By Publius Huldah.
It is a cliché to speak of “spineless Republicans”-google spineless republicans and you will see. They talk “conservative” when they campaign; but once in office, they go along with the progressive agenda. That agenda is to grow the federal government until it controls every aspect of our lives.
Why don’t they oppose the progressive agenda? 1
Rush Limbaugh says they don’t oppose it because they want to be invited to the right parties and praised in the liberal media.
But on this, our Rush is wrong. Rush is a man of Principles; but he doesn’t understand the Constitution. So he doesn’t see that the spineless ones also don’t understand it; and that their failure to oppose the progressives stems from their lack of any Standard to guide them.
In other words, the spineless Republicans don’t know what the alternative is to the progressive agenda. They don’t know that Our Constitution created a Congress with limited and enumerated powers. They don’t know that the President’s powers are “carefully limited; both in … extent and …duration” 2 They don’t understand that limited civil government is morally superior to a fascist dictatorship. Since they don’t understand these things, they are buffeted here and there by winds which progressives blow.
Spineless Republicans are “nice”. They are “patriotic”. And that’s it. But they are men of straw because they stand for nothing. They have no Standard to guide them. So they go with the flow.
There IS a Chart and Compass for Us to Embrace Which would Make Us Strong & Bold!
Daniel Webster 3 reportedly said:
We may be tossed upon an ocean where we can see no land nor, perhaps, the sun and stars. But there is a chart and a compass for us to study, to consult, and to obey. The chart is the Constitution.
The Bible, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are the Rock on which Our Country was built. Courage and Strength arise from faithfulness to Fixed Principles. It is the man with no Principles who is blown here and there by prevailing winds. 4 Strong People – people who are able to stand alone and speak Truth – are strong because of their uncompromising adherence to Principles.
Anyone who is willing to make the modest effort required to obtain a working knowledge of the Constitution would become able to stand up to the progressives and defeat them. But we must first root out of ourselves the false notion that our own ideas on what the federal government should do are “important”! We must learn that in such matters, we must adhere to a Standard – the Constitution – which transcends our own precious selves with our “views”, “opinions”, and “thoughts”. This is what Daniel Webster is telling us.
Politicians May Not Substitute Their Personal Views for The Constitution!
This is what our Framers said:
“…whensoever the general government [federal government] assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force…” Thomas Jefferson, The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, 1st Resolution.
“…On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed…” Thomas Jefferson’s letter of June 12, 1823 to William Johnson (6th para from end)
“…the way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to. Let the national government be entrusted with the defence of the nation, and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, laws, police, and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each ward direct the interests within itself. It is by dividing and subdividing these republics from the great national one down through all its subordinations, until it ends in the administration of every man’s farm by himself; by placing under every one what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best. What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and power into one body…” Thomas Jefferson’s letter of Feb. 2, 1816 to Joseph C. Cabell (1st para). [boldface added]
The Economics Department at George Mason University provides these quotes (among others) on its page, Constitutional Limitations on Government:
“Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.” –Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Albert Gallatin, 1817
“We must confine ourselves to the powers described in the Constitution, and the moment we pass it, we take an arbitrary stride towards a despotic Government.” — James Jackson, First Congress, 1st Annals of Congress, 489
“[T]he powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only operate in certain cases; it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction.” — James Madison, Speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 6, 1788
“The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.” — James Madison, speech in the House of Representatives, January 10, 1794
“When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.” –Thomas Jefferson to Charles Hammond,1821.
Do you see? Politicians, judges and officers have NO RIGHT to implement their own ideas of what the federal government should do.
But Today, Everyone Does What is Right in his Own Eyes. 5
Today, it doesn’t occur to us that we must look to the Constitution to see what the federal government is permitted to do. This was illustrated on Greta van Susteren’s show (Fox News) when she asked her guests whether a legislator should vote his conscience or the way his constituents tell him to vote.
