July 30, 2021

THREE CHEERS FOR OUR CONSTITUTION

ConstitutionWe hear frequently that people are attracted to the United States looking to live in a Democracy. If so, they should look elsewhere. Our founders considered a plethora of possibilities for the governance of the newly formed country, including monarchy. Their goal of preserving individual freedoms took them away from a kingdom as well as a representative democracy. Our system of government is best described as a federal republic, in which the sovereignty belongs to the people, and their representation starts and is concentrated in the States with a federal government limited to ruling on common issues such as defense. In order to protect these principles a strong Constitution was enacted. The limitation of government powers was enforced by the creation of three equal branches with clearly defined duties, the legislative, executive and Judicial. This balance of powers was expected to be conserved by an educated public, and a free press acting as a “watch dog”.

Since George Washington’s days the President, our most important figure, has tried to expand the dominance of the executive. In recent times, our politicians and some of the public have lost sight of how our system works. Instead of representing a different ideology, crucial in our two party schemes, they respond to the interests of their party over those of the Nation. Our public feeds itself from a bias press and has become partisans responding to their preferred party “talking points”, instead of pursuing their own ideas. In this context, the main beliefs of our founders have been diminished, this erosion increasing in our present administration, where an ineffective congress has relegated their legislative duties to the executive branch which in turn is doing so through their different administrative agencies. A liberal professor of Constitutional Law at George Washington University, Jonathan Turley, wrote of this danger in a “must read” article in the Washington Post titled “The rise of the fourth branch of government”. In this piece, he writes of the increasing dominance of the federal government over the states, the enormous and recent growth of our executive branch, and the expansion of departments and agencies that rule with greater autonomy and not many transparencies.

This “fourth branch”, in his opinion is causing the attrition of “our carefully constructed system of checks and balances”. These last few days we have witnessed decisions by our Supreme Court that might be the start of, if not limiting, reducing the abuse of power by the executive. The right of speech in the first amendment, and the right of privacy in the fourth were defended by a unanimous vote, and limitations to administrative agencies, the EPA, and the Presidents in relation to recess appointments, were also supported by all its members. Two other rulings also defending the rights of individuals to handle their affairs were decided by a five to four vote, against the desires of unions and the central government. Hopefully these actions represent an initial step towards reestablishing the precepts of our Constitution, and will serve to stimulate the voting public to recognize that in a two party system their opposing views are not only necessary but crucial as part of a process designated purposely to limit legislation, in order to safeguard the individual’s right to control their own affairs. We the people should defend our thoughts, not our parties, and strive toward independence of opinion in order to maintain our republic as our Forefathers envisioned. Compromise will only be achieved when passions give way to reasoning, judgments prevail over personal attacks, the press does what was intended, and “we the people” elect a president that has the needed experience to mediate, unite, and a desire to govern, not rule.
Fernando J Milanes MD

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