To our detriment, citizens choose their elected officials based upon superficial knowledge, party designation, or the cult-of-personality. Debate formats that convey little useful information reveals the citizens thinking process as they await a “gotcha” moment, a new bumper sticker slogan, or the most creative tweet. Our current Occupier-in-Chief is a prime example of a candidate, elected to the highest office in the land, where citizens judged him with little knowledge or understanding of the man.
My mother taught me certain lessons as a child. One of the more important lessons was never judge a book by its cover. Some teachers also conveyed the same message to me in school. I presume many people were taught the same lesson along the road to adulthood. The moral of the lesson is judging a book based on the cover is superficial as you can’t make an informed judgment without reading and understanding the book.
Martin Luther King, Jr’s 1963, “I Have a Dream Speech” conveyed the same lesson when King said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” King’s message was not to judge people by the random event of skin pigmentation, rather to understand the character of the person if you are to make an informed judgment. King applied mom’s lesson to how people should judge others; according to their character and substance.
Unfortunately, adults have conveniently forgotten this simple life lesson and, for the most part, disregard the lesson entirely when choosing a candidate for public office. Candidates for public office can not be judged merely on appearances, party designation, or the mass media propaganda used to create an idolized and heroic public image.
If character and substance matter, how should citizens judge candidates for public office? There are numerous, wildly varied answers to this question. However, there is one essential set of criteria citizens should apply when evaluating candidates; to judge all candidates through the lens of the Constitution.
The first act every elected official engages in is to swear an oath to uphold the Constitution of theUnited States. It seems logical and rational to judge candidates against the very document, the very principles to which they swore an oath to uphold. Fidelity to the oath all elected officials swears upon is a barometer of their character.
If citizens disregard the Constitution as the basis for rational evaluation they subscribe to a government of unlimited, arbitrary powers and unlimited submission to the ruling class. Under these conditions the Constitution is irrelevant and worthless as it would be diminished to nothing more than words scribbled on old, crumbled parchment.
When citizens judge candidates and elected officials through the lens of the Constitution it affords citizens the opportunity to develop a deep knowledge of the candidate’s commitment to our governing principles. An enumerated list of criteria is:
1) The Constitution established a Republic (not a Democracy), the Rule of Law rather than the Rule of Man, and federalism.
2) The people, through their states, established a federal government with few and limited powers. See Federalist Papers #45.
3) All other powers and rights not delegated or enumerated are reserved to the states or the people. See ninth and tenth amendments.
4) Congress is limited to the powers delegated in Article I Section VIII of the Constitution.
5) Horizontal checks and balances exist amongst the three branches of government, and vertical checks and balances exist between the several states and the federal government.
6) The federal government is only supreme in powers that are explicitly federal, and all statutory laws passed by the federal government must be made in pursuance of the Constitution. Statutory laws not passed in pursuance of the Constitution are null and void, and of no effect. See previous article on AT here.
7) Only a properly ratified amendment can change the meaning of the Constitution. Supreme Court rulings do not and can not change the states’ original understanding at the time of ratification.
Some citizens vote for the candidate promising to delivery something the citizen wants or needs. A few examples are government provided health care, environmental regulation, preferential treatment in the tax code, etc. Votes are cast based upon the real or perceived benefits the voter wants from their candidate regardless of the constitutionality of the program.
The Constitution is an all or nothing proposition. You either revere the Constitution or you reject it. The Constitution is not a cafeteria plan where citizens may pick and choose a-la-carte style which parts of the Constitution they support and which parts they ignore. Citizens support intrusive government with the power to act arbitrarily by voting for candidates espousing programs that are extra-constitutional.
Both Republicans and Democrats routinely and repeatedly violate the Constitution. The Republican presidential candidates propose ideas and programs that violate the Constitution with the exception of Ron Paul and, perhaps, Gary Johnson. Moreover, Tea Party members that advocate limited government mean their version of limited government, not constitutionally limited government.
I know too many people that consider themselves Tea Party members and talk about constitutionally limited government, yet they plan on supporting candidates like Romney, Gingrich, or Huntsman. These three candidates are big government, establishment candidates. Santorum and Bachmann have destroyed the concept of federalism and the tenth amendment in statements they’ve made about states not having the right to do wrong. First, right and wrong are moral judgments not constitutional judgments. Secondly, any level of government has the power to do wrong. It’s just the extent of the damage inflicted that changes based upon what level of government does wrong.
The yardstick candidates must measure themselves and their policies against is the Constitution not their personal opinion on what is morally right or wrong, or what is good or desirable. An act, such as government provided health care, may be “good”, but good doesn’t imply the government was delegated the power to act upon it. If government does not have the constitutional authority to act it is irrelevant whether government provided health care is good or bad, or morally right or wrong. Therefore, it is imperative that voters judge candidates and elected officials through the lens of the Constitution. Otherwise, the voters are judging the candidates against their own personal preferences and criteria and not the Constitution.
Mom always said you should judge a book by reading it, not by its cover. Dr. King said you should judge a person based on his character, not by his skin color. We the people should judge candidates for elected office through the lens of the Constitution.