(The audio version of this essay can be found here.)
No matter how bad things get in our country, many conservatives still retain a sense of pride and optimism in the United States because of our history, our traditions, but most especially our Constitution. Patriotic conservatives believe that the Constitution is an everlasting protection against tyranny in our land. No matter what, they say, we still have the Constitution. But how much does the Constitution really protect us nearly 250 years after its ratification?
In 1783, the Continental Congress of the thirteen colonies concluded a peace treaty with Great Britain and achieved the independence they had declared seven years prior. That was the easier part, however. Now that the fighting was done, they had to create a new nation out of thirteen unique states. Each of the original colonies had developed in its own way, with its own history and traditions. While it was one thing to ally together against a common enemy during the Revolution, it was quite another to find the compromises necessary to unite in a peacetime administration. The first national government was laid out by the Articles of Confederation. In this system, state governments were strong while the national government was little more than an assembly of delegates with little real power. While the Articles were a great libertarian idea in theory, in practice they proved ineffective for governing the new nation. With Great Britain still interested in recovering their lost territory, France on the verge of an unpredictable revolution, and Spain still taking interest in the region, a stronger hand was needed to keep the new nation afloat in world affairs. In 1787, the states sent delegates to a Constitutional Convention to figure out what to do next. While their mandate was merely to revise the Articles, they came out of convention with a new Constitution.
Statesmen throughout the thirteen colonies debated the merits of the new Constitution for several months. Having just won a bloody war to gain their independence, many in the new nation were justifiably suspicious about the new central government that the constitution represented. Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay anonymously wrote a series of pamphlets later known as the Federalist Papers that advocated for the new constitution. Eventually, all thirteen states ratified the constitution and it became the law of the land. George Washington of Virginia, who had led the Continental Armies during the Revolution and had presided over the Constitutional Convention, was elected the first president of the new government. John Adams of Massachusetts was Vice President.
The United States Constitution is a magnificent document and its ratification is a milestone in human history. For the first time, a government had been created ex nihilo, from scratch. A document was created which not only laid out the organizational structure of this new government but also constrained the government from infringing upon the natural rights of its citizens. Other nations in the world up until that time had grown up very gradually over the course of many centuries. Great Britain, for example, began as a loose collection of Anglo-Saxon tribes and kingdoms, each with their own traditions and systems of governance. They were conquered by the Normans in 1066, adopted Magna Carta in 1215 which placed obligations upon the king, gradually developed the concept of Parliament in the following centuries, redefined the relationship of king and church during the reign of King Henry VIII, fought a brutal civil war between King Charles I and Parliament that ended with the King’s execution, and finally adopted the idea of a parliamentary monarchy with a Bill of Rights in 1689. The British Constitution, even to this day, is not a single written document but is instead the accumulation of centuries of case law that has codified previously unwritten rules. The United States Constitution, on the other hand, was written from the beginning, and is still in force to this day. The authors built into it a method for altering it – the amendment process – which has allowed it to be updated for the times, but only very carefully and deliberately, with the approval of super-majorities of Congress and the state legislatures.
The word “constitution” typically refers to a document that lays out lays out the structure and laws for an organizational body. However, we also use the word to refer to the substance or characteristics of a body itself. As a document, the US Constitution laid out the organizational structure of the government, but it also reflected the characteristics of the people who wrote it. Had the Constitutional Convention been attended by modern Zambians, contemporary Japanese, or even Englishmen from the year 1000, it would have been an entirely different document. When the Constitution was adopted, the people of the United States were mainly of British heritage and of varying degrees of Christianity. While they had their differences and disagreements with each other, they were remarkably homogeneous compared to the so-called melting pot of America today. Founding Father John Adams remarked that “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Keep this in mind as we discuss the role of the Constitution to the present day.
