An important election looms this November. (Will there ever be an election deemed “unimportant?”) As the election approaches and we prepare for the machinations that accompany an American election year, it’s worth our while to reflect on what is at stake.
We are required to divide our attention between state and national issues, with elections of representatives and senators taking place at each level and a gubernatorial race that in many ways intermingles the two jurisdictions.
At the state level, the key task would appear to be slowing, if not stopping or even reversing, the pace and scope of economic and social experimentation of the past several years. There’s much that can and should be done statutorily, from reversing the damaging and quixotic renewable energy mandates to rolling back unworkable and supererogatory gun restrictions.
But one reform that should be embraced and vigorously pursued by conservative legislators involves the manner in which the Colorado Constitution is amended. Sympathy for the opinion it’s far too easy to rearrange the state’s foundational legal blueprint has gained ever wider support. The current initiative process appeals, understandably, to those for whom populist sentiments flourish. But it flies in the face of our inherited concept of the rule of law, which requires, as Russell Kirk put it, deep roots, lest the constitutions that derive from it end up relegated to the fate of the “mere parchment constitutions” of the ephemeral type seen frequently in the Third World and places like the old Soviet Union. (One recalls the Soviet constitution guaranteed all manner of rights and freedoms).
By definition, the constitution of a given state or nation should be resistant to change, reflecting and establishing the base principles on which a society governs itself — not the fleeting whims of popular culture, or as William Buckley put it, “political truths that were discovered yesterday at the voting booth.” Efforts directed towards restoring to the constitutional process the stability it demands would go a long way toward restoring legal, political and social responsibility to the state and permit Colorado to shed its dubious reputation as a nuclear test site for radical social policy.
Other reforms at the state level will necessarily emanate from the governor’s office. It’s an unfortunate reality much of the day-to-day governmental action that affects the economic lives of citizens stems from regulatory activity promulgated by any of number of state agencies. A governor bears a number of consequential duties, including bold and prudent use of a veto pen and setting the direction for state budgetary priorities. But one of the most important is the appointment of agency heads with a sense of self-restraint and a recognition of the limits of their posts.
In this, U.S. senators from Colorado share responsibility at the federal level in their critical role of ratifying presidential appointees.
The senators, along with the rest of the congressional delegation, also share with the governor the responsibility of representing and, when necessary, defending the state in the face of the federal government. The issues being contemplated at the national level are many, though the original and most defensibly legitimate purpose of a national government — the handling of foreign affairs in a manner consistent with maintaining the security of the nation — must remain paramount, especially in a dangerous age where incompetence in that arena credibly threatens to place the United States at physical or strategic risk.
Still, a myriad of other issues cry out for attention. Certainly much has been written and yelled about the burgeoning debt issue and new health care system — the failures and shortcomings of which have only just begun to manifest. America continues to deal with the residual ill effects of the “war on poverty” and the Democrats’ latest misguided attempts to reinforce it with such economic delusions as minimum wage and overtime laws that threaten to calcify a permanent underclass rather than eliminate it.
The simple fact so many issues are nowadays contended in the federal realm is perhaps the single largest domestic policy challenge facing conservatives and the nation. Returning to state jurisdiction the many powers and responsibilities steadily ceded to the federal government should be a primary long-term goal of Republicans. This will require smart and savvy candidates who recognize this won’t be accomplished overnight, but possess the fealty to the principles required to keep one’s eye firmly set on the goal.
It is gratifying to see, then, several such candidates populate the field of Republicans vying for the various offices around the state.