On December 18, 2009, Dick Morris mentioned that Sen. Ben Nelson (D.) was under pressure from his constituents to oppose the healthcare bill. Greta (a lawyer) asked Dick whether Nelson was “elected to exercise his judgment as to what is the best thing to do, or was he elected … to carry out what the voters want”.
Dick answered that if it is an issue “where … the voters are not as … informed as he might be … he might say, I’m going to exercise my better judgment. But when you’re dealing with something as intimate as … health care … when your constituents … are saying … don’t do this, you ought to listen.”
On February 26, 2010, Greta asked Charles Krauthammer whether people we send to Congress should “vote their conscience or ours?” Krauthammer answered, “that’s the great question since Edmund Burke. He thought you should represent your conscience or your conception of what the national need is.” Krauthammer went on to say that he thinks Obama is “allowed to go ahead” with health care, and that he respects “the president’s right or ability or notion that he needs to act in the national interests as he sees it”.
Do you see? None of them understand that it is a politician’s sworn duty to obey the Constitution regardless of what he thinks or his constituents want. Van Susteren, Morris and Krauthammer thus display the existentialist mindset: That there is no objective standard outside of our own subjective “views”; and the one with the power gets to decide for all of us on the basis of his subjective views.
But that is precisely what Our Constitution was designed to protect us from: individual men imposing their subjective views on the rest of us. That is why the powers which Our Constitution does grant to the three branches of the federal government – legislative, executive, and judicial – are strictly limited and defined.
In Federalist No. 78 (5th para from the end), Alexander Hamilton addresses the precise issue raised by van Susteren. After stating the principle that the people have the right to change the established Constitution, he says:
…yet it is not to be inferred from this principle, that the representatives of the people, whenever a momentary inclination happens to lay hold of a majority of their constituents, incompatible with the provisions in the existing Constitution, would, on that account, be justifiable in a violation of those provisions; or that the courts would be under a greater obligation to connive at infractions in this shape, than when they had proceeded wholly from the cabals of the representative body. Until the people have, by some solemn and authoritative act, annulled or changed the established form, it is binding upon themselves collectively, as well as individually; and no presumption, or even knowledge, of their sentiments, can warrant their representatives in a departure from it, prior to such an act…
Do you see? But those threedon’t see; and with their words, they undermine Our Constitution, the concept of Enumerated Powers – that the federal government may do only what the Constitution permits them to do, and the Rule of Law – that the people in the government must obey The Constitution, not the “momentary inclination” of their constituents or their own “conception” of what is right.
Ignorance is destroying us. PH
1 Some Republicans are not spineless – they are committed Progressives.
2 James Madison, Federalist No. 48 (5th para).
3 The quote is generally attributed to Daniel Webster. If you see it in an online scholarly collection, please send the link.
4 Senator Bob Dole (R) illustrates this. He carried the Tenth Amendment in his pocket; yet one of his proudest achievements was passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act! Where does the Constitution authorize Congress to make that law?
Speaker John Boehner doesn’t know that the Constitution sets the agenda for the Country; and that it is the enumerated powers which limit Congress’ spending. That is why he can’t control the spending even though the House Republicans have the power to do it now.
5 See Judges 17:6 & 21:25. This part of the history of the Israelites shows that when there were no judges to teach and enforce The Law, everybody did that which in his own eyes seemed right, and the Israelites suffered dreadfully. But when they had a good judge who enforced The Law (e.g., Deborah), they were able to defeat their enemies and then enjoy peace (5:31). Do you see the parallel? PH
January 28, 2010
Erratum: I originally stated that Krauthammer is a lawyer. That may be incorrect. Thanks to the kind reader who pointed this out. Jan 31, 2012.
By Publius Huldah.
In a previous paper, I explained the shift from the philosophy of our Framers, which was based on Logic, Fixed Principles & Judeo/Christian Morality, to the pragmatist/existentialist mindset of today. With our mindset of today, we are “freed” from the notion that some things are True, other things are False; some things are Right, other things are Wrong; and that there exist fixed Standards and Principles – such as the U.S. Constitution and the moral laws – to which we must conform.