Reading a history of the Constitution gives you a good picture of how much the country has changed since its founding. For example, the Constitution originally banned any form of income tax, yet the Congress and states passed the 16th amendment which authorized one. Despite originally only originally applying to the richest of the rich, and only taxing a small percentage of income, we all file taxes on April 15 now. The original Constitution also had Senators appointed by the states, to serve as the voice of the state legislatures in the US Congress. The 17th amendment took that away, however, and made Senators elected directly by the people. While this might sound like a good idea in theory, giving more power to the people, in practice it further marginalized the states while increasing the power of the federal government. The 18th Amendment banned alcohol, and the 21st amendment repealed that ban. It is hard to imagine either the Founders or modern Americans ever banning alcohol at a constitutional level.
One might suggest that these amendments are evidence that the Constitution works, but recent history suggests that while this might have been true at one time, it is no longer the case. The last amendment to be proposed and adopted by the congress and the states was the 26th amendment, which reduced the eligible age for voting to 18. This was in 1971, almost half a century ago, when young men were being drafted to fight in Vietnam but lacked the ability to hold their representatives accountable. (The 28th Amendment was ratified in 1992 but had been proposed as part of the original Bill of Rights two centuries earlier. Later amendments included sunset provisions should they not achieve ratification by a certain point.)
Despite no amendments being proposed and ratified since 1971 our interpretation of the Constitution has changed greatly. The legal and social structure of our society is being changed, but neither Congress nor state legislatures are voting on these changes. Rather, they are being made at the court and bureaucratic levels. The Supreme Court somehow discovered rights to abortion and gay marriage on constitutional grounds, despite no mention of those things in the actual text. The Obama Administration successfully convinced the Supreme Court that a health insurance mandate was constitutional, despite nothing in there giving government the right to force you to buy a third-party product. Federal judges have ruled that President Trump does not have the authority to revoke President Obama’s executive orders authorizing illegal aliens to remain in the country, despite the very clear precedent that one parliament or president cannot bind another.
But federal judges are not the only ones making end runs around the letter of the Constitution. Congress itself has outsourced a tremendous amount of its constitutional lawmaking powers to various executive agencies, passing laws that gave the bureaucrats in these agencies enormous power to create regulations that affect our daily lives. The Founding Fathers surely did not intend for this to happen. The number of regulations we deal with today dwarf the taxes and regulations that drove our ancestors to rebellion. The result of this practice is the creation of vast federal bureaucracies that control every aspect of our lives yet remain entirely unaccountable to the voting public. We can vote out Congressmen who infringe upon our liberties, but what can we do about a random Health & Human Services bureaucrat who is crafting regulations regarding children’s health, or a Secretary of Labor who decides that a company is not allowed to build a factory in a non-union state?
Let us sum up our situation today: We still have the Constitution, at least on paper, but whenever a federal judge or bureaucrat decides it is inconvenient, they simply ignore it, and we citizens have no recourse. The proper method for changing the constitution has been abandoned; instead of amending it with a vote of congress and state legislatures, activist judges simply reinterpret the words of the Founding Fathers. Yet patriotic conservatives still hold out hope that the Constitution will somehow save us from tyranny. To that I say, wake up! We are already under tyranny! Our ancestors spent blood and treasure throwing off a tyrant who ruled over them from an imperial capital three thousand miles away. Today, we are under the thumb of a tyrannical deep state that micromanages our lives from an imperial capital up to three thousand miles away.
I know what many of you might be thinking right now – what about an Article 5 convention? Many conservatives have latched on to this idea of creating a new convention that can propose amendments. While it is a valid option that is in the Constitution itself, I believe this ignores a big problem in conservatism today. Can we trust the same conservatives who couldn’t even conserve the women’s restroom to fix our constitutional system? Too many conservatives now advocate positions that are decidedly contrary to American traditions, such as open borders, gay marriage, affirmative action for women and minorities, and more. Does anyone really believe that today’s conservative leadership would resist the opportunity to slip in some insidious poison pills to any new amendments? That is not even to mention the compromises that would be required when dealing with the other half of the country that wants outright socialism. Sadly, I do not believe that there is a constitutional option to solving the problems that our Constitution has failed to stop. Founding Father Thomas Jefferson never believed that our nation would last for 250 years with a government still based upon the Constitution they wrote in 1788. He believed, rather, that every generation would need to foment their own revolutions rather than coasting on his. “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” he said.
