RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., December 23, 2013 – While the twelve days that precede the Feast of the Epiphany have almost been forgotten in favor of the more secular “After-Christmas Day Sales,” I thought I would offer twelve “wishes” that might result in a more positive political environment were they to be granted.
Our Founding Fathers were not necessarily more intelligent than we are, but they were certainly more motivated to establish a political system that placed the power within the People as opposed to within an elite ruling class. In turn, we have had several centuries to lose sight of that focus and allow political and economic interests to wear away at that goal. To return us to our course, I offer these 12 political wishes to be considered over the 12 days of Christmas.
WISH #1: That we finally realize that the self-evident truth that “all men are created equal” should not have an asterisk.
No exception should be made based on race, religious belief (or lack thereof), sex, sexual orientation, economic status, or any other criterion or characteristic. If we were to assiduously adhere to that tenet, many of our social problems would go away over time.
WISH #2: That we recognize that “Happiness” is the only Right defined within the Declaration of Independence that is qualified as we are not guaranteed “Happiness” but rather the “pursuit” thereof.
It is not the Government’s responsibility to provide for our “Happiness” but rather to assure that we each have an equal opportunity to pursue it as we choose. If we were to charge the Government with the responsibility of providing for our “Happiness,” we would inherently be required to allow the Government to define it as well. Nothing would present a greater threat to the erosion of Liberty than to allow the Government to wield such power.
WISH #3: That we recognize that “Governments are instituted among men” to secure our Rights and that they derive their “just power from the consent of the governed” rather than by independent proxy.
We have drifted back to a form of Government that more closely resembles the ruling elite our Founding Fathers were trying to avoid; one driven by power and unduly influenced by money. If “We the People” would exercise our civic responsibility to become more informed and then demonstrate the courage to cast an informed vote for what is in our best interests as opposed to the best interests of the Parties (i.e., not viewing our choice as being limited to the lesser of two evils), we might begin to see an erosion of the political divide that currently exists in Washington, D.C.
WISH #4: That we recognize that our role “to form a more perfect Union” is ongoing.
Those who believe that our Founding Fathers were infallibly omniscient in their draft of the Constitution ignore the fact that Article V was included to address societal shifts and circumstances that could not be foreseen in 1787. We have used that power to amend the Constitution on 27 occasions (although some might argue we’ve done it unintelligently at times). Yet, we seem afraid to use it to address issues that cry out for clarification. For example: The issue of privacy remains nebulous and at risk during this time of accelerated technological advancement.
WISH #5: That we refocus on establishing “Justice.”
The concept fashioned by Article III of the Constitution to create a balance between the Legislative and Executive Branches has given way to political gamesmanship. This practice taints the impartiality of our Courts in favor of gaining partisan advantages. It is an embarrassment and stain upon our Nation’s judicial system as are the disparities that exist in the prosecution of certain classes of individuals in our society.
The latter allows us to claim the ignominy of being #1 in the world with respect to incarceration on a per capita basis. It also represents perhaps the greatest example of racism in our country; one that has nothing to do with the ignorant statement of an individual but rather everything to do with the political danger of admitting to the problem and addressing it.
WISH #6: That we “insure domestic Tranquility” by providing equal opportunity to our citizens.
While we should embrace the concept that “all men are created equal,” we must equally embrace the reality that each individual has the right to determine how they choose to define and pursue “Happiness.” In doing so, we must create a society that provides equal access to educational and career opportunities while rewarding performance based on merit.
Instead, we have allowed urban schools to remain inferior while assuaging our sense of fairness by establishing an affirmative point system to close the gap. Unfortunately, that approach only reinforces differences and stimulates subliminal prejudices. Our misguided sense of social justice has not corrected the problem; rather it has masked it in a way that might make us feel better about ourselves but, in truth, only serves to suppress the progress of the masses in favor of highlighting the successes of a few.
WISH #7: That we provide for the common Defense of our Nation in proportion to the risk.
Under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, our legislative mandate is to “provide for the common Defence (sic) … of the United States.” Yet, we have become the de facto “police” of the world. We spend more on Defense than the next 10 countries combined and, unless you support Minority Leader Pelosi’s general statement that “the cupboard is bare” and no further budgetary cuts can be made, there may be room for improvement.
What if we were to first develop a cogent foreign policy that shifted sovereign responsibilities back to sovereign nations? What if we then structured a Defense strategy that maintained a serious level of technological superiority without needlessly clinging to old military policies (e.g., the maintenance of widely distributed bases that may have made sense during the Cold War and reflected the logistic realities of their time but that lack continued relevance in today’s world)? It would appear that we could more than adequately provide for our common defense while reallocating the budget domestically or reducing the economic threat posed by our debt.
WISH #8: That we recognize that our obligation to “promote the general Welfare” (under the Preamble) and “provide” for it (under Article I, Section 8) is tied to a definition of welfare that equally impacts all citizens of the United States as opposed to those who can be exploited as a political constituency.
The Federal Government is meant to be an umbrella that shelters all of the States and each of its citizens from those ills that the States and individuals cannot otherwise not survive. It is not meant to provide special programs that serve little purpose other than to create a sense of obligation for which votes and political donations are the expected payback.
WISH #9: That our major political Parties stop selectively arguing the protections of the First Amendment.
Our Parties are prone to confuse laws, which must be applied uniformly among people, with religious beliefs that clearly may differ among individuals. They often argue “free speech” only when it conforms to their platforms and try to suppress it when it does not. The Parties also pretend to want a “free press” while spending hundreds of millions of dollars on media buys to influence just how freely the press expresses its opinions.
Additionally, the Parties take turns rejecting the right of the People “peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Just revisit how the Democratic Party describes any TEA Party assembly and how the Republican Party reflects upon the Occupy Movement.
WISH #10: That a balance of power is retained between the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches of our Government.
Today, we have a Legislative Branch that has, in some cases, abdicated its role and, in other cases, expanded its spending far beyond the limitations prescribed by Article I, Section 8; we have an Executive Branch that has become enthralled with legislating through Executive Order and by directing Departments and Agencies to circumvent legislative intent; and we have a Judicial Branch that has been populated on a basis of political alignment rather than demonstrated legal merit, which has led to the practice of legislating from the bench. Is it any wonder that our Government appears to be so dysfunctional?
WISH #11: That our Federal Government would recognize that the Ninth and Tenth Amendments still exist.
We have allowed our Federal Government to become imbued with the belief that it singularly has the authority to determine the scope of our Rights and how they should be regulated. It has forgotten that its purpose is to secure our Rights and that it has no authority to determine them other than in a manner that uniformly preserves them among the States.
Under the Tenth Amendment, a greater breadth of power was reserved to the States than was reserved to the Federal Government. Yet now, the States have become far too dependent upon the Federal Government with respect to funding and have surrendered much of their responsibility as a result.
Correspondingly, the Ninth Amendment was drafted to preserve and protect the ordained Rights of the People. Unfortunately, it has been increasingly ignored over time, and the elite ruling class that our Founding Fathers so desperately sought to preclude has slowly been re-established.
WISH #12: That we will have the strength to recognize and reestablish the basis of our Republic so that we can “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
… And on a non-political basis: I wish that you each may be blessed with peace, love, happiness, and good health during this holy season and throughout the New Year.
T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years.
This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, A Civil Assessment, in the Communities section of The Washington Times.