17th Amendment • Administrative State • America • Americanism • Deep State • Donald Trump • Greatness Agenda • Political Parties • political philosophy • Post • The Constitution • The Culture • The Left • The Leviathian State • Trump White House

America 3.0

“America 2.0” considered the plain fact that the America you and I live in is no longer the America the Founders envisioned for us.

Over the course of the past century, the Progressives have replaced the Framers’ federal government of limited powers designed to protect the American experiment in liberty with a vast new central government designed to regulate the lives of American citizens. Because there are so many, determining the actual number of federal regulations enforceable by criminal punishment at the discretion of an administrative agency of the central government presents great difficulties. According to Douglas Husak of Rutgers in his book Overcriminalization, there may be more than 300,000 separate regulations.

But the Progressives are not done yet. For them, America 2.0 is only a transitional phase to a truly post-American America—call it America 3.0. Hillary Clinton and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are loud and proud about the change to the Constitution that will bring about America 3.0, though what they are up to generally goes unrecognized for what it is. But when we understand how the Progressives created America 2.0, what their heirs are up to today snaps into focus.

To get our bearings, let us consider James Madison’s description of the original federal government in Federalist 45:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce . . . The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State. (Emphasis added.) 

Please note that the “few and defined” powers of the new United States are “delegated” to the federal government by the sovereign “We the people.” In addition, those powers are “exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.” This then is the original bargain that created the United States: the federal government is to handle “external objects” for the states united by the bargain. The meaning of “external objects” is made clear by the list of the four original agencies of federal government: the Departments of War, State, Navy, and Treasury. Today, that number would be reduced to three: the Departments of Defense, State, and Treasury.

The original federal government had a primary focus: national defense and the protection of the interests of the land of liberty between the various states and among the other nations of the world. All other governmental powers were either delegated by the people to the states or else retained by them unto themselves.

But the individual states did not surrender control of those powers delegated to the federal government. The Constitution created a standing body, the Senate, which would give the states a way collectively to maintain overall control of “the external objects“ of executive action. That’s why treaties with foreign nations and even the people nominated by the president to carry out executive actions, such as the heads of the federal departments and ambassadors, are subject to Senate approval.

And the governments of the states really did maintain control because in the Constitution of the Founders the state legislatures chose the senators. State governments therefore exercised their control over the departments of the government by means of the Senate.

The turning point came in 1913. In that year, this system, so carefully and brilliantly designed by the Framers, changed fundamentally with the 17th Amendment, which introduced the direct election of senators, bypassing the state legislatures. In 1913, Americans carelessly tossed aside the Founders’ brilliant solution to the problem of political power.

The consequences of the change have been many and profound. Probably the most obvious has been the rapid decline of the states’ ability to counter-balance federal power. The Senate had been a barrier to the passage of federal laws infringing on the powers reserved to state governments, but the Senate has abandoned that responsibility under the incentives of the new system of election.

Because the states no longer have a powerful standing body representing their interests within the federal government, the power of the central government has rapidly grown at the expense of the states. Today’s gargantuan central government increasingly relegates the states to function as administrative units.

The 10th Amendment, the final of the ten original amendments we refer to as the Bill of Rights, made it explicit that the powers of the federal government are limited to the enumerated powers, the powers provided by the Constitution. The 17th Amendment made the Great 10th a dead letter.

By the way, the Progressives soon overreached, as usual. The 18th Amendment, which changed the Constitution to allow for the prohibition of alcohol, followed soon after. It took a little over a decade for Americans to view Prohibition as a costly mistake and repeal the 18th Amendment.

That the 17th Amendment was also a mistake is by now clear. Instead of retaining many of their powers and responsibilities, and only surrendering a limited number of their powers to the federal government as the Framers intended, the states are more and more entangled in administering federal programs and in carrying out federal mandates. The federal government often even doesn’t fund these mandates, choosing to pass the costs along to the states. The many new departments of the federal government which have accumulated in Washington, D.C. during the Progressive Era, such as Housing and Urban Development and Health and Human Services, exercise powers that are not among the “few and defined” powers enumerated in the Constitution.

The process of concentrating power in the central government is what America 2.0 is all about, and that is why the Founders would have opposed the 17th Amendment.

The Framers of the Constitution aimed to preserve American liberty and the unalienable rights of Americans by preventing the concentration of political power in the federal government. Jefferson, famously, put it this way:

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 powers into one body.

Jefferson and the other Founders were clear that “concentrating all cares and powers into one body” would inevitably destroy liberty in America.

