“So,” a reader emailed me, “Since you complain about others not addressing issues, what is it that you (me) believe?” Fair question, but a really wide-open one since there are so many different topics at play this time around for which one might have an opinion. There is time here only to hit the high points but if, by chance, someone wants to actually talk about some or any of them in depth I’d be happy to do that. Here, then, in summary fashion, is what I believe about the main topics that seem to be at play in this election including:
- The nature and role of the Constitution itself
- What is meant in the Bill of Rights
- What is the proper role of the Federal Government
- What about Capitalism vs. other economic systems
- Illegal Aliens
- Gun Rights
- Gay Rights
- Solving the debt and deficit
- Foreign Policy
- Energy Policies
- American Exceptionalism
If I have left any important ones out I’m sure I’ll hear about it… And if you are basing your vote on but one or two of these issues and ignoring or are ignorant of the others then please… DO NOT VOTE.
I must warn you before you read on, my personal beliefs do not parallel any party platform though it might share some points with any or all of them. I am a true Independent and at this point in time am happy to be one since I am not comfortable with the official line of any of the parties. I may lean toward one or the other depending on the topic but that is a different thing than being in lock-step agreement with any of them. That means, too, there is probably something in here that will set the teeth on edge of a partisan of any of the potential sides. But I see the world as far too complex to be shoehorned into any of the existing party platforms I see around me or as expressed via the two recent party conventions.
I also do certainly, on occasion, disagree with Supreme Court rulings that, to me, step beyond interpreting the Constitution into redefining it and in doing so, effectively legislating from the bench. They may well be the final legal word at the time but they, like any other group, do not possess divine infallibility.
I believe the gridlock we now face in Washington is due to blind partisans on both sides allowing fringe positions to ossify allowing no counter and one of the absolute cast-in-stone positions is “We are totally and always right and they are totally and always wrong.” There is no maneuvering room left in that stance.
A perfect example was when in September of 2008 Bush proposed a $700+ Billion stimulus package that was roundly defeated. The next year, Obama was in office, and he proposed a nearly identical stimulus package and the Democrat controlled Congress passed it easily. The issue was not the stimulus, it was in which side could claim ownership. So much for putting the country first… Bipartisanship is not found in compromise these days, it only happens when the party claiming it proposes something and gets the other side to agree with it. If the other side proposes it first, no matter how sound, then it must be rejected. These are grade school children counting their marbles; there is no adult or mature thinking to be found among them. (And, by the way, I was opposed to the stimulus when Bush proposed it and did not change my mind when Obama not only re-proposed it but ended up nearly doubling down on it. When I am opposed to something, doing more of it does not make it better nor does it matter to me who proposes it.)
I do not believe any one person or any collective of persons has perfect insight or has been divinely guided by God to be infallible in their pronouncements. That includes me, of course. So I will be trying to honestly present what I believe, but am open to facts – not slogans, bullet points, ad hominem slanders, bumper stickers, personal defamations, etc., but facts – that would make me want to rethink my positions on any of these topics.
I have not yet been fully convinced of the existence and control of the boogey men from the New World Order, Bilderbergers, Tri-Laterals, Rothschilds, etc. who has shadow oligarchs actually pull the strings of all governments and all leaders allowing the appearance but not the reality of our representative form of government. I do admit some of the data points, the “dots” so to speak, seem plausible and, when looked at through their filters start to line up and I try to keep an open mind. But in an atmosphere of pathological info leakers, it strikes me as significant that thus far, none of that malevolent inner circle or their direct minions has stepped forward with the smoking gun to prove absolutely the case for some form of puppet master. So I remain skeptical, but open to irrefutable data leaked by some insider. not the various theorists, even when partially logical, that contain no hard proof.
So until we know for sure it is all totally meaningless, despite their politician mindsets that allow them to be loose and fast with facts during a campaign, one of the current candidates will win and be President for the next four years. No write-in candidate has a chance; we will end up with one or the other. That is reality; hoping for any other outcome is denial and fantasy. Therefore the issue for me is not which candidate agrees with me in total, since none do, but which comes closer to sharing my views and which is more believable.
I must also warn you this is a long read, 25 pages were it typed out. But since I do not believe in simplistic, bumper sticker/cartoon level solutions, try as I might to just hit the high spots, I could not do my thinking justice or give the viewers’ intelligence the respect I hope is deserved, by making it shorter. Anyway, there’s a long list of issues at play in this election so lets get to it… To make the reading easier I am going to break this into several modules/posts, each containing a few of the issues discussions from the above list. This first entry will contain the basic governmental/foundational issues from which the rest will be viewed.
