Thursday, May 5, 2016

What is America?

With the devastating news of Senator Ted Cruz's exit from the Republican primary race still sinking in, I and other reflective conservative voters are faced with a serious dilemma. What do we vote for, come November? For whose cause, if any, will we fight? I myself do not yet know what I shall do in November -- Sanders's platform is frankly nonviable and, for a conservative, entirely unthinkable; Clinton's promise of yet more failed Obama-esque policies, not to mention her own sordid background, is absolutely alarming; and Trump's falsely conservative, violent, singularly empty rhetoric and his personality as a vulgar, classless bully have no place in the Oval Office. But in the meantime, I at least know the central reason for which I will vote (or not) for any specific candidate. It boils down to one question: what, in its very essence, is the United States of America?

Many people choose "their issues" when going to the polls -- one person votes primarily based on economics, another on foreign policy, yet another on social issues. And those things are certainly important. The nation is in a staggering amount of debt, with domestic industry that is becoming almost non-existent and a job market that has long been in serious decline. ISIS continues to bring havoc to the Middle East and terror to the West, and tyrants like Putin and Kim Jong-un flex their muscles with impunity while Western nations, America in the lead, stand limply on the sidelines. Religious groups -- primarily Christian religious groups -- are slowly but surely being targeted in the never-ending march toward misconstrued "equality," everyone who happens to disagree with another's ideology or way of life are labelled something ending in "-phobe" (though "everyone", in this case, is typically limited to conservatives), and history is being squeezed and mangled beyond recognition into a more acceptable, politically correct -- but entirely false -- form. These issues are real and they are important -- but they should not be at the center of why we vote. America is not simply an economic force, and it is more than a foreign policy or a set of social issues.

The one feature that makes America truly unique is the United States Constitution. In 1787, after the failed experiment of the Articles of Confederation, our Founding Fathers spent four long, hot months in Philadelphia wrestling and wrangling over a document that would provide the nation with order and stability yet that would also possess the ability to adapt to changing needs and times; it would establish a central government strong enough to govern effectively yet constrained enough by an inherent system of checks and balances -- and the power of the states -- that it could not grow into tyrannical proportions. The incredible Constitution that emerged from this process has, over the past two centuries, stood the tests of time and provided inspiration for countless other emerging republics around the world.

However, the U.S. Constitution did not simply spring entirely new out of the Founders' minds; their ideological foundation lay in the political structures of England -- namely, constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. As former subjects of the English crown, the delegates at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 knew well that while democracy had its voice through the elected House of Commons in parliament, stability lay in the permanence of the inherited monarchy. Under the new Constitution, the president was to represent the executive force of a monarch (limited, of course, by the other branches of federal government), yet this head of state, unlike a monarch, was selected by the people and replaced as frequently as every four years. Thus, stability could not be looked for in the person of the president. Who, then, would ensure in the long term that American democracy did not devolve into anarchy and chaos; who would prevent the laws and customs of the land from changing erratically with every passing generational whim, fad, and fancy?

The men who designed our system of government were clear. The answer was not "who" but "what": the United States Constitution.

While the Constitution was, indeed, designed to allow necessary alterations, the Founding Fathers knew that this process must be made difficult in order to maintain the stability and constancy of our form of government. The only way to legally alter the federal government of the United States -- its structure, authority, duties, etc. -- is to ratify a constitutional amendment, a lengthy and difficult process. In the 224 years since the first ten amendments, also known as the Bill of Rights, were officially adopted, only seventeen amendments have been added to the Constitution. The very difficulty of proposing and ratifying amendments protects the integrity of the Constitution and greatly decreases the likelihood of allowing it to be drastically or frequently altered, protecting it from the fickleness of the masses or ambitious populist leaders.

If we are to continue as a successful republic (or, indeed, if we are to continue at all), we MUST vote only for leaders who are principled enough to work within the bounds set for them by the U.S. Constitution, men and women committed to upholding constitutional law and seeking change only through legal, constitutional process. Often, when I tell people that my ballot choices definitively hinge upon a candidate's dedication to constitutionality, they roll their eyes in a way that suggests that I am being pointlessly pedantic or, worse, that I am missing some "bigger picture."

I couldn't disagree more.

The United States of America, and the power and freedom of We the People, are completely devoid of value without the Constitution. Without strict adherence to the Constitution, there are no boundaries to prevent federal tyranny, no protection of individual liberties and the inherent constitutional rights of state governments, and no way to prevent the nation from spiralling into political turmoil and, ultimately, collapse. In a republic such as ours, we cannot look to a permanent, inherited royal dynasty or aristocratic class for order and stability; constancy relies solely on one 229-year-old document. And it is up to us -- we the people of the United States -- to hold our elected officials accountable to our Constitution and to consistently vote for those who earnestly seek to govern only by its dictates. To vote for any other reason at the expense of constitutionality is to consciously, foolishly, throw away America's greatest gift, the only thing that truly defines us as a nation.

So after nearly eight years under a president who clearly has no respect for our Constitution or for due legal process, we must ask ourselves -- which candidate will put our nation back on track and serve the country faithfully by upholding its governing document? If the answer is "none of the above," as it would certainly appear to be, then perhaps our political parties need to consider putting politics and pure ambition aside to make difficult but necessary choices to ensure that they are represented this November by men and women of principle and integrity.

"The happy Union of these States is a wonder; their Constitution a miracle; their example the hope of Liberty throughout the world. Woe to the ambition that would meditate the destruction of either!"  --James Madison