Why I Am A Strict Constructionist
A strict constructionist of the constitution is one that holds the Constitution of the land to be the law. Speaking at the University of Tennessee College of Law, the longest-serving justice currently on the bench SCOTUS Justice Scalia observed, “The Constitution is not a living organism for Pete’s sake, it’s a law. It means what it meant when it was adopted.” Since Article V of that document gives us two ways to amend the constitution, one by the people and one by the congress, congress has used that power many times and some of those time it was to serve their own ends. They have used it as a means to increase their power. And they have couched those moves in popularly acceptable terms. Let’s take a look at one of those power grabs as an example, the 17th amendment. That amendment is:
AMENDMENT XVII – Passed by Congress May 13, 1912. Ratified April 8, 1913.
Note: Article I, section 3, of the Constitution was modified by the 17th amendment.
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.
When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.
This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.
Article I. Section 3, paragraph 1 states 1: The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof,3 for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.
OK that’s it for preamble except to say that it becomes apparent the way this campaign was set up. The congress simply wanted the people at large to popularly vote for their senators. Why wasn’t the Constitution set up this way in the beginning. Trust me the founding fathers were very intelligent and used this as one method of their ‘checks and balances’ government. I asked Barbara Thomas, a very intelligent lady, that has worked with me on projects of a political and semi political nature before, to write an essay for this blog. Her research is valid and her comments are cogent. I offer her comments without edits.
Three branches of government were established, executive, legislative and judicial. All have designated powers to check the powers of the others. Article One of the US Constitution established the legislative branch, or Congress. This branch of government contains the Senate and the House of Representatives. This is the largest and originally the most important branch of government. Here was the first lines of defense against majority tyranny, an overaggressive government and factions, “a number of citizens… who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion or interest adverse to the rights of other citizens or to the permanent and aggregate interest of the community” as defined in Federalist Paper 10 by James Madison. The 17th Amendment completely amended the balance established and intent of the US Constitution.
The nature of man and the laws of nature and of nature’s God were very apparent to our founding fathers and the general public. They knew man could be selfish and self centered, his very nature compelled him to this. They had faith man could be selfless and compassionate, through the exercise of free religion and the study of moral teachings.
“A Republic, if we can keep it.” Benjamin Franklin, 1787, after the Constitutional Convention
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton 1887
These two simple statements give us insight into the wisdom and knowledge of human frailties acknowledged by our forefathers.
Every branch of our Republic is a delicate balance between nationalism and federalism. In Congress, The House of Representatives would receive its power from the people (national). The Senate would derive its power from the States as political and coequal societies (federal). In the executive branch, the popular vote every fourth November is nationalism, and the Electoral College is federalism. Even Article V of the US Constitution is a combination of nationalism and federalism.
Our Congress was established to serve a large and growing nation, a delicate balance of power between the states and the people, between federalism and nationalism. Our Founders realizing issues of great magnitude would need to be decided by future generations of states and citizens. A balance of power between the two was necessary.
The House of Representatives is to represent the populace’s interests. The mood of the people is fickle and emotional, human nature dictates and our forefathers knew this. So, it was decided members of the House would serve two-year terms to represent the constantly changing moods of the people. It would be the originators of all revenue raising bills. So, if the peoples’ representatives did not want to raise taxes, they would not be raised, helping to limit the size of government.
The Senate is to represent the interest of the states. The needs of the states are more business driven. The states have short and long term budgets. They have their state constitutions and state mandates to consider. Their goals are budgetary and financially driven, therefore the states would appoint for six-year terms, senators to represent their interests. Most people do not know or remember all of the bad votes a senator can cast in a six-year period. Elected state officials would follow the voting record of senators and would hold them accountable. Senators who vote for legislation that effects the states’ bottom lines could loose their appointment.
This balance of power in the Congress would keep the legislation passed from this branch more focused and less intrusive, since the process would be very slow and arduous, legal issues would be more readily challenged as the Senate fought with the House each to protect their constituents’ interests. The House focused on the mood of the people and individual rights and the Senate on the budgets and long term goals of the states.
Our states are small laboratories in our great republic. Our states are also granted every power not specifically granted to the federal government by our US Constitution, 10th Amendment. Our states are closer and hence more accountable to the citizens. We have many options available to effect change in our state governments, from ‘voting with our feet’ to loving our state so much we effectively change it through elections and legislation. This point is mute to Article One of the US Constitution, but made relevant by the progressive argument that follows.
In 1912, a progressive movement convinced the public to upset the balance in the Congress, by changing the appointment of senators by the state governments into a popularity vote similar to the elections of the representatives in the House. They argued that corrupt state governments would keep the people from being aptly represented in Congress by appointing senators that the people did not like nor actively elect. When in fact, the progressives knew that the delicate balance of power in Congress would collapse with the deletion of the federal check in the Congress. The nationalism would slowly turn our Republic; our US Constitution would slowly begin to fail. They used the emotional public to turn the vision of our forefathers against us. They knew the general populace would be engaged in their day to day lives and they would not follow the state and national issues; they would not have time. The progressive movement convinced humanity we had moved beyond human nature and people could control their base desires and drives so balance in Congress was not necessary. The people could get what they want faster if all of Congress was held to the whims of the people. The people foolishly believed them. This process opened the door for majority tyrannies and factions into our Republic.
Fortunately, our forefathers also gave us the route to change our minds. We can repeal the 17th Amendment and reverse course. It can read as simply as ‘Repeal the 17th Amendment’. No further guidance would be necessary. The next time a senator came to the end of his term, he would either be re-appointed or replaced by his/her state.
Our federal government was designed to be a slow moving almost stagnant governing body. It should not be involved in our day to day lives. The natural checks and balances have been severely diminished by the passage of the 17th Amendment, a majority tyranny has been established while factions have been invading our country. Too many laws have been passed in the last 100 years by the federal government that could not have been imagined by our forefathers, and I feel would not have been passed had the balance of powers in Congress not been changed by the 17th Amendment over 100 years ago.