Our review of issues has to start here. The political beliefs of any American must start here with their view of the Constitution. It is our founding document and purports to be the embodiment of our guiding rules. It must be taken as a necessary second part to the Declaration of Independence. Only when linked together does it reveal its meanings and intents since in the Declaration the abuses that spawned it are spelled out along with the concept of inalienable rights, later embodied in the Bill of Rights. The Declaration tells us about the governmental abuses the Constitution is trying to forestall as it sets the rules for a new government, unlike any other on the planet at the time.
To take it literally, which I do, it says that these Rights are not created or granted by governments of men, but in our case, they are recognized by it. The founding documents created a government that was intended to protect those rights but no one pretended that the government itself created them. The wordage in those documents is not arcane and does not, with but one or two exceptions, use terms of art no longer in general usage. “Letters of Marque” and “Bills of Attainders” are not, for example, common modern terms, but virtually all others are and have not changed substantively since the founders wrote them. And those older terms are easy to look up since their meanings have not changed over the years.
Some apologists for interpretive flexibility have asserted we cannot really know the founders underlying intentions but that is not only far from the truth, a minimum amount of research shows it to be an outright lie. Nevertheless, arguing for vague or non-understandable original intent, some would have us take the Conmstitution as, in their terms, “a living document” that can be interpreted and re-interpreted to mean whatever they want. I disagree emphatically and logically. Even if one ignores the copious documents from the framers explaining their intentions in detail, such a flexible document has no reason to exist and is meaningless as any form of guiding principle or rules of the governmental road. Furthermore, if it were the intention of the founders to view it that way then the Constitution itself would have no need of the clauses that tell us how to go about amending it as times and needs change. A set of rules that can be changed at the whim of a government, much less simply the executive, is no set of rules at all but merely window dressing to cover abuses.
The Constitution’s main portion lays out the roles and limitations of our three-part governmental structure. It spells out with great specificity what the President can do and what the Congress can and must do. Their responsibilities are explicitly defined and impliedly restricted. Logically if such detail was used in the listing of responsibilities then had the founders wanted to give them even more power it too would have been spelled out.
Presidents, however, fairly quickly started pushing the envelope to see how far they could go. In my opinion we need to dial all that back to the starting point. And the same for the Congress. Neither the Congress nor the President should ever be allowed to pass and sign into law a law that does not pertain to them equally as it does to all other citizens. No portion of the Constitution allows or infers for them a power to exempt themselves and, to put it another way, put themselves above and apart from the laws they create. Put plainly, except for matters of security and safety, neither the President nor members of Congress should ever be able to exempt themselves and their families from the laws they create for the rest of us.
Nowhere in the Constitution itself does it grant the President the power of “Executive Orders” that would override or ignore the laws passed by Congress and that are still in effect. Nowhere in the Constitution does it reference a fourth arm of government formed of bureaucratic agencies, run by political appointees, that have the authority to create and pass laws just like Congress but without the national debate and spotlight being put on them. Government agencies run by directors and secretaries are there to be able to provide oversight, in their specific areas, to the enforcement of the laws set forth by Congress. They should, as non-elected functionaries, never be allowed to pass laws or rules on their own.
My plan for this first issue is simple: take the Constitution at its word and use it as the guiding principles and rules of the road for our country. Should the country, across the board and en masse decide it is time to change, modify, add to it or remove from it, then we should follow the rules laid down to amend it.
True, that is not easy, nor should it be. Messing with this document should be a serious matter on which we all get to weigh in.
BILL OF RIGHTS
Added almost immediately to the Constitution, in order to aid the acceptance and passage of the primary part of the document laying out the roles of the branches of government, the first 10 Amendments, known collectively as the “Bill of Rights,” are the written recognition of our Rights and in some cases the restrictions on those Rights. Yes, Rights have restrictions and the founders thought they had recognized and spelled those out. I have “capped” the term to indicate its importance here.
We learned in law school that while I have an absolute Right to swing my arm, that Right stops at the end of your nose. I can say anything I want but yelling “FIRE!” in a crowded theater is not protected speech. There are no such things as unlimited Rights because in a society peopled with broad cultural references, and people with varying needs, there will always have to be some practical restrictions. What is important to never forget is that these enumerated Rights were designed to prevent the governmental abuses they had seen and suffered under the British crown and need to be interpreted in that regard.
