Government Should Be Of Laws, Not Men
For those of you who are long-time readers of my column you might recognize part of what I am about to write. But, certain things seem to need to be repeated from time to time lest we forget and go astray.
Once upon a time in what sometimes seems like another lifetime, I was in the Jaycees. In case you aren’t familiar with them, it is a civic club for younger professionals and I was in a club in South Carolina when I was in the Air Force. I am now what they refer to as an Exhausted Rooster (an old guy) because I no longer fit in the age bracket for active membership.
But, even though it has been 30-plus years since I was a member, I still remember some of the lessons I learned. One of those lessons comes from a line in the Jaycee Creed and it served me well as a legislator. It says “that government should be of laws rather than of men.”
As a member of the Missouri General Assembly I took an oath that I would uphold the constitution of the state of Missouri and the United States. Wouldn’t think that would require a lot of explanation, but apparently it does.
The Jaycee Creed basically reflects the oath that I took, in that our government must be governed by laws rather than men (and women) who think that they are above the laws. Unfortunately, a whole lot of the people in this country don’t seem to grasp that very basic concept.
For the last eight years prior to this year, our president made it a point to make laws by “a phone and a pen” (his words, not mine) and in some cases just merely told the Department of Justice to not enforce laws that were already in place. He justified his actions by noting that Congress couldn’t get anything done so he was going to do it by himself.
Obama wasn’t the only president that used executive actions to advance their personal agendas, so I’m not singling him out per se. Of course, I’m not sure any of the previous presidents expressly told the DOJ to ignore laws — but they may have.
The issue is that we now have a president that says we are going to actually enforce existing laws – specifically with regards to immigration. And the backlash has been swift and harsh. He has been called a racist and accused of being cruel and inhumane and all because he had the audacity to keep his oath to uphold the Constitution.
How dare he take such a bold stance and defend the laws that Congress enacted? You would think that he actually respected the separation of powers that our Founding Fathers spent so much time putting into the documents that have served us so well for over two centuries.
There are a lot of laws that I’m sure we can all single out that we would like to ignore. But, fortunately that is not how the system works in this country. We have a whole host of people who think that if the majority of those polled don’t agree with a law and they think it is “wrong” then the president has the right to just skip enforcing that particular law. That is, unless that president would happen to be called Trump and then I’m sure they would have quite a different opinion.
We have an institution called Congress whose members are specifically given the responsibility and authority to make laws. The president is specifically given the responsibility to enforce ALL the laws and not just the ones he likes. And, if he doesn’t agree, then he can always ask that other part of the three legged stool of democracy (the Supreme Court) to rule as to whether or not the law is constitutional.
The current national debate over immigration is very heated and passions on both sides have become inflamed. If we don’t like certain laws and their implications, then it is our right as citizens to stand up and voice our concerns to the body that is given the authority to change those laws.
But, it is not our right as citizens of a free society that is governed by laws rather than of men, to ask or expect our President to ignore the laws that have been written and passed by Congress. To accept this action is to shame the sacrifices of those who have fought and died so that we can be free from the tyranny of a dictatorship.