The Founders put much emphasis on the importance of the independence and autonomy of the states to the preservation of American liberty. Lord Acton, the great scholar of the history of liberty who wrote “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” agreed with the Founders:

Federalism: It is coordination instead of subordination; association instead of hierarchical order; independent forces curbing each other; balance, therefore, liberty.

When Acton wrote those words, American federalism was much more robust than it is now. Today, it is reduced to a shadow of its former self. The resulting erosion of Americans’ individual liberty is no doubt the most important consequence of the Progressives’ change to the Constitution in 1913.

The direct election of senators put an end to an essential electoral safeguard of American liberty. Next on the Progressive to-do list is the direct election of the president.

The Constitution allotted each state as many electoral votes as it has Senators and members of the House of Representatives. Consequently, to become president of the United States one must even today win the national election state by state. Eliminating the Electoral College and electing the president by direct popular vote, as modern progressives are determined to do, would transform the office. Its occupant would in effect become the POTBCA instead of the POTUS (President of the Big Cities of America), and the last vestiges of autonomy guaranteed the individual states by the Constitution’s electoral system would be swept away.

Photo credit:  Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

17th Amendment • 2016 Election • America • Americanism • Donald Trump • Political Parties • The Culture • The Left • Trump White House

What Happened to America’s Elite? Part II

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

In a previous article at American Greatness, I addressed the history of American higher education from the Founding until our time. This history, I suggested, explains the transformation of America’s elite. As many have noted, it is now the case that the elite largely rejects the American people and a significant portion of the American people rejects the elite right back.

The governing elite had the recent presidential election all planned out. It would be a re-run of Bush versus Clinton, this time with Jeb! representing the Bush family and Hillary representing the Clintons. It would be a kind of intramural competition among better-than-friends. George W. likes to say that Bill Clinton is his “brother by another mother,” and Jeb, as the chairman of the National Constitution Center, awarded Hillary with the prestigious Liberty Medal at a gala ceremony in Philadelphia in 2013.

But the American people upset the elite’s apple cart—and consequently upset the elite. First, Trump did the unthinkable and sent Jeb! down to defeat. Then he did the totally unacceptable and defeated Hillary. The Democrats simply refuse to accept the outcome of the election. We have not seen the Democrats this upset since their refusal to accept Lincoln’s election led to secession and the Civil War. And the Republican elite is not so happy with this outcome either. The voters have disappointed the political elite by rejecting them.

What this all means is that a gulf has opened up between the people and the ruling elite. In the earlier article, I suggested what has happened is the elite has left the people, trained to think in a way at variance with the common sense thinking of the American people.

It was not always this way. Up until about the beginning of the 20th century the elite learned in college the formal philosophy of common sense realism. This training in philosophy aligned the thinking of the elite with the common sense thinking of non-elite Americans. It happens that during this period the federal government was, by and large, the same Constitutional government envisioned and designed by the Founders and consented to by the American people during ratification and in subsequent amendments. This was the period of the classical liberalism of the Founders.

Around the beginning of the 20th century, the common-sense realist professors were swept from academia by a political revolution in academia. Common sense realism disappeared from the curriculum. This academic political revolution was swiftly followed by the political revolution which laid the foundation of the ever-expanding Progressive federal leviathan we live under today. In 1910, the government’s revenue looked much like it did in the time of George Washington: about 3 percent of GDP, earned primarily through tariffs. In 1913 the 16th Amendment changed all that. It introduced the Progressive Income Tax, overthrowing the limited government of the Founders by opening the door to the unlimited revenue needed to finance the central government’s unending expansion into every area of American life. Also in 1913 Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act, creating a central bank. This opened the door to the complete socialization of the currency. Today, the Federal Reserve can create money without even having to go to the bother of printing it; now all the Fed does is enter a number in a computer. Talk about taking the limits off of government spending!

1913 also gave us the 17th Amendment which changed the way Americans elected United States Senators. Before that, senators were chosen by state legislatures. In recognizing the role of state governments in choosing federal representation, the Constitution offered a fundamental electoral guarantee of the Founders’ vision of a federal government with limited responsibilities. Today, the central government has usurped functions originally belonging to the states and taken on functions which, according to the Founders vision, were reserved to the people. Wilson, FDR, and LBJ rejected the Founders ideas about the role of government being, primarily, the guarantor of our unalienable rights. This was the period of progressive liberalism.  

As you know, academia had yet another political revolution, this time in the 1960s. The professoriate was again swept aside and replaced by a new, highly politicized generation. Today, academic standards have collapsed; it is possible to graduate from elite colleges with a major in English without ever taking a course in Shakespeare. Before the ’60s revolution, virtually everyone who attended college studied Shakespeare, not just the English majors. Under the new politicized regime of today’s academia, students and professors cooperate to suppress free speech on campus and formerly serious disciplines, such as geography, are now politically radicalized—if they are offered at all. What are we to call this period? Perhaps the best label is illiberal progressivism.