The problem is sometimes we have to go to their other voluminous writings to discern their meanings for sure. The good news is that the original writers, as noted above, were so collectively concerned that they would be misunderstood or misinterpreted that many of them wrote huge amounts of letters, journals, and other documents explaining in detail where their heads were at when they penned the main document and these amendments. They sometimes argued over every word and every resulting word had impact and meaning. There are no “throw away” words or lines in the document. The search for meaning and intent is not hard but can be tedious, so in reality few undertake it preferring to focus on the interpretations later people of their own ideology asserted. Often those assertions, even by the courts, have been directly contradictory to the written intentions of the founders who actually wrote them in the first place.
The first and second amendments are the ones that house the specific issues most argued over and abused in this campaign. It may be informative to learn that in the very first drafts, the now Second Amendment was listed first. But I’ll leave the second amendment to its own section below on gun rights and here address what finally became the first amendment only. It reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
In Gitlow vs. New York, the Supreme Court expanded this to include the State governments as well. I’m not sure I totally agree but that is a discussion for another day. For now, lets parse it into its various topics.
Religion – This is in two parts and, according to founders’ journals, was a response to the actions in England going all the way back to Henry VIII who founded a State Religion (the Anglican Church) and forcibly mandated adherence to it and to the exclusion of other religious institutions, especially Catholicism, under penalty of death and extending down to the religious intolerance that was the final straw in launching ships of persecuted people to the shores of the New World. People, according to our founders, should be free to exercise their religious beliefs and that included members of the government. What was prohibited was the government from trying to establish a state religion. It did not mean that the government could not adopt particular parts of any religious teaching as guides, such as the Ten Commandments, or even bits of wisdom from many sources of thought and philosophy; but that it could not create a state religion. There could be no “American Church” whose dogmas, theologies, rituals, and practices were mandated to the exclusion of other religious practices.
Our modern interpretation of the so-called “separation of church and state” which is a phrase appearing nowhere in the Constitution and which disallows even the posting of the Ten Commandments in public places or the disallowance of voluntary prayers in schools, is a giant leap away from the intention of the founders based on their own writings. Nowhere did the language prevent faith-based guidance and input, nor was the taking advantage of faith-based institutions to help provide for citizens’ needs prohibited. What was prohibited was a government formed state religion based on ANY theology including a completely new one or on a belief in the non-existence of any deity.
Evangelical atheism is as much a faith-based theological viewpoint as any of the others (think about it: it concerns the existence of a deity and has no means to prove it one way or the other) and should have no more sway over governmental policies than any of the others. Making use of the existing infrastructures of a faith-based enterprise is far from making that faith the mandated faith of the country. Only in the minds of small, paranoid minority views is it a threat to anything. But to our discredit we have let the paranoia of a few overrule the feelings of the majority.
Speech. In Merry Old England speaking ill of the government was tantamount to treason and the subsequent punishment of being drawn and quartered was not a fate earnestly to be desired by anyone. The speech in question that was to be protected was (a) literally, “speech” (the spoken or written word) that was (b) political in nature and called the existing government and its functionaries into question. In a document so carefully worded, if they meant to include any means of expression about any topic they would have used that phrase. Today, we want to include actions as speech but it won’t wash. Pointing a weapon at the head of state is certainly making a statement of sorts but it is not protected by the 1st Amendment.
Most of the founders had risked their lives, fortunes, and sacred honors (to use their own words) to speak out against their parent government, in order to point out abuses and foment what can only be described as sedition, the open advocating of overthrowing the government. Giving aid and comfort to an enemy of the nation was treason, but openly speaking about perceived abuses, desired changes, and the subsequent debates was encouraged and protected. And that is all that was intended to be covered but it was a critical activity for free people.
The Press. It was the printing press that helped spread the word fomenting the War of Independence. It was the use of the printing press that carried the fiery words of Thomas Pain and the debates over the Federalist and Anti-Federalist positions leading up to the drafting and acceptance of the Constitution. The writers of the Constitution did not use the term “newspaper” or even “news,” although those were terms used and understood in the day. The founders instead used the term “Press,” which was only later adopted by the newspaper industry to help put them under the protection of this right. But the intention was to cover printed material of a political nature. It was never considered as a shield for issues of defamation or self-serving propaganda as now seems to claimed.
I don’t believe it is possible for newspapers and editors to be truly objective, and if they were, the reading would be deadly boring. But I want them to be honest about their biases, open about the philosophical filters through which they witness and write about events, and not hide behind the pretense of objectivity. They are permitted by the Constitution to express any opinion they wish, I belief they are required by ethics to just tell us where it is coming from so we can deal with it accurately.
