Campaign Contributions: Returning Representation to the Citizen

“Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This single statement is the heart of the modern republic and it is the cornerstone concept that led to the creation of the United States Constitution. In this statement exists the sovereignty of the individual or more to the point the citizen. It also establishes the expectation of the influence of the citizen on the election of their representatives and the laws created by the representatives. It is the issue of influence that should be discussed. What kinds of influence are legitimate and ethical and what kinds if influence have the effect of disenfranchising the citizen from their just authority?  Influence can be broken down into multiple forms, speech (most obvious), money, services, access, job promises, etc. Any myriad of tangible offerings. It is the influences beyond speech that should be of the greatest concern. Any law created to infringe on a citizens speech is prohibited by the 1st Amendment. However, money and other forms of influence are not necessarily protected under speech and they are fundamentally more influential than speech. Who should be allowed this influence and what limits should be placed on this influence? This is the question to be addressed. Current campaign finance laws have allowed for these kind of influences to come from almost any quarter within the United States and from without. The effect of these kind of influences has disenfranchised the citizen in favor of the political party, the special interest group, the corporation, and the affluent. It is this behavior that violates the idea of “the consent of the governed” and replaces it with the consent of the powerful. New campaign finance guidelines/tenants must be established, insuring citizens’ rights/influence, are held preeminent in the election of the  representative. These guidelines/tenants must adhere with the United States founding premises and comply with both the U.S. Constitution and State Constitutions.

The Constitution only recognizes three sovereign entities. These are the United States itself, the States of the Union, and the citizen, each having their roles, responsibilities, and authorities.  It does not recognize cities or counties, which are created under the authority of the State. Nor, does it recognize the business, union, political party, or the interest group. They are the products of the citizen. The special interest group, the corporation, the political party cannot vote for representation. These organizations are not citizens. Why should they have the ability to provide more tangible influence on a campaign or elected a official than the citizen’s being represented? The Supreme Court has ruled that money is in effect speech. This is partially true. What it has failed to recognize is that financial support or anything more tangible in a election is far more influencing than just speech and it goes beyond speech. Money and other forms of influence is in effect voting. The same can be said when purchasing a product, the consumer is in effect voting for that product. A corporation or any entity that cannot actually vote for a candidate, should not be able to give money to one. In the case of  corporations, many are multi-national thus opening up influence of the election process to foreign influence in violation of the law.  Allowing for any entity beyond the citizen to provide tangible resources to a campaign is essentially granting  them a power they are not entitled to.

There are lines of sovereignty drawn throughout the United States. Each one creating constituencies and offices for representation. Each one of these offices have limited and specific authorities. States, counties, cities, judicial districts, congressional districts, etc. These lines of established authority create limitations on influence. This should insure that only the citizen residences of the office being voted for are able to provide support beyond speech to that potential office holder. Consider the election for the President of the United States. It is a national election. Every U.S. citizen is a constituent of that office. If the campaigns and candidates for that office were to take money, have a campaign advisors, receive any tangible support from a foreign entity. It would not only violate current campaign finance laws and it be considered not just unethical, but criminal, disqualifying. Why is not the same set of rules be applicable at the state level, county level, city level, etc? Should a someone residing in Florida, a citizen of  Florida, be able to provide anything beyond speech to an election in Texas? Texas is sovereign from Florida as Florida is from Texas. The citizens of one state have no right, no authority, to participate in the election process of another state. The same is true of county or city elections. Each electable office created also creates a constituency that the office is establish to serve. Only those citizens who may vote for that office should be allowed provide any influence or support beyond speech to those seeking the office or even holding the office. It is the only ethical and Constitutional behavior that should be allowed.

Proposed Guidelines/Tenants for Ethical and Constitutional Campaign Contribution Laws.

The Constitution provides shared authority in establishing election laws between the States and the Federal government with the primary authority residing in the States. This would results in 51 or more laws on campaign contributions.

Article I, Section IV, Clause 1

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be     prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law                 make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Chusing Senators.

