It is a cliché to speak of “spineless Republicans”-Google spineless republicans and you will see. They talk “conservative” when they campaign; but once in office, they go along with the progressive agenda. That agenda is to grow the federal government until it controls every aspect of our lives.
Why don’t they oppose the progressive agenda? 1
Rush Limbaugh says they don’t oppose it because they want to be invited to the right parties and praised in the liberal media.
But on this, our Rush is wrong. Rush is a man of Principles; but he doesn’t understand the Constitution. So he doesn’t see that the spineless ones also don’t understand it; and that their failure to oppose the progressives stems from their lack of any Standard to guide them.
In other words, the spineless Republicans don’t know what the alternative is to the progressive agenda. They don’t know that Our Constitution created a Congress with limited and enumerated powers. They don’t know that the President’s powers are “carefully limited; both in … extent and …duration” 2 They don’t understand that limited civil government is morally superior to a fascist dictatorship. Since they don’t understand these things, they are buffeted here and there by winds which progressives blow.
Spineless Republicans are “nice”. They are “patriotic”. And that’s it. But they are men of straw because they stand for nothing. They have no Standard to guide them. So they go with the flow.
There IS a Chart and Compass for Us to embrace which would Make Us Strong & Bold!
Daniel Webster 3 reportedly said:
We may be tossed upon an ocean where we can see no land nor, perhaps, the sun and stars. But there is a chart and a compass for us to study, to consult, and to obey. The chart is the Constitution.
The Bible, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are the Rock on which Our Country was built. Courage and Strength arise from faithfulness to Fixed Principles. It is the man with no Principles who is blown here and there by prevailing winds. 4 Strong People – people who are able to stand alone and speak Truth – are strong because of their uncompromising adherence to Principles.
Anyone who is willing to make the modest effort required to obtain a working knowledge of the Constitution would become able to stand up to the progressives and defeat them. But we must first root out of ourselves the false notion that our own ideas on what the federal government should do are “important”! We must learn that in such matters, we must adhere to a Standard – the Constitution – which transcends our own precious selves with our “views”, “opinions”, and “thoughts”. This is what Daniel Webster is telling us.
Politicians May Not Substitute Their Personal Views for The Constitution!
This is what our Framers said:
“…whensoever the general government [federal government] assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force…” Thomas Jefferson, The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, 1st Resolution.
“…On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed…” Thomas Jefferson’s letter of June 12, 1823 to William Johnson (6th para from end)
“…the way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to. Let the national government be entrusted with the defence of the nation, and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, laws, police, and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each ward direct the interests within itself. It is by dividing and subdividing these republics from the great national one down through all its subordinations, until it ends in the administration of every man’s farm by himself; by placing under everyone what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best. What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and power into one body…” Thomas Jefferson’s letter of Feb. 2, 1816 to Joseph C. Cabell (1st para). [boldface added]
The Economics Department at George Mason University provides these quotes (among others) on its page, Constitutional Limitations on Government:
“Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.” –Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Albert Gallatin, 1817
“We must confine ourselves to the powers described in the Constitution, and the moment we pass it, we take an arbitrary stride towards a despotic Government.” — James Jackson, First Congress, 1st Annals of Congress, 489
“[T]he powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only operate in certain cases; it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction.” — James Madison, Speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 6, 1788
“The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.” — James Madison, speech in the House of Representatives, January 10, 1794
“When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.” –Thomas Jefferson to Charles Hammond, 1821.
Do you see? Politicians, judges and officers have NO RIGHT to implement their own ideas of what the federal government should do.
But Today, Everyone Does What is Right in his Own Eyes. 5
Today, it doesn’t occur to us that we must look to the Constitution to see what the federal government is permitted to do. This was illustrated on Greta van Susteren’s show (Fox News) when she asked her guests whether a legislator should vote his conscience or the way his constituents tell him to vote.
On December 18, 2009, Dick Morris mentioned that Sen. Ben Nelson (D.) was under pressure from his constituents to oppose the healthcare bill. Greta (a lawyer) asked Dick whether Nelson was “elected to exercise his judgment as to what is the best thing to do, or was he elected … to carry out what the voters want”.
Dick answered that if it is an issue “where … the voters are not as … informed as he might be … he might say, I’m going to exercise my better judgment. But when you’re dealing with something as intimate as … health care … when your constituents … are saying … don’t do this, you ought to listen.”
On February 26, 2010, Greta asked Charles Krauthammer whether people we send to Congress should “vote their conscience or ours?” Krauthammer answered, “That’s the great question since Edmund Burke. He thought you should represent your conscience or your conception of what the national need is.” Krauthammer went on to say that he thinks Obama is “allowed to go ahead” with health care, and that he respects “the president’s right or ability or notion that he needs to act in the national interests as he sees it”.
Do you see? None of them understand that it is a politician’s sworn duty to obey the Constitution regardless of what he thinks or his constituents want. Van Susteren, Morris and Krauthammer thus display the existentialist mindset: That there is no objective standard outside of our own subjective “views”; and the one with the power gets to decide for all of us on the basis of his subjective views.
But that is precisely what Our Constitution was designed to protect us from: individual men imposing their subjective views on the rest of us. That is why the powers which Our Constitution does grant to the three branches of the federal government – legislative, executive, and judicial – are strictly limited and defined.
In Federalist No. 78 (5th para from the end), Alexander Hamilton addresses the precise issue raised by van Susteren. After stating the principle that the people have the right to change the established Constitution, he says:
…yet it is not to be inferred from this principle, that the representatives of the people, whenever a momentary inclination happens to lay hold of a majority of their constituents, incompatible with the provisions in the existing Constitution, would, on that account, be justifiable in a violation of those provisions; or that the courts would be under a greater obligation to connive at infractions in this shape, than when they had proceeded wholly from the cabals of the representative body. Until the people have, by some solemn and authoritative act, annulled or changed the established form, it is binding upon themselves collectively, as well as individually; and no presumption, or even knowledge, of their sentiments, can warrant their representatives in a departure from it, prior to such an act…
Do you see? But those three don’t see; and with their words, they undermine Our Constitution, the concept of Enumerated Powers – that the federal government may do only what the Constitution permits them to do, and the Rule of Law – that the people in the government must obey The Constitution, not the “momentary inclination” of their constituents or their own “conception” of what is right.
Ignorance is destroying us. PH
1 Some Republicans are not spineless – they are committed Progressives.
James Madison, Federalist No. 48 (5th para).
3 The quote is generally attributed to Daniel Webster. If you see it in an online scholarly collection, please send the link.
4 Senator Bob Dole (R) illustrates this. He carried the Tenth Amendment in his pocket; yet one of his proudest achievements was passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act! Where does the Constitution authorize Congress to make that law?
Speaker John Boehner doesn’t know that the Constitution sets the agenda for the Country; and that it is the enumerated powers which limit Congress’ spending. That is why he can’t control the spending even though the House Republicans have the power to do it now.
5 See Judges 17:6 & 21:25. This part of the history of the Israelites shows that when there were no judges to teach and enforce The Law, everybody did that which in his own eyes seemed right, and the Israelites suffered dreadfully. But when they had a good judge who enforced The Law (e.g., Deborah), they were able to defeat their enemies and then enjoy peace (5:31). Do you see the parallel? PH
January 28, 2010
Erratum: I originally stated that Krauthammer is a lawyer. That may be incorrect. Thanks to the kind reader who pointed this out.