport those that are here illegally? No. Is it legal? Yes. Is it moral for evil people with no criminal or mental health records to buy guns and use them to kill others? No. Is it legal? Well, up until the killing part, yes. Is it moral to have an abortion? Many would argue that it is not. But is it legal? Yes. What we have to realize is that our government is not in the business of deciding what is moral and immoral. This is why we have religion and a conscience. The government is only in the business of deciding what is legal. The Founding Fathers were mostly religious people, and all of them assumed that the average American citizen would let their religion or their conscience be their guide. Boy were they wrong.

So, let’s simplify matters, and take both arguments separately. Setting aside morality for a moment, let’s examine just the legal argument. The Republicans argue that it is not legal, and that the federal government has no authority, to provide or mandate healthcare coverage. They are right. Nowhere in the Constitution is the government granted this power. Likewise, nowhere in the Bill of Rights are citizens granted the right to be provided with healthcare. Democrats demonize Republicans for being elitists and not caring about the millions of Americans with no access to healthcare, but they are using the moral argument. Republicans are against government healthcare because of the legal argument. It is illegal. Period.

Republicans—or at least, most of them—support gun rights. They support the 2nd Amendment. Most Democrats oppose it. Democrats appeal to our emotions, and they accuse Republicans and the NRA of not caring about the children dying in our schools. Again, this is a moral argument. Republicans support the legal precedent set by the Bill of Rights. Is it legal for the government to infringe on our right to bear arms? Let’s examine the text of the 2nd Amendment: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” No, it is illegal. Period.

The concept of “political correctness” has run amuck in recent years. College campuses and even some city governments (I’m looking at you, San Francisco) are now declaring which gender pronouns are accepted, which flags are not allowed to be flown, and what qualifies as “hate speech.” Individual special interest groups are declaring everything that does not sync up with their views to be “offensive,” and offensive language is being virtually banned from social media, Hollywood, schools, workplaces, etc. It seems any statement today can be misconstrued by somebody to be offensive, and therefore, not allowed. And, in an effort to appear inclusive, many entities—most notably colleges and primary schools—are cracking down on “offensive speech.” Of course, what constitutes offensive speech can apparently only be defined by those whom it offends. It comes as no surprise that the liberals and progressives in our society have jumped all over this bandwagon, and it is largely conservatives who are portrayed as racists and bigots and told to eliminate “hate speech,” whatever that might mean today. Is this legal? I believe the Founding Fathers can help us here, too. The 1st Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Granted, the restriction specifically applies to Congress, not local governments, but the right itself is granted to The People. And any right granted to The People cannot be overridden, by any other group of people or municipality. It is illegal. Period.

Many issues of today can easily be solved by looking at the Constitution or the Bill of Rights for the legal answer to the question. This is why we have a Supreme Court. The problem arises when the line between what is legal and what is moral become blurred, and there is no specific mention in our founding documents. Take, for example, abortion. The act of abortion is something that the Founding Fathers could never have imagined. Nobody in their time had even thought of it. Abortion was officially deemed legal by the Supreme Court on January 22nd, 1973, based on a vague interpretation of abortion as being somehow related to medical privacy issues and due process under the 14th Amendment, and based on an interpretation of the 9th Amendment, which states, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” In other words, the Supreme Court didn’t actually say abortion is legal, they just said that it isn’t illegal. And it isn’t illegal because it didn’t exist when the United States was formed, so it falls under the vague “other rights retained by the people” clause of the 9th Amendment. Therefore, it is purely a moral argument, and we really should write legislation either specifically allowing it or specifically prohibiting it, rather than continuing in this gray area of “it is legal only because it isn’t illegal.” That’s a job for the next administration.

Marriage is a similar issue. Like abortion, the Founding Fathers never fathomed the concept of gay marriage. It simply didn’t exist in the 1700’s. They just assumed—like we all did up until about the 1980’s—that marriage is between one man and one woman. Republicans largely support this definition of marriage. Democrats largely support legalizing gay marriage, which they recently accomplished through the Supreme Court using a similar judicial precedent as abortion: it’s legal because it isn’t illegal. And, like abortion, the problem lies in the fact that nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government granted the power to define, legalize, illegalize, or otherwise say anything about marriage. Well then, who is? The Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, wrote the 10th Amendment for this reason: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Is it legal for the federal government to define marriage? No, it is illegal. Period. Whatever your views on gay marriage, the power to legalize it lies with the States or with the people. Not with the federal government or even the Supreme Court. Again, we have a purely moral argument, with no real legal guidance.

The problem with morality is that there is no one, single source for determining what is moral and what is immoral. It used to be that people were guided by their religions. Of course, now we live in a brave new world of progressivism, secularism, and political correctness, so our society can’t rely on religion to guide us anymore. Plus, our country was founded on the strict principle of separation of Church and State, a principle which I support. So how do we decide what is moral? I think in the case of determining morality for society, we have to look at nature. Since it is typically the progressive left that likes to think of humans as simply another species of mammal, formed by evolutionary processes, then this view should make sense to them. Is there any species of mammal that purposely kills its offspring while still in the womb? Is there any species of mammal where an individual willingly refuses to procreate with a member of the opposite gender and pass on their genes to the next generation, instead deciding to settle down with another individual of the same gender? After four years of studying biology in college, I can’t think of a single instance where this was the case. Therefore, in cases where there is no legal definition of morality, if it isn’t natural, then it probably isn’t something we should be encouraging our society to accept. At the very least, we should follow the 10th Amendment and leave it up to the States. Just because the citizens of the Democratic People’s Republik of Kalifornia want to legalize abortion and gay marriage, doesn’t mean the rest of America does.

Going through every important issue of the day in this manner could fill an entire book, so I won’t. My point is, in this election cycle, we as a people have to remember what the government is supposed to do, not what we want the government to do. Free college tuition and healthcare sound great, but the Constitution was written specifically to prevent the government from being powerful enough to do this and many other things the liberal left want this year, lest it become too big to sustain itself. I’m not saying the Republicans have the best answer on every issue, but at least what they want is more in line with what the Founding Fathers had envisioned.

Remember: A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything you have.

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