  1. No campaign for public office may receive or solicit for, nor may, any entity offer any  tangible item or service of value that is not a permanent resident citizen of the office being sought. Put simply, a campaign is limited exclusively to the resources of the territory in which the office being sought and will represent. Anyone who is not a constituent of the office being sought may not provide any money or services to that campaign. Services purchased by the campaign are limited to individuals and businesses within the geography of the office being sought. Some may argue that limiting hired resources to the geography of the district, county, city, or state etc is debilitating. However, it puts every campaign on the same playing ground. It is fair.
  2. All contributions, received and all expenditures made must be reported into the public domain within 24 hours of receiving the largesse or services or using the campaign resources. A complete contribution accounting must be provided: Who donated money or time, how much money or time, the residence of the contributor, service provided, how much spent, to whom it was sent, the purpose of the expenditure, the contacts representing the service provider, the address of the    service provider. Each state shall have its own method of achieving  and providing for the public record of the campaign. The rules should be evenly applied to all campaigns.
  3. Limits on financial contributions should be capped based on the demographic average earnings of the citizens of the state in which the elections are taking place. A cap for contributions for federal office should also be established federal office. Limits should exist to insure that no one individual citizen has greater influence to a public office than another. Every citizen gets one vote each. Thus the influence should be as evenly distributed as possible Providing each citizen who wishes to participate/contribute can do so equally.
  4. Citizens should only be allowed one residence for the determining  constituency for voting for national offices. Many citizens own multiple homes in a variety of different locations with the U.S. They should not be able to vote multiple times in an election. One residence only. The same can be said of voting within a state.
  5. The use of personal largesse to get oneself elected should be limited to contribution caps. The use of any services controlled by the candidate must be paid for by the campaign at costs normal to the operation of that business. Denying the same services to a competing campaign should be illegal and the costs should be commensurate. The United States is not meant to be an oligarchy. An individual in any other area may take full advantage of their affluence. However, this is for public office whose role is to serve their constituency. Buying an elected office is unethical and not within the founding fathers intent.
  6. Campaigns for public office may not assume debt. No loans. Opens the door to influence that would exceed contribution caps.
  7. Contributions to a campaign whether financial, participation, or any form of volunteer offering require proof of citizenship and constituency to the office being sought. To participate in a campaign, the individual wishing to support the candidate must show proof that they may vote for the candidate.
  8. All contributions remaining after the election and after all services have been closed go to the county, city, state, or federal treasury respectively within 30 days of the day after the election. The purpose of a campaign is to provide a candidate for a public office with a vehicle to inform the constituents of that office with information about the candidate, the goals of the candidate, the qualifications of the candidate, and the issues important to the candidate. It is not there to enrich    the candidate beyond getting elected.
  9. Any U.S. Citizen, Organization, PAC, Political Party, Corporation, Special Interest Group, etc. may make a statement of endorsement of any campaign for public office which the campaign may use or reject. with the following restriction. Organizations, PAC, Political Parties, Corporations, Special Interest groups must be able to show that they received no largesse from a foreign entity. No foreign influence. Freedom of speech is maintained
  10. Organizations, PAC’s, Political Parties, Corporations, Special Interest Groups, etc. may advertise opinions on any issue provided they identify their organization when issuing the advertisement. All service and monies used for issue advertising should be available for public record within 24 hours of receipt or acceptance of services. This is not endorsement of a candidate. This is issue advertising. No mention of a candidate is permitted. The organization has already performed that activity by making a statement of endorsement. If they chose to.
  11. Organizations, PAC’s, Political Parties, Corporations, Special Interest Groups, etc. are prohibited from limiting or restricting U.S. citizens from any and all lawful contribution to any campaign while outside the workplace. Additionally, are not permitted to make as a condition of employment any limits on political expression outside the workplace as long as the employee in their participation is not acting as a representative of the organization. Some corporations have their own political action committees (PAC’s) while at the same time restricting or limiting their employees from contributing themselves. This behavior is essentially holding the employee who is a citizen hostage to the will of the employer.
  12. Campaigns violating limitations on contributions should be required to return or pay for the largesse or services received and should be subject to a fine equal to amount of largesse or services illegally received. Penalties should be so damaging as to make violating them unthinkable.

