Our Con­sti­tu­tion and the Amer­i­can dream

The Covington News - - Opinion - WIL­LIAM PERUG­INO COLUM­NIST Wil­liam Perug­ino is ac­tive in lo­cal and re­gional pol­i­tics and can be reached at 3pe­rug­i­nos@bel­lsouth.net.

Fires burn in our em­bassies over­seas, mobs burn our flag and murder Amer­i­can dig­ni­taries. The po­si­tions taken by our gov­ern­ment, the re­port­ing to the peo­ple and the re­sponse to those coun­tries where these ac­tions have taken place are to­tally un­ac­cept­able.

We must re­turn to the gov­ern­ment pro­vided by our Con­sti­tu­tion. The strength of the U.S. as seen by the in­ter­na­tional community em­anates from our strength at home. The Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides the free­dom, the op­por­tu­nity and the pro­tec­tion for ev­ery Amer­i­can to pur­sue his own vi­sion of the Amer­i­can Dream. And as pow­er­ful is the con­fi­dence felt by Amer­i­cans that the Dream is achiev­able. That is the place we must re­turn to.

To­day, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has ac­quired an all but un­ques­tioned dom­i­nance over vir­tu­ally ev­ery area of Amer­i­can life. It acts with­out con­sti­tu­tional lim­its and in­creas­ingly reg­u­lates our most ba­sic ac­tiv­i­ties, from how much wa­ter is in our toi­lets to what kind of light bulbs we can buy.

So while we face many chal­lenges, the most dif­fi­cult task ahead — and the most im­por­tant — is to re­store con­sti­tu­tional lim­its on gov­ern­ment. Forty vi­sion­ar­ies signed a piece of pa­per 225 years ago that be­came one of the most vi­tal doc­u­ments in the world — the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

By de­sign, it lim­ited the power of gov­ern­ment un­der the rule of law, cre­ated a vig­or­ous frame­work that ex­panded eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity, pro­tected na­tional in­de­pen­dence and se­cured lib­erty and jus­tice for all. But how is that lim­i­ta­tion of pow­ers work­ing to­day?

In­tel­lec­tu­ally provoca­tive – the very ob­jec­tives of our Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vide the path to put the Amer­i­can dream within our reach. We are sorely chal­lenged to re­store the prin­ci­ples and val­ues of the Con­sti­tu­tion but have been given the op­por­tu­nity to start a ma­jor course change in the elec­tion this year.

The Ju­di­cial Branch: The rise of un­lim­ited gov­ern­ment is most fa­mil­iar and most prom­i­nent in the form of ju­di­cial ac­tivism. The Found­ing Fathers called the ju­di­ciary the “least dan­ger­ous branch,” but pro­gres­sive judges have usurped the func­tions of the other two branches and trans­formed the courts into pol­i­cy­mak­ing bod­ies with wide-rang­ing power. We need judges who take the Con­sti­tu­tion se­ri­ously and fol­low it faith­fully. The Leg­isla­tive Branch: For its part, Congress has long leg­is­lated with­out re­gard to lim­its on its pow­ers. As a re­sult, de­ci­sions that were pre­vi­ously the con­sti­tu­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity of elected leg­is­la­tors are del­e­gated to ex­ec­u­tive branch ad­min­is­tra­tors. Congress is in­creas­ingly an ad­min­is­tra­tive body over­see­ing a vast ar­ray of bu­reau­cratic pol­i­cy­mak­ers and rule-mak­ing bod­ies. Congress should stop del­e­gat­ing to bu­reau­crats and ac­tively take re­spon­si­bil­ity for all the laws (and reg­u­la­tions) that gov­ern us.

The Ex­ec­u­tive Branch: Mean­while, the pres­i­dent has unique and pow­er­ful re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in our con­sti­tu­tional sys­tem as chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, head of state, and com­man­der in chief. But the idea that the pres­i­dent — who is charged with the ex­e­cu­tion of the laws — doesn’t have to wait for the law­mak­ing branch to make, amend, or abol­ish laws, but can and should act on his own is toxic to the rule of law. It vi­o­lates the spirit, and po­ten­tially the let­ter, of the Con­sti­tu­tion’s sep­a­ra­tion of the leg­isla­tive and ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers of Congress and the pres­i­dent.

It won’t be easy to re­turn to the found­ing prin­ci­ples. We’ll have to move one step at a time, and walk back decades worth of bad de­ci­sions by mem­bers of all three branches of gov­ern­ment. But it can be done, if we use the writ­ten Con- sti­tu­tion as our guide and we be­lieve that it means what it says and says what it means.

The Found­ing Fathers worked from the premise that gov­ern­ment ex­ists to se­cure God-given rights, and that it de­rives its just pow­ers from the con­sent of the gov­erned. And while many peo­ple take that for granted to­day, it was a novel idea in the 18th cen­tury and re­mains all too rare to­day.

Since Amer­i­cans are equal, self-gov­ern­ing cit­i­zens and the U.S. gov­ern­ment is lim­ited, we have the lib­erty and op­por­tu­nity to live our lives, con­trol our fate, and pur­sue our hap­pi­ness — and the Amer­i­can dream.

But while our Con­sti­tu­tion re­mains re­mark­ably hale and hearty af­ter all these years (it’s by far the long­est-serv­ing con­sti­tu­tion in the world), it is un­der fire from many direc­tions.

Let us re­mem­ber that we have the op­por­tu­nity to reded­i­cate this coun­try to the Con­sti­tu­tion and to the univer­sal prin­ci­ples of lib­erty at its core. We can, and must, ded­i­cate our­selves to the hard work of restor­ing con­sti­tu­tional self-gov­ern­ment, and so pre­serv­ing the Amer­i­can dream for all.

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