Trump skeptical conservatives have reason to be concerned about the President’s convictions in constitutional government, but the Democrats’ contempt of constitutional values cannot be overstated.
We are living in what many have called a post-constitutional age. Both major political parties praise “constitutional norms,” especially when out of power. However, their conduct when granted the wheels of government by the people demonstrates the lack of seriousness these praises truly hold. Political commentators on the left and right can voice approval for what has ensued under this and the most recent presidencies, but few can seriously deny that we have been living under “phone and pen” presidential government for the last eleven years. Hardliners of either party have openly admitted that when it comes to constitutional values, it is a vague, secondary consideration next to the demands of “victory,” whether or not this victory is meaningful absent constitutional values or not.
It shouldn’t be any wonder that, under these circumstances, those who wish to reassert constitutional values into the national conversation have broken off from the main political parties and have attempted to create new movements and even found new political parties. These are admirable goals, but goals very much in the long-term. With another presidential election around the corner, a decision is quickly coming upon us where each of us must decide how best to be involved in the process. Some are going to choose to remain unaffiliated. Others, like me, will register Republican and try to reassert constitutional values in the party that has stood for them in recent history. Others may hope that voting for Democrats would send a shock through the Republican Party and force a re-calibration upon constitutional values in defeat. It is to those tempted to vote for Democratic candidates that I offer this word of caution.
I would be willing to concede that in the last three years, the Democrats have surprised me with how much they suddenly talk of “constitutional norms” and with how effectively they have used the mechanisms of federalism to combat what they oppose in the Trump administration. They have used state sovereignty to counter the president’s executive orders. They have asserted local values and beliefs in openly rejecting federal law they oppose. They have used the court systems to check the arbitrary actions of the executive. They have gained power in the House of Representatives and asserted the independence of the legislative branch in its relations with the executive branch. Chiefly, for the first time since the National Emergencies Act of 1976, they have forced a presidential veto to occur when a president has sought to use emergency powers. It might be easy for a casual observer to conclude that the Democratic Party is the party standing for constitutional government.
However, I can’t state it with enough emphasis: the Democrats will not save the US Constitution. Their use of constitutional mechanism and federalist checks-and-balances is nothing more than a convenient use of a system they have largely disavowed. While President Trump and his followers have primarily set aside constitutional values in exchange for their immediate goals of victory in the culture war, the Democrats have demonstrated open hostility to those values in both word and deed.
Democratic presidential candidates have embraced, almost without exception, a full gambit of progressive dream policies which would turn the constitutional order upside down. They have vowed to remove the electoral college, to pack the US Supreme Court, to socialize healthcare and higher education, to introduce gross punitive taxes on successful American citizens, to legislate an “assault weapons” ban and other attacks upon the 2nd amendment, and to introduce near absolute central planning of the national economy as part of the “Green New Deal”. Considering the virulent way in which many Democrats speak about the founding vision, it should go without saying these policies would only get them warmed up for further fundamental changes to our country.
It would be one thing if we could say these policies are just pipe dreams which, at most, we would only have to worry about at a future date far from now. However, the Democrats’ assault on the constitution and upon federalism is not just a future possibility. The first bill passed by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, the For the People Act of 2019, was an outright shot across federalism’s bow. It would have upended the entire idea of state sovereignty and would have considerably shrunk free exercise of individual political thought.
I understand that once more we face the prospect of a difficult and frustrating presidential election year. Each citizen must search their heart and determine what it is they feel they must do to live with themselves moving forward. Whatever the choice is, I would strongly suggest that each of us take an honest look at the direction of the Democratic Party and truly consider what the consequences might be if some of us turn to them with the false hope that they will reassert the constitutional order. I, for one, trust them to do exactly what they say they want to do.
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