Government 101: The First Democratic Debate

American government is not complicated.

Allow me to rephrase that. 
American government is not supposed to be complicated. The United States Constitution has under 8,000 words (including signatures and amendments). Put forth in this document was a concise, simple, straightforward approach to governing, unlike anything that had been done before. And it worked amazingly well.
Until recently.
Nothing brought this fact more to the light than the Democratic debate that was held last Tuesday. The issues that were addressed (or avoided) and argued over by these presidential hopefuls, were incredibly complicated. As were the solutions that these presidential hopefuls proffered.
Whoever is elected president is going to take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. However, most of what was put forward by the candidates Tuesday night, was in violation of what the Constitution says. And that is a problem. A candidate who is wanting to run your country needs to abide by the governing document of the country.
Understanding this will empower you as a citizen to hold your leaders to a unarguable standard. A standard that will produce prosperity and growth in a country that is groaning beneath the weight of a disgustingly bloated government.

Let me show you how this is supposed to work and how gloriously simple it is.
Our Declaration of Independence laid out the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of government. Then our Constitution laid out specifically ‘how’ it was to be done.
Government has one job - to protect the rights of its citizens. Among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our government was set up with the express purpose of protecting our rights. Pay special attention to the order in which our Founders listed the rights to be protected. It is no coincidence.
Life comes first. Whatever government does, it must be in the interest of preserving the life of its citizens. This is absolutely fundamental because without this right, none of the others would matter.
Then liberty. We have a God-given right (I didn’t say it, the Founders did!) to freedom. The ability to live our lives how we see fit as long as what we do respects the rights of others.
And then pursuit of happiness. A term not often used today, however it was interchangeable in many instances with the term “property” and was understood to mean the ability to acquire and use property in order to advance oneself.
The Declaration does not limit our rights to these three. Rather, these three rights are seen as the “umbrella rights” under which all other rights could be categorized.
So the first test when determining if a candidate understands their oath to uphold the Constitution, is to see if the policies they promote fall under government’s one and only job - to protect our rights. If a candidate is promoting policies that are in violation of anyone’s life, liberty or pursuit of happiness, they are in violation of the Constitution and therefore are out. Not even a consideration.
The next test is to see if a candidate understands “limited powers”. Protecting our rights is wonderful. But what happens if, for example, government decides that it will “protect life” by mandating that everyone has healthcare insurance? It’s doing its job right?
Remember how I said, the Declaration lays out ‘what’ and ‘why’, the Constitution lays out ‘how’? That’s where this comes in. It is government’s job to protect rights but it must do so within the bounds of the powers given to it by the Constitution.
James Madison, known as the Father of the Constitution, said in Federalist 14,

There you have it. The Tenth Amendment, part of the initial Bill of Rights also made this point abundantly clear. However, these facts have been relentlessly ignored and trodden on by both parties, Republican and Democrat alike. And it’s beyond time for that to stop.
But that starts with you. As you hear about candidates and listen to them, no matter what side of the aisle they are on, ask yourself these two questions about them: (1) Do they believe that the one job of government is to protect my rights? (2) Do they believe that government’s powers are limited by the Constitution?
If you can honestly answer yes, then there still might be some hope.

Jonathan Paine


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