Imagine a July 4th tradition like Hollywood’s where each year the Oscars pay homage to fallen stars. Liberty-loving Americans would fete public servants who’ve honored Thomas Jefferson’s rule to “leave no authority existing not responsible to the people.”
Might celebrating trustworthy stewards inspire Americans to Think Again about our Founders’ insights, ingraining a culture that prizes democratic accountability and lawful government, the one that transformed our risky political experiment into history’s freest and most prosperous society?
We’d be celebrating two recently passed stalwarts who put country and constitutional order before party: Sen. Howard Baker, the Senate Watergate Committee’s ranking Republican, who famously asked, “What did the President know and when did he know it?” and Johnnie Walters, President Nixon’s IRS commissioner, who refused to target Nixon’s “enemies list.”
Like our founders, Baker and Walters understood that where equality under the law goes, so goes freedom. Therefore, the greatest threat to civil society and human potential is a powerful, deceitful and unaccountable government where the few rule the many.
That’s why the founders designed a liberty-preserving system that fragmented and checked government power among equal, competing branches, conferring ultimate authority upon the people — not our representatives.
Respectful of Jefferson’s rule, unlike many in today’s “ruling elite,” it’s doubtful Baker or Walters would stomach the IRS targeting Americans for their political beliefs or the evaporation of email evidence critical to Congress’ investigation — called “a conspiracy theory” by the White House.
Journalistic sleuths Woodward and Bernstein know that government accountability derives from active media and an informed citizenry. In comparing the IRS and Benghazi scandals to Watergate, they criticized the media for abandoning its constitutionally protected watchdog role, appearing instead to protect the government from Americans.
Public servants may arrive eager to drain Washington’s cesspool, but after harnessing governmental power and dispensing money and favors, they discover it’s a hot tub made inviting by politicians, bureaucrats, public-sector unions, lobbyists, donors and the media.
Our greatest challenge — and the biggest threat to the world’s oldest (and shortest) constitution — isn’t a left vs. right tug-of-war but a struggle to wrest power away from those who collude at the citizens’ expense.
Incentivized to invest in influence instead of innovation, Big Business (currently enjoying record profits) can buy access to trillions in spending, tax and regulatory favors. The result is a heavily indebted citizenry and a stagnant economy warped by cronyism, as evidenced by the 2.9 percent plunge in first-quarter U.S. gross domestic product — the worst non-recession contraction in over 40 years.
Not surprisingly, the small-business sector that accounts for two-thirds of net new-job creation is suffering as “business deaths now exceed business births for the first time in the 30-plus-year history of our data,” according to a new Brookings Institution report on declining business dynamism.
While Wall Street and Washington boom, the rest of America suffers crisis levels of income stagnation, underemployment, economic immobility and government dependency, with a record 50 million living in poverty.
Yet as the American Dream slips beyond reach for ordinary citizens, those who oppose the ruling elite are labeled extremists, proving George Orwell’s adage that “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.”
Consider last month’s Mississippi Senate runoff that spoilsman Thad Cochran narrowly won, thanks to crony donations and promises to keep the gravy train running, unlike his “extremist” opponent.
But who are the extremists? Those who advocate free markets, equality under the law, fiscal responsibility, constitutional adherence, in God we trust and peace through strength — the campaign platform of David Brat, Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s vanquisher — or the ruling elite who subvert these guiding principles?
Though distressed Americans clamor for law, order and security on our southern border, slack immigration-law enforcement has accelerated unlawful migration. Exacerbating the lawlessness are lawmakers like Nancy Pelosi who called the deluge of illegal immigrants an “opportunity.”
Unfortunately, the opportunity is at the expense of working Americans, considering all employment growth since 2000 went to immigrants (legal and illegal), the Center for Immigration Studies reported.
Meanwhile, with Congress requiring border security prior to any amnesty, Obama intends to act alone, as he did in 2012 when he indefinitely suspended deportations of 550,000 alien youths, granting them work permits.
Commenting on Obama’s intentions following his 12 unanimous Supreme Court rebukes for federal-power over-reach, constitutional law professor and Obama voter Jonathan Turley explained that the president “can’t say the solution to gridlock is you simply have to resolve it on my terms.”
Having overthrown King George’s unfair and arbitrary rule, our founders established an America of, by and for the people — not ruling elites — stipulating that presidents “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
Think Again — wouldn’t a shared allegiance to our constitutional order be the best way to realize a more perfect union, for “ourselves and our posterity”?
Melanie Sturm lives in Aspen. She reminds readers to Think Again. You might change your mind. She welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.