RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., February 24, 2014 – With the recent Olympics in Sochi, Russia, many of us are reminded of the Cold War: A political, ideological, and economic struggle for supremacy between two superpowers. Oh … not the one between the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republic and the United States; the one that’s still raging between the Democratic and Republican Parties.
The other Cold War began in 1947 at the end of World War II and concluded on December 26, 1991, when the USSR was disbanded. That pales in comparison with the “D and R” Cold War, which has been going strong since 1854 when the Republican Party was founded principally by the anti-slavery faction of the Whig Party to offset the pro-slavery circle of Southern Democrats and their Northern Democrat allies.
Much like that other Cold War, both Parties believe they occupy the intellectual and moral high ground on every issue. However, nothing could be further from the truth. One cannot solve our Nation’s problems by viewing them through a politically biased filter. Yet, that is exactly what our current Party paradigm requires.
Both Parties try to define our problems in a way that is most flattering to their respective ideologies and most emotionally enticing to the categories into which they have carved our Nation’s population. It’s rich against poor, Wall Street against Main Street, men against women, gays against straights, Blacks against Whites against Hispanics, etc. The more they can divide us, the more they can control us. Never mind that they can’t clearly articulate what the fundamental issues are that are eroding our quality of life.
Even if they could define a problem, it’s almost beyond comprehension that either of the Parties would be able to identify the actual root cause. That would expose them to accepting a degree of culpability. Witness the recent Government shutdown. Both sides claimed the other caused it while ignoring the fact that either could have prevented it.
Then, when it comes to an assessment of viable alternatives, neither side likes to concede that the other Party may have an answer. Each tends to only explore solutions that fit its agenda; disregarding the possibility that the other may have something worthy of consideration. As a result, we are rewarded with decisions that reflect the best interests of the Parties as opposed to the best interests of the People.
Is there any wonder why our Government has become so dysfunctional?
Luckily, there is a solution. Find common ground.
Impossible you say? Your side is right and the other is wrong. That’s how we got to where we are.
There actually is a relatively simple solution. Every elected official takes an Oath of Office.
The President states, “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Correspondingly, every Member of the House and Senate, states, “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”
Both Oaths require those who take them to “faithfully” perform the responsibilities associated with their respective offices as opposed to bowing to the will of their political Parties.
Both Oaths also require a commitment to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. The original document is only four pages long, and it has only been amended 27 times. Surely, every one of our elected officials can come to understand what’s in it and how it narrowly delimits their roles.
If our elected officials took their Oaths of Office seriously, neither their political affiliation nor their personal opinions would ever interfere with their obligation to serve the People. Their Oaths of Office only require faithful service and adherence to the Constitution and its associated Amendments.
While the Constitution may be subject to interpretation, there are certain elements that are relatively straightforward.
The Preamble doesn’t begin with the words “We the Democrats” or “We the Republicans.” It begins with the words “We the People,” and it does so for a reason. It also doesn’t split “the People” into categories or a caste system. That practice was invented by the Parties to divide our Nation rather than unite it because it’s easier to solicit donations and votes through negative emotion rather than rational thought (i.e., “Contribute to our campaign and vote for us because the other side is against you”).
The Constitution provides another big hint by creating a separation of power in its first three Articles.
It leads with the Legislative Branch in Article I because the House and Senate provide the closest link to the will of the People and the States. The House was elected by popular vote and Senators were originally appointed by their States.
It wasn’t until the Seventeenth Amendment was passed in 1913 that States’ interests were effectively neutered to solve an ill-defined problem in the wrong way. The change was made to prevent money from unduly influencing the appointment of Senators.
Today, the House and Senate are nearly mere images of one another in the way their members are chosen. In other words, money is used to create an undue influence with respect to who wins each auction election.
Many of our issues would be resolved if Congress were to look to Article I for guidance with respect to its responsibilities and associated authority. Article I, Section 8 in particular suggests that Congress’s power is limited to those issues that “provide for the common Defence (sic) and general Welfare of the United States.” There is no provision for crafting legislation that is designed to favor particular constituencies upon which the Parties rely for donations and votes.
If our Representatives and Senators simply honored their Oaths, we would not be stuck in the political quagmire that describes our current political environment. Correspondingly, if the President were to look to Article II for guidance, we might have a smoother running Government.
No mention is made of circumventing the Legislative Branch in that Article. Instead, the President is to exercise civilian power over the Military, preside over the administration of legislative directives through his or her Cabinet, oversee foreign affairs, and make certain appointments (predominately with the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate). Include a few Presidential pardons, and you have a fairly good understanding of what the President’s responsibilities are under the Constitution.
Even our non-elected Justices take an Oath that parallels the other two: “I, (Name), do solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as (judicial position) under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”
Article III provides for the establishment of an autonomous Judicial Branch as the final check and balance with respect to power. The Judicial Branch would function far more effectively if Presidents proposed appointees on a basis of merit rather than political predisposition and if the Senate approved or disapproved such appointees upon the same grounds.
Accordingly, the Judicial Branch would better serve the interests of the People if its votes on controversial issues were construed within the context of the Constitution as opposed to being influenced by the opinions and political beliefs of the Justices themselves. Like Article II, Article III never anticipated any legislation being delivered by any authority outside of Article I.
Finally, Article V provides a rigorous standard through which we can amend the Constitution. It is not an impossible standard given that it has been met 27 times. However, we have become lax in its application.
It has become far easier to blur the distinctions between the legislative power of Congress, and the powers that reside within the Executive and Judicial Branches of our Government. Sadly, that fact has become a weapon of mass destruction utilized by both Parties in their never-ending Cold War.
I can only hope that someday, we hold them all accountable to honor their Oaths. It may be our only defense against the annihilation of our Republic. What do you think?
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 Digital News (CDN).