Restoring Constitutional Government

Richard Arena

Serious students of the Constitution know that the federal government is operating well beyond the bounds of the powers the states delegated to it. Those who defend this extra-constitutional power expansion argue that the Founders could not have envisioned the complexities and advanced technologies of the 21st century and therefore the need for corresponding additional federal powers.

In fact the Framers did anticipate the need to modify the Constitution to meet unforeseen future circumstances. That is the purpose of Article V which provides two methods for the states to amend the Constitution. (Congress may propose amendments, but only the states can authorize them). What we are witnessing today is the expansion of federal power at the expense of state, local and individual rights by extra-constitutional federal decree. In his farewell address, President Washington warned against this type of usurpation:

“If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”

The question millions of Americans are asking is, “How do we get the genie back in the bottle?” The simple answer is: through the exercise of powers the states reserved to themselves and the people.

The framers built checks and balances into the federal system so that no one branch or collusion of branches could come to dominate. As Madison put it, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” When we think of the Constitution’s checks and balances the tendency is to overlook the role originally provided for the states to check federal encroachments on the powers the states reserved to themselves and the people. As originally written, senators were appointed by their respective state legislatures. This made their political perspective and primary duty the protection of their state’s interests.

When the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913, it provided for senators to be elected by popular vote. That effectively eliminated the states’ institutional check on federal power abuses because senators then came to represent the interests of big campaign contributors, wherever they live. Thus, big donors in California, New York and other states have influence over who represents the people of Georgia and how they are represented.

There are two remedies: 1) Repeal of the 17th Amendment; and 2) A new state and/or federal amendment(s) restricting political contributions to individuals eligible to vote in the geographic area a candidate is running to represent. The way to make that happen is for citizens to repeatedly let candidates and office holders know that is what we want!

Share this:

2 thoughts on “Restoring Constitutional Government”

  1. I think Remedy #2 has great potential, esp. When pursued at State level. If several States passed such a ConAm, it would gain momentum.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *