I heard a comment by Nancy Pelosi on the radio this morning. She was critiquing Republicans in Congress for not getting on board with some law that the Democrats were trying to pass. Towards the end of her statement she said, “Why don’t they want to do what is right? We need to do what is right for our country.” or something along those lines.
I thought to myself, “Wow, how far gone are we that the first thing our legislators think about when passing law is anything BUT what the Constitution says?”
I’m on a bit of a rant recently about the basic “job description” of government. It can be a bit infuriating sometimes to see how most people, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, the media, politicians themselves, and of course, American citizens discuss and debate politics on completely incorrect presuppositions.
Think about the debates surrounding who should be president. Most of the debates have nothing to do with what the president is actually tasked with doing. I wonder how a simple understanding of the job description of the president would change the conversation, debate and vitriol involved.
Today, I’m going to write a short and very simple post based on this supposition: we need to stop debating government action on any other terms than what the Constitution says.
So, when Nancy Pelosi said, “We need to do what is right,” the response from her fellow legislators should have been, “Who cares if its ‘right’, is it Constitutional?”
See, as Americans, we get so caught up in the emotions, ideology and moral “rightness” or “wrongness” of certain laws that we miss the most important question. Are those laws even legal in the first place? Are they Constitutional?
Thought Experiment: The Affordable Care Act
Let’s do a thought experiment. Think about your answers to these questions.
When the Affordable Care Act was first introduced and debated, what was the debate surrounding the Affordable Care Act?
What was your response to the Affordable Care Act? Did you support it? Why or why not?
Most Americans likely thought little to nothing about the Constitution when considering the Affordable Care Act. So, why was it so controversial?
According to research on this very question, many Americans did not approve of the Affordable Care Act. Partisan bickering was largely to blame.
Take a look at this quote by an academic, pulling on the heartstrings of her readers; “Our continued debate over the ACA means we still don’t recognize the role health care should play in ensuring no one falls through the cracks created by a world that is not yet fully geared towards generating health. The renewed attack on the ACA, much as it is unwelcome, is a chance for us to change how we talk about health, and address the core forces that make health care necessary in the first place.” Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH
Sounds really nice, doesn’t it? She spends the majority of her whole article arguing about why healthcare is so important and why Americans need to change the debate surrounding the Affordable Care Act.
I agree. Americans definitely need to change the debate. The debate needs to be about whether or not the government is legally, Constitutionally, allowed to pass such a law.
It may sound callous, it may sound hard, but frankly, none of what she argued above matters. Why?
Because who cares what we feel about a law, even what we think about law. Who cares about the moral goodness of a law, or the “rightness” of a law? You see, politicians are great at painting unconstitutional and unlawful behavior in a way that makes Americans feel compelled to support their unconstitutional behavior.
Our feelings, emotions, moral standings and the like, should have no bearing on our position concerning a certain law if the law is not constitutional.
It’s as simple as that.
So, we debate, we argue, politicians debate and argue, in vain because we’re debating something that should never be.
If the law is foundationally Constitutional, we have something to discuss, but if it is not (and most are not), there is no debate.
And if there is debate over an unconstitutional law, it should be will we allow government to have arbitrary and unlimited power or will we not?
The way politics works today is all wrong. Today, we see a problem, we think it needs to be fixed, we turn to government to fix it, never once considering whether or not such a problem is government’s to fix—whether or not such a problem is indeed within the Constitutional confines laid out in Article 1 of the Constitution.
Politicians love to act like the Constitution doesn’t exist and they assume we don’t think about it (because we don’t). They appeal to our emotions and our moral compass. They say things like Pelosi said, “We must do what is right”.
I challenge you. Stop and notice the way that politicians and even people in the media talk about politics. Do you they appeal to your emotions? Do they try to invoke the moral high ground? Do they insinuate that passing a certain law would be for the “good of the people”?
Then stop and notice how often they use the word Constitution. Likely never. Do they even pause to think if the new problem they are trying to solve is actually the federal government’s job to solve?
No, they likely don’t. It’s a very shortsighted approach to politics. How can we fix some problem now? Those who oppose fixing the problem are viewed as the villains who don’t care for society.
Let’s think about these decisions long term. If we allow Congress to pass and implement even one unconstitutional law, we’ve essentially acknowledged that the Constitution no longer matters. This means then, that government is confined by nothing, possesses arbitrary power, which means it possesses limitless power. The government can do whatever it deems “right” according to its own standards rather than that of the Constitution.
Once this happens, who’s to stop the government from passing a law “for the good of the people” that sends half the population to re-education camps?
Not the Constitution.
That was an extreme example to prove an extreme point. Until we stop operating in the realm of “feelings” and “emotions”, laws will always be about and be based upon just that… feelings and emotions. And friends, feelings and emotions change on every whim and go every which way, and there have been some very dangerous feelings and emotions that have led to some very dangerous laws.
I’ll leave you with this quote by Alexander Hamilton:
“There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act therefore contrary to the constitution can be valid. To deny this would be to affirm that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers may do not only what their powers do not authorise, but what they forbid.”
The Liberty Belle