Thursday, July 30, 2009

An Impending Showdown

A battle is brewing. A majority of the states have passed symbolic resolutions reclaiming their sovereignty from the federal government. The reason they have done this is because many Americans, including many state legislators, feel the federal government has overstepped its proper, limited role.

The health care initiative currently in Congress is merely the latest example. With the debate on health care reform we see an obvious Socialist agenda at work, accompanied by numerous and incredible denials that it is Socialism. And so, with a federal agenda at work to nationalize many aspects of American life (health care on the way, but we already have nationalized banks, an automaker, education and retirement) on the one hand, and states beginning to fight for their constitutional rights to run their own affairs as they see fit (as is stated in the 10th Amendment) on the other hand, we the have makings of a fight.

Though I support the states in this battle, I fear I have chosen the losing side. You see, at issue here is the fact that the federal government is going beyond its constitutional authority. This very fact is what caused this new revolution in the first place, and yet there is a popular assumption that by simply asserting their constitutional right to govern themselves the states can take back the authority usurped by the federal government. But with the Fed already ignoring the 10th Amendment, thereby establishing a long tradition of ignoring states rights, I have to wonder why would the federal government start recognizing its constitutional boundaries now?

Even now, with the growing movement to reclaim state sovereignty, the U.S. Congress and President Obama are still pushing hard to nationalize America's health care as if there were no reason to reconsider or even to slow down what they are doing. So far, the constitutionally sound new revolution is proving ineffective. The Fed is still ignoring the fact it is ignoring the 10th Amendment.

A showdown is imminent. States are increasingly insistent the 10th Amendment should be respected. The Socialist movement dominating our federal government leads it to interpret the "general welfare" clause in as broad a way as possible; this time, rather than ignoring constitutional language, it is a phrase of the constitution taken literally, ignoring the numerous clarifications written by our founders.

* James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, elaborated upon this limitation in a letter to James Robertson:
With respect to the two words "general welfare," I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators. If the words obtained so readily a place in the "Articles of Confederation," and received so little notice in their admission into the present Constitution, and retained for so long a time a silent place in both, the fairest explanation is, that the words, in the alternative of meaning nothing or meaning everything, had the former meaning taken for granted.

* In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison stood on the floor of the House to object saying, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."
-- James Madison, 4 Annals of congress 179 (1794)

* "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated."
--Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Albert Gallatin, 1817

What we have here is a modern tradition in the federal government of ignoring original understandings of and original language in the constitution. This is done not by accident, but for the purpose of achieving particular agendas. In this climate, with blatant disregard for the constitution, why would the federal government allow the states to reclaim their sovereignty?

The tools of semantic acrobatics and historical ignorance have played a major role in creating the current attitude among so many politicians elected to federal office. This government-dependent mindset permeates our culture as well, and so Socialist sentiments from the people fuel Socialist agendas in Washington. The fact this federal takeover has lasted and grown more bold over several generations speaks to the high degree of damage already done to our republic and to the American appreciation of federalism.

Even now we have evidence indicating what the federal reaction will be to the new revolution: branding anyone who disagrees with the Socialist agenda as extremist.

At, in Town halls gone wild Alex Isenstadt evidently takes sides in the growing controversy. In this article, Isenstadt is sure to let us know protesters to this Socialist agenda are angry. He even interviews several Democrats to let us know how afraid they are for their safety.

Screaming constituents, protesters dragged out by the cops, congressmen fearful for their safety — welcome to the new town-hall-style meeting, the once-staid forum that is rapidly turning into a house of horrors for members of Congress.

On the eve of the August recess, members are reporting meetings that have gone terribly awry, marked by angry, sign-carrying mobs and disruptive behavior. In at least one case, a congressman has stopped holding town hall events because the situation has spiraled so far out of control.

You see, letting the government go wild is perfectly okay, because it's largely done with civility (for now). But the protesters are showing their anger and appear rude, and that's just not acceptable to the elitist. The fact that federal politicians are acting unconstitutionally and depriving the states and the people of their constitutional freedoms by taking over aspects of American life it should never be involved with are immaterial. Showing anger is interpreted as being extremist, and therefore dangerous. And what is the career politician to do with this?

“I had felt they would be pointless,” Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) told POLITICO, referring to his recent decision to suspend the events in his Long Island district. “There is no point in meeting with my constituents and [to] listen to them and have them listen to you if what is basically an unruly mob prevents you from having an intelligent conversation.”

And Rep. Bishop isn't the only one who feels this way:

Bishop isn’t the only one confronted by boiling anger and rising incivility. At a health care town hall event in Syracuse, N.Y., earlier this month, police were called in to restore order, and at least one heckler was taken away by local police. Close to 100 sign-carrying protesters greeted Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) at a late June community college small-business development forum in Panama City, Fla. Last week, Danville, Va., anti-tax tea party activists claimed they were “refused an opportunity” to ask Rep. Thomas Perriello (D-Va.) a question at a town hall event and instructed by a plainclothes police officer to leave the property after they attempted to hold up protest signs.

The elitist reaction to this genuine and sincere dissent is to ignore it, because they deem it "unruly". It apparently doesn't occur to these Democrats that they are doing something inappropriate in supporting federal overgrowth.

Democrats, acknowledging the increasing unruliness of the town-hall-style events, say the hot-button issues they are taking on have a lot to do with it.

Ah yes, it's the "hot-button issues" that cause this outrage, not the fact that government has grown beyond it's constitutional limits. At least these politicians acknowledge the problem is not that people disagree, it's that people are angry, but they have to change their attitude about it before discourse can continue.

Bishop continues in his self delusion that growing government and diminishing individual freedom are not the cause of the protests:

“I think in general what is going on is we are tackling issues that have been ignored for a long time, and I think that is disruptive to a lot of people,” said Bishop, a four-term congressman. “We are trying, one by one, to deal with a set of issues that can’t be ignored, and I think that’s unsettling to a lot of people.”

Thankfully there are some reasonable reactions in Washington to these protests. I don't know if they are any less self delusional, but at least these Democrats are willing to listen to their upset constituents. Isenstadt continues:

“Town halls are a favorite part of my job,” said Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.), a third-term congressman from St. Louis who noted that a “handful” of disruptions had taken place at his meetings. “It’s what I do. It’s what I will continue to do.”

“People have gotten fired up and all that, but I think that’s what makes town halls fun,” said Perriello, a freshman who is among the most vulnerable Democrats in 2010. “I think that most of the time when we get out there, it’s a good chance for people to vent and offer their thoughts. It’s been good.”

“I enjoy it, and people have a chance to speak their mind,” he said.

I'm glad to see there is no monolithic government reaction in this case. There is more than a simple party-line divide, even on the Democrat side there are reasonable politicians and elitists. But which group rules in Congress?

I think many people believe the reasonable politicians outnumber the elitists. If they are right, most politicians will acknowledge the fact their jobs depend on the approval of their constituents. But the elites have figured out they can bribe many of their constituents with promises of government hand outs, which makes it easier for them to bully the dissenters into silence (such as by treating dissent, angry or not, as extremist).

Political precedent shows us the louder voice tends to win. In the recent past the Socialist agenda has won a great deal of political ground and still has tremendous momentum. With the political game played as it is I fear the American people will suffer much more damage and lose far more freedom before any real progress is made to push back against federal overgrowth. By then will it be too late?

I think the political game will continue to drag this country to the left as long as the political rules remain unchanged. No amount of symbolic gestures and resolutions will accomplish any real goal. And the further left we go, the fewer rights the people and the states will retain. It's time to fight for real change, something that proved its immeasurable value for more than a century: allowing the states to have representation in Congress. If you want to restore the 10th Amendment, repeal the 17th Amendment.

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