THE BIG PICTURE
An overview of where we stand - asks the question, Is the Republic Worth Saving?
A SORRY STATE OF AFFAIRS
Our political system is broken. Here are some of the dominant features of the culture of Washington today:
The primary business in Washington is gaining and retaining political power; the process of governing the country is a secondary concern.
Money buys power through lobbying, election contributions, and the practice of hiring political activists to impersonate angry citizens (the latter practice has been widely used in recent months).
Political dialogue is debased by personal attacks on opponents, impeding rational discourse on our problems.
The rule of law is not enforced against federal officials; presidential appointees and staff of both parties often operate with impunity, knowing that their president “has their back.”
In this environment, Congress has become ineffective and now appears incapable of fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities. This leaves a political vacuum that the executive branch and agencies have been eager to fill, upsetting the balance of power prescribed by the Constitution.
The result? A topsy-turvy, undisciplined mess.
In recent elections the public has registered its displeasure with this state of affairs by electing candidates that promised to shake up the establishment, but changing the cast of characters in Washington won’t fix the problem. Hard experience shows that we must rigorously analyze the causes of the dysfunction and change the system before we will see any improvement. In short, we must:
"Dig deep to identify the underlying causes, and Think big when designing reforms
business-as-usual half-measures won’t do the job."
WHO’S TO BLAME?
We tend to blame Congress for our troubles; after all, didn’t we send them to Washington to take care of business? But in fairness to them, we should acknowledge that their job has changed significantly over the past 50 years because of systemic changes over which they had no control. Since we have made no adjustments to compensate for those changes, members of Congress have been left to deal with the altered landscape on their own—and there simply is not enough time for everything we ask them to do:
Because of the imposition of big money into the system for lobbying, election campaigns, and paid political activists, members of Congress must now typically spend at least 50% of their time raising campaign funds.
Members must also, because of the enormous growth of the administrative state and its intrusion into the lives of citizens, spend considerable time interceding with bureaucracies on behalf of their constituents.
Add in the time members spend in hearings and investigations aimed at trying to control overreach by the executive branch and agencies, and you have more than a full-time job.
And all that is before even considering new legislation!
We will not see satisfactory results from Congress unless we fundamentally repair the republic to deal with the realities of Washington today.
Beware These Enemies
We won’t give Congress a blanket free pass on these issues, however, since the actions of some members contribute to our troubles. At a fundamental level, the culprits are often the character traits we call the “Toxic Twins”: hubris and love of power. These traits are the enemies of good governance, and too many of our lawmakers succumb to their siren call. Our reforms must recognize this, and our refurbished checks and balances must seek to restrain those unattractive, harmful impulses.
IS THE REPUBLIC WORTH SAVING?
(a little history should help answer that question)
Launch of the American Experiment
After winning our independence in the Revolutionary War, our republic was launched with great hope. Sovereignty, for the first time in history on this scale, rested with the people. Because it was a new and untried form of government, its outcome was far from certain and it became known as the American Experiment. It was characterized by freedom for all of its citizens with limitations on the power of government.
How Have We Done So Far?
If we look at the evidence of our first 200 years, our constitutional republic has a stellar track record unmatched by any other form of government in history. Consider these major accomplishments:
We developed economic power that dramatically improved our standard of living and reduced poverty levels far beyond anything done before, by anyone.
We played a pivotal role in saving Western civilization (and freedom) in two horrendous world wars that killed 100 million people.
We gave critical support to rebuilding our former adversaries in those wars; with our help, they became model citizens working for a peaceful world.
We defended Western nations from the threat of world conquest by communist nations whose leaders killed 90 million of their own people in an attempt to restructure and remold society into their vision of utopia.
We expanded citizenship to include all segments of our society, and established a social safety net for our disadvantaged members.
The freedom of our people led to these impressive results. We demonstrated that a sovereign and free people can overcome tremendous obstacles and accomplish great and noble things when the need is understood. We may rightfully take pride in our national accomplishments which have contributed significantly to improvements in the lives of untold millions of people around the globe. And we can face the future with the confidence that we can overcome whatever lies ahead.
Throughout history, no other form of government has had this impact for good. Our constitutional republic is definitely worth fighting for.
The record of the last few decades is less inspiring, however, as external threats abated and we turned our attention inward. Special interest groups became aggressive in their efforts to test and breach the limits of the Constitution, lobbying intensified, and big money enhanced its grip on election campaigns. These developments have left us with a hopeless muddle in Washington that appears incapable of rational governance. It is time we acknowledged the true state of our affairs and took action to repair and rebuild the republic.
Despite the stellar record of our republic, some are dissatisfied with our accomplishments and feel that a collectivist form of government (such as communism, socialism, or their offshoots) would be superior. But every attempt in history to implement such a structure has led to an authoritarian regime that suppressed its people. Our constitutional republic stands as the best hope for mankind.
A CALL TO ACTION
Today, the tools available to Congress and the states to check presidential and bureaucratic overreach (publicity, defunding, lawsuits, and impeachment) are clumsy, painfully slow, imprecise and often ineffective. The Act 2 amendments will provide quick response tools to fix that problem. They will correct the imbalance of power that has impaired Congress and emasculated state authority.
When someone first learns about Act 2, his or her typical response is “How can a few simple amendments transform our vast, dysfunctional government into an effective one?” Here is the answer:
The amendments are simple in concept yet profound in impact, which is the mark of good law. Simple solutions are often the best answer to a problem.
Rather than be distracted by the symptoms of the problems (which is how we are currently spending most of our time), the Act 2 amendments dig deep to cure the causes of our governmental dysfunction.
Act 2 is the only reform program on the horizon that will deliver fundamental, comprehensive reform while remaining true to our founding principles. If these reforms are implemented, we will see a government that more closely fits the model the founders had in mind.