Nashville Tennessean, September 14, 2011
By Susan Lynn
I believe the United States Constitution is indeed far mightier than any individual, any politician or any political party. But things are not looking good.
For instance, when the president of the United States refers to the Constitution as a “rigid idea” in a speech before a televised joint session of the U.S. Congress, a very poor example is set. When the mayor of America’s largest city states on live TV that the words “separation of church and state’’ are found in the U.S. Constitution, one surmises that he has probably never read the entire document.
When the Congress cedes law-making authority to unelected boards and commissions in the administrative branch they reveal a profound lack of understanding for their constitutional duties and authority.
When lawmakers feel entitled to take over 1/6 of the U.S. free market economy by means of a mammoth law, authority for which is nowhere found in the Constitution and whose corner stone is a mandate that imposes force and penalty on ordinary citizens who have committed no crime or wrong, the superciliousness is profound.
And when a federal court rejects a challenge to this law by the citizens of a state by concluding that “a state has no interest in the rights of its individual citizens sufficient to justify such an invasion of federal sovereignty’’ and this conclusion is reached even though that same court calls the law in question a “harsh regime’’ on taxpayers, one cannot help but recall the tyrannical list of grievances enumerated by our forefathers against King George of England.
All government is simply a voluntary association of individuals who unite for a purpose. The stated purpose of the United States government is to “secure’’ the enjoyment of our Absolute Rights, simply stated as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’’ and to protect this compact of “Free and Independent States’’ by use of “full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, [and] contract Alliances.’’
The Constitution grants power to the elected representatives to make decisions for the few items expressly enumerated but it does not allow the majority arbitrary power to take away the liberties to which the people are entitled; they are withdrawn from the province of ordinary lawmaking.
As Charles Nordoff wrote in Politics for Young Americans “Laws should be few in number and simple in structure; they should rigidly avoid granting special privileges or immunities to individuals, but should be general in their application; and they ought never to interfere with the liberty of men to move about peaceably from place to place; to discuss freely public affairs and questions; to engage in whatever honest occupation pleases them; to produce whatever seems to them most suitable; and to exchange what they have produced where they please, and for what they most desire.’’
The United States Constitution is a bright shining example of freedom to the rest of the world, and it is strong enough to withstand hubris, ignorance and abdication of duty because the people, once awakened, will always respond to their duty which lies at the ballot box.
Susan Lynn served in the Tennessee General Assembly from 2002-2008. She was chairman of the Government Operations Committee in the House.