Whatever label you prefer, the period in which we now find ourselves—in which the Left obsesses over transgender bathrooms, advocates for a policy of open borders, and champions the supposed “rights” of people in this country illegally—is a far cry from FDR’s New Deal or LBJ’s Great Society.

It is also a far cry from the common sense of non-elite Americans, the folks who voted for Donald Trump, the candidate who described himself as a “common sense conservative.”

background_color=”” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

17th Amendment • America • Electoral College • The Constitution • Uncategorized

Protecting the Electoral College from the Progressive Assault

diagram_of_the_federal_government_and_american_union_editProgressives want to eliminate the Electoral College. They argue that the American constitutional system of electing the president unfairly advantages the votes of people in smaller states. This argument, deceptive to its core, only seems plausible because of radical changes to the Constitution imposed by the Progressives themselves.

A little history should make this more clear. And an additional benefit of understanding the Electoral College as the Founders understood it is that it will enable you to understand why the United States of America has its curious name which, remarkably, claims that it is (a nation) made up of states.

Imagine for the moment that you are a member of the Founders’ generation, America’s actual Greatest Generation. You are already a citizen of a functioning state, one of the original 13. Your state and the other American states have just defeated the world’s greatest superpower. The 13 states have conducted the war as a kind of wartime alliance. (The ratification of the Articles of Confederation did not occur until March 1, 1781, the same year as the military victory at Yorktown, and even under the Articles each state remained sovereign and independent.)

Now, just a few years later, along come Washington, Madison, and others with a proposal for a new “federal” government. It would, they explain, carry out for your state functions that could better be carried out by a government representing all 13 states. It would have powers to deal with states for the states—with foreign states and to a lesser extent with the American states in matters such as interstate commerce. Here is how Madison described it in Federalist 45:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce…The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

Please note: the “several States” reserve all state powers, except those “few and defined” powers they delegate to the proposed federal government. Because in America the citizens are sovereign, it is up to you as a member of the Founders’ generation to decide the question of which powers should be delegated to the federal government.

Fast forward to our present day and the contrast could not be more stark. It is clear that we do not have the kind of government the Founders’ generation voted for, isn’t it? Today the federal Leviathan crushes the states, regulates the individual in an uncountable number of ways, and intrudes into everything from your local zoning commission and your local school board to that dry creek bed behind your house that only has water after a rain. What went wrong?

In the Framers’ plan, the Senators represented the state governments. Because the federal government’s main purpose was to take over certain state responsibilities the people had determined were better managed on a national scale, the United States Senate was to hold legislative power over those functions—“war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce”, and the Senators, quite logically, were chosen by the legislatures of the various states to legislate and supervise federal use of the delegated powers.

The citizens’ representatives in the federal government were called—well, Representatives—and they made up the House of Representatives. The Representatives were chosen directly by the voters, apportioned by population. The House was given the power of the purse—which the Founders’ generation understood to be paramount (“no taxation without representation”)—and which meant every Representative had to face the voters with frequency and regularity.

Each state got two electoral votes by virtue of its two Senators, and one vote for each Representative. Please note that under the original Constitution each state government was treated perfectly equally. Each state government got two Senators. No disparity there! Only when the progressives overthrew this system by means of the Seventeenth Amendment did a kind of disparity appear. The 17th Amendment instituted the direct election of Senators, the system we now have. It took away from the states the power to appoint the Senators who were to represent them in the federal government and to oversee federal execution of the responsibilities the states had delegated to the federal government. The result was a diminishing of the power of the states and the growth of the gargantuan central government we have today.

The 17th Amendment reneged on a deal honorably entered into by honorable men, and approved by the voters of the Founders’ generation. The method of election so perfectly suited to choosing the Representatives, and so imperfect for the function of the Senate, was imposed on the Senate by the progressive “reform.” Today, Progressives use the disparity which resulted from what they did as a reason to go even further—and abolish the Electoral College.

That’s why they are called Progressives; they never stop their assaults on the Constitution.

We may ask: did the Constitution fail America or did Americans fail the Constitution? The question answers itself. The generation which ratified the Seventeenth Amendment failed in its primary responsibility as citizens, its responsibility to understand and defend the Constitution. We are living with the consequences of their failure—a federal Leviathan operating in an increasingly post-Constitutional America

One can legitimately take hope from this election in which the Electoral College may have again saved the Constitution—or at least given us another chance to save it.

May we prove worthy of this opportunity.