Newspapers in early America and even throughout the western frontier redefined “yellow” journalism and it was considered normal; everyone knew where the editors/publishers were coming from. Now we have adopted a disingenuous pretense of objectivity that is not readily evident anywhere. I think that is dishonest, and a discredit to the paper. And I think defamatory statements should never be protected under a Free Speech or Press Freedom shield especially coming from a source that holds itself out to be and which many consider to be credible and believe them to be a purveyor of objective facts.
Assembly. It was assemblies of citizens in pubs, town “commons,” and public squares that helped spread the words and concepts of independence starting seriously in the mid and latter 1700s. Of course such activities would be protected since the founders might want to do it again and wrote that they might well have to.
But it is not just ANY mob of people being protected. You have to read the whole clause, especially where it says “…the right of the people peaceably to assemble…” A critical element is the use of the term “peaceably.” To be “peaceable” was to be “law abiding” both then and now in legal parlance. It is why early lawmen were called “Peace Officers” and sent in to “restore the ‘peace’” and often, when the riot or unlawful activity was quelled, simply went away and did not fill the jails with the lawbreakers. The view of police, marshals, sheriffs, rangers, etc. as “peace officers” involves a very different perspective legally than to view them as “law enforcement” officers, which is more common today.
So the Right of Assembly specifically protected those that gathered without breaking any laws, no matter what the specifics of the purpose for gathering might be (other than for activities that were illegal on their face.) But gatherings, regardless of the protected initial intent, that devolve into encompassing acts that are not legal, no longer are “peaceable” by definition and therefore are, at that point, no longer protected by this portion of the amendment.
Grievance Petitions. Think about it! What is the Declaration of Independence other than a Petition of Grievances? Putting their names to that document was a death sentence in the eyes of the monarch and the British government and many of the signers met horrid ends specifically because of their participation. It is natural that adding names to a list of grievances on a petition to the government seeking redress should be protected. But for a model, read the Declaration again and note the language and the logical construction.
Now if we wish to extend these rights beyond their initial intent, in Article V, the Constitution provides the instructions for how to do it. But until then, I believe we need to return to and adhere to the initial meanings as clearly and easy to define as they are. They may not be easy for the marginally literate, for the person whose English works only at the comic book level, but for anyone willing to look, the meanings are easy to define and grasp.
ROLE OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
As noted above, the role of the Federal Government in the eyes of the founders is to secure and protect those inalienable rights enumerated in the Declaration and the additional specified rights added in the first Amendments (Bill of Rights). And in my opinion, it ends there since there is no wording to extend it.
I do not believe the government, as set up by the founders is the problem, but I believe strongly that the creeping expansion of it is, in fact, at the core of our problems and modern issues. It has dipped it hands in and interfered with far more of our daily lives and businesses than ever anticipated or imagined at the founding and therein, in my opinion, lies nearly all of our economic woes.
The government has proven itself incompetent to run even the sole enterprise allowed in the Constitution: the post office. It has yet to demonstrate competence in the management of any business-type of enterprise; it produces nothing of value in and of itself, creates neither wealth nor prosperity for the people (though it is capable of reducing them to poverty) nor is it, under the Constitution allowed to even try. Its role is spelled out clearly and only those things found in Article I, Section 7, Section 8, and Section 9 (Section 10 defines the limits of States’ Authority) and Article II Section 2 should be allowed to be under its oversight or control.
Article IV, Section 4 guarantees every State a Republic (representative) form of government. Amendments IX and X guarantee that other additional Rights belong to the individual citizens or to the States. There is no language that allows the federal government usurping those additional rights or limiting them by legislation although incredibly strained and tortured reasoning that would make the most ardent Sophist proud has been used to allow the so-called “Commerce Clause” (Article I, Section 8.3) to step on those individual and State’s Rights.
At the DNC Convention last week, one of the rah-rah movies told us that, “…the government is the only thing we all belong to.” What? That comment is the most communistic and anti-Constitutional statement imaginable. I don’t belong to the government and according to the Constitution neither do you. Instead, the government belongs to us; it governs, according to the Constitution, only by the consent of the governed. We the people do not live by the consent of the government unless when I was not looking we suddenly became the United Soviet Socialist Republic of Amerika. I know we’ve taken a few steps closer to that but it is not quite a done deal… yet.