The clearest example of the failure of the constitution is not in government, but in the social media censorship that is becoming more rampant day by day. While Facebook, Google, Twitter, and the rest of the social media giants are indeed private companies, they have become so powerful that any participation in the public square essentially requires using one of their platforms. Imagine if every public park and street corner was owned by a private company that decided what you could say or believe in those places, or a telephone company that banned people based on the content of your conversations. It would be unthinkable, yet these social media companies are doing just that. Rather than maintaining neutrality, these companies hold themselves above the US Constitution, censoring people based upon the ever-changing moral standards of whatever leftist social justice organization is the most outspoken at any given moment. Facebook and YouTube recently admitted to banning pro-life ads in Ireland during the referendum on abortion, while promoting pro-abortion ads. Look at the implications of this – these social media companies used their power to alter the moral laws of a Catholic nation that had stood for centuries. What might they do here in America with their thumbs on the scale of our democracy?
Project Veritas has recorded numerous conversations with employees of Google and YouTube who confidently say that they are not going to let 2016, with Brexit and President Trump’s election, happen again. A handful of people at the top of these social media companies are using their influence to change our government to suit themselves, disenfranchising millions of people who vote otherwise. Where are the constitutional protections for us against this attack? Too many naive conservatives simply say “Well, Google and Facebook are private companies, so they can do what they want.” As I said though, participation in the public square, the marketplace of ideas so beloved by conservatives, is impossible when you’re banned by social media, chased off the internet when web hosts refuse to let you set up your own sites, and ostracized entirely from the public sphere when payment providers refuse to let you do business. What is the conservative answer to this? It was recently discovered that Facebook’s so-called “Community Standards” prohibit threats of death and violence made against other users, unless those users are considered “dangerous”. Yet who is really considered “dangerous” by Facebook? Anyone that leftist organizations like SPLC and ADL tell them, including journalist Paul Joseph Watson, who has never advocated violence but simply makes videos exposing and mocking leftist hypocrisy. The policy was quietly scrubbed from the community standards page, but their intent was clear: One set of rules for the left, and another set for the right.
Federal judges are no help here. The same conservatives who say that the social media companies can do what they want because they are not part of the government have had no defense against federal judges who rule that bakers and florists are required to participate in degenerate rituals. The same conservatives who are making criticism of Israel illegal have no answer to social media companies that ban conservative commentators and publications. The conservative establishment has long played the role of Washington Generals to the left’s Harlem Globetrotters; that is, they see their job as to put on a good show while in the end accepting the left’s premise and vision for America. Conservative darling Ben Shapiro said nothing when Milo Yiannopolous or Jared Taylor were banned from Twitter, because he knows that he will never be banned because his milquetoast views are useful as controlled opposition to the left.
So, what do we have left? A paper Constitution that is ignored by federal bureaucrats and reinterpreted by activist judges. A First Amendment that is ignored by social media companies who act as gatekeepers to the public sphere. We know that they have no problem using their power to influence the course of history of nations, altering or even completely erasing their heritage. As always, the question remains, how then shall we live? Step one is to stop feeding the beast. It is probably impossible to completely disengage from social media these days, but you can at least stop paying them either with cash or with information. Use adblockers, lock down your privacy settings, use VPNs and anonymous accounts if possible. Do not rely on them for your livelihood, because they will stab you in the back if they can. Finally, stop counting on the Constitution to save our country. As a founding document it was wonderful, but America is not the same people we were when it was written. We are no longer the “moral and religious people” that John Adams saw around him. Do not wait for a national savior but build your family and community in such a way as to carry on the traditions that created the Constitution in the first place.
If you accept that the United States as constituted today will not survive the next generation, then planning for what comes next becomes a far simpler prospect. Our fathers fought and died so that we would not be subject to a tyranny in London; why should our sons be subject to a tyranny in Washington DC? Focus on your family and your community, because that is where a real difference will be made. Remember that your sons and grandsons will be the ones to rebuild once the decline and fall of the United States of America is complete.