Today, we have nothing to guide us but our own feelings: “I like it”, “I don’t like it”, “I agree”, “I don’t agree”, I “believe” or “I don’t believe”. That is the essence of the existentialist mindset: we make “choices” on the basis of no standard except for what we “like”. Or don’t like. When people disagree, those with The Power decide – on the basis of what they like.
Our politicians ignore Our Constitution. They do whatever they want. Every day, the President violates the Constitution he swore to protect; and Congress does nothing about it. How could Congress do anything about it? Since they too abandoned the Constitution, they have no Objective Standard by which to judge the President. All they can say is, “I don’t agree”.
And WE THE PEOPLE don’t hold our politicians accountable for their violations of Our Constitution. We keep re-electing them! Why? Because we too have abandoned the Standard by which to judge their acts: Have you read Our Declaration of Independence and Our Constitution? Do you understand the concepts of “enumerated powers”, “federalism” and “rule of law”?
Our Existentialist U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio
All our politicians fall short of the mark. None of them seem to understand that they are obligated to obey Our Constitution; and that they have no right to elevate into law their own personal views. They all illustrate the intellectual and moral collapse of our time – even the charismatic Tea Party darling, Sen. Marco Rubio (R, Fl). Consider his speech of August 2, 2011 before the Senate. 1 You can read it here, and watch it here.
A few paragraphs into his speech, Rubio says:
I would remind many like myself that were elected in the last election cycle, tightly embracing the principles of our Constitution… [boldface added]
Oh! A tea party candidate who will “tightly embrac[e] the principles of our Constitution”! We in the Tea Party are all for that, aren’t we?
But then, Rubio goes on to speak of the dispute “between two very different visions of America’s future”.
One group, Rubio tells us, “believe that the job of government is [to] deliver us economic justice, which basically means: an economy where everyone does well or as well as possibly can be done.”
The other group believes “it’s not the government’s job to guarantee an outcome but to guarantee the opportunity to fulfill your dreams and hopes.”
He’s doing OK so far. But then, he goes on to say, respecting the two views: “By the way, one [is] not more or less patriotic than the other.” And, “One is not more moral than the other.” 2
No Moral Distinctions?
WHAT? He sees no moral distinction between, on the one hand, a government which takes – by force – property from one group of people and gives it to other people to whom it does not belong; and, on the other hand, the free country with a federal government of limited and enumerated powers created by Our Constitution? No moral distinction between legalized plunder and a federal government which respects the private property of The People? 3
When one abandons the moral Principle, “Thou shalt not steal”; then there is no impediment to stealing – assuming you have the power to do it. So, stealing is just fine when the federal government does it – because they have the power to do it.
Making a Choice – By What Criteria?
Rubio goes on to say:
…America is divided on this point … we must decide …what kind of government do we want to have and what role do we want it to have in America’s future.
Folks! WE THE PEOPLE have already decided this issue: Our decision is enshrined in Our Constitution – the Constitution whose Principles Rubio promised to “tightly embrace”. Our Constitution does not permit the federal government to rob Peter to pay Paul.
Besides, on what basis would we decide? Rubio has already told us that there are no moral distinctions between a government which robs Peter to pay Paul, and a government which respects the private property of Peter. Rubio has already told us that those who advocate legalized plunder are “patriots” to the same extent as those who oppose such plunder.
So! If there are no moral distinctions between the two “very different visions”, and we all go along with Rubio’s abandonment of his promise to “tightly embrace” the Principles of the Constitution, then on what basis do we decide? We have no basis for making a decision other than our own “likes” and “dislikes”.
And THAT is the existentialist mindset. A mind “freed” from all standards other than, “I want” or “I don’t want”. “I like” or “I don’t like”.
So! Now that Rubio has come to the point where the only standard is what we “like” and “don’t like”, he tells us what he likes:
I believe and we believe in a safety net program, programs that exist to help those who cannot help themselves and to help those who have tried but failed to stand up and try again, but not safety net programs that function as a way of life…
WHERE does the Constitution permit the federal government to redistribute peoples’ private property? WHO can lay his finger on that Provision of the Constitution which authorizes the safety net programs Rubio “believes in”? 4
Rubio told us near the beginning of his speech that he was elected on the basis that he would “tightly embrace” the principles of the Constitution. Doesn’t “morality” require him to live up to his promise? Well, if stealing is OK, then breaking your Word must be OK as well.
And who decides whether we continue these “safety net programs” Rubio “believes in”? People in Congress like Rubio and Rep. Pete Stark (D. Ca.) voting for what they “believe in” – the Constitution be damned? 5
And as to THE PEOPLE who don’t want to be robbed to pay for other peoples’ handouts, and who object to being enslaved so that Rubio can continue safety nets he “believes in”: Rubio has stripped them of any moral or legal basis for objecting.
How to Fix This
I do not accuse Rubio of being a bad person. But he has absorbed the prevailing dogma of our time – existentialism – and may not even be aware of it. The first task of man is this: Ask yourself, “What do I believe, and why do I believe it?” You may find that you believe it for no other reason than that you have always believed it. 6
And as a People, we have lost the ability to think and to analyze. Rubio’s speech [like the speeches of all politicians] reflects this inability to think and to analyze, as well as an existentialist mindset. If he had argued from Principle – if he had applied the Constitution he promised to embrace – he would have said that Our Constitution prohibits Congress from spending money on anything other than its enumerated powers. If he understood “federalism”, he would have understood that the power to create “safety nets” is reserved to The States or to THE PEOPLE. If he understood “the rule of law”, he would have understood that the obligation of people in Congress is to obey the Constitution.
And WE THE PEOPLE must return to our Founding Principles. We must start choosing our candidates on the basis of their conformity to our Founding Principles – not good looks and charm. We in the Tea Party are every bit as silly as the foolish Democrats & Independents who voted for Obama for the reason that he too was good-looking and charismatic. PH
1 I focus on Marco Rubio because he – like all other politicians – illustrates the philosophical problems of which I write; and some are presenting him as the “ideal” running mate for the winner of the Republican nomination.
2 Rush Limbaugh understands that Rubio’s words reveal his moral blindness. I first heard of Rubio’s speech on Rush’s show.
3 Frederic Bastiat’s essay, “The Law”, explains the evil of legalized plunder and the moral superiority of limited civil government. It is one of the masterworks of Western civilization, and the best thing to ever come out of France. It is clear, and easy to understand. Someone! Give Rubio a copy!
4 Our beloved James Madison, Father of the U.S. Constitution, couldn’t find the provisions either. He said:
The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government. — James Madison, speech in the House of Representatives, January 10, 1794 [boldface added].
The Economics Department at George Mason University provides this quote (among many wonderful others) on its page, Constitutional Limitations on Government.
5 Watch this magnificent woman point out to Congressman Pete Stark that obamacare makes SLAVES – in violation of the 13th Amendment – of those who are forced to provide medical care to others. And watch Stark ignore her moral and constitutional argument against slavery and tell his constituents that “the federal government can do most anything”.
6A bit of personal history illustrates this point: I was raised a secular humanist by parents who were secular humanists. When not much older than Rubio, I asked a Christian pastor, “How can you believe all that stuff?” He answered, “I have preconceptions; you have preconceptions. Examine yours.” I did. And discovered that I was a secular humanist simply because I had always been a secular humanist. I had never examined it. When I examined it, I found there was no evidence to support my world view. So! I abandoned it and learned a new world view based on Fixed Principles – those laws which are woven into the Fabric of Reality.
Let us pray that Sen. Rubio will do the same, and consign his existentialist worldview to the trashcan (where it belongs). The Laws of Morality and the Laws of Logic are among those Laws woven into the Fabric of Reality. And he promised to “tightly embrac[e] the principles of our Constitution”! PH
January 10, 2012; revised Jan. 12, 2012