The United States of America is a republic. It is not a democracy. Granted, the election of a public office holder is a result of a democratic process. However, the simple truth is that the individual citizen does not vote directly on any given issue in almost all cases. It is the elected official that holds the governing authority through the consent of the citizen. They either legislate the law or administer the law. The elected official swears an oath to uphold the ideals and principles established in The Constitution. It should also be understood that the elected  official does not actually assume the mantle of authority of the office until they make that oath. The oath establishes an affirmative responsibility to uphold the promises, liberties, obligations, responsibilities, and sovereignty established in The Constitution. Because of this the public office holder’s obligation is to the citizen and the oath taken. Not the corporation, union, political party, special interest group or any other entity. The responsibility is only to the citizens who granted their consent to be represented by that individual and to guarantee the social fabric they are sworn to uphold.

The fundamental problem that exists within the republic (any republic) and its election of public office holders is the loss of the foundational ethics around representational government. This loss of ethic is reflected in the current set of campaign finance laws. For the citizen to take back control and influence of the political process and its “representative government”, the citizen must insist on a set of ethics that get legislated into law reaffirming the original intent of its creators, and the rules we have all agreed to adhere to.

The First Amendment to The Constitution insures that every U.S. citizen has the right and unrestricted opportunity to express their ideas and thoughts on any issue or interest. It is a fundamental ethic of the society. Every citizen’s voice freely adding to the dialog that establishes the culture and its laws. However, current campaign finance laws are disenfranchising the individual citizen in favor of influence of political action committees (PACS), unions, political parties, corporations, and any myriad of special interest groups. None of these aforementioned organizations have a direct right to representation. These organizations inherit their influence and rights through the citizens that support them. Again, Supreme Court has ruled that the contribution of money to a candidate running for public office is free speech and is protected under The First Amendment. This ruling on its face fails to recognize the substantial influence of money over speech. The problem is that they convolute the organizational entity such as a PAC, political party, corporation, etc… with the individual citizen. This lack of nuance has lead to laws that have in effect created an oligarchy of political influence favoring the affluent, famous, and special interest group over the citizen. Elected officials seem more interested representing what the political party, or the special interest group thinks and wants than what their constituents think or want. It is not supposed to be this way. Their simply needs to be a public dialog over what is the proper ethical and Constitutional influences to the election process.

A Proposal to Amendment the Constitution: The Governing Authority Amendment

We live in a period of American history where The Constitution of the United States is an inconvenience. The document is fundamentally ignored as the governing authority for the behavior of the Federal government, State governments and even the legal system. It seems that it is only those who have been violating The Constitution in deeds and spirit who find themselves on the losing side of a discussion that The Constitution all of a sudden becomes relevant again. Even then it is not always properly applied to the issue. The Constitution is not a menu system where we can pick and choose what we want when it is convenient. The Constitution is a spouse. We are married to it. We get all the benefits and all the limitations imposed by that relationship. All the time.

As an example, the legal system has manage to replace the written words of the Constitution of the United States with legal precedence in relation to the 1st Amendment. The Supreme Court has established a doctrine called “The Separation of Church and State”. The implementation of this doctrine violates the very freedom of expression to religious expression that the 1st Amendment guarantees. A church gets classified as a charity meaning it gets tax incentives. They publicly display the nativity or the ten commandments. Someone gets offended and sues to have it taken down because the institution is receiving federal funds. The court system rules that the religious expression violates the legal precedence of the separation of church and state. However, what has really happened is that the civil liberties of every member of that religious community has been violated. Lets review what the 1st Amendment as written says.

            Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or        prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the            press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

How does abridging freedom of speech, religious or otherwise as a result of a legal precedence make any sense? The real question is should religious institutions have access to public largesse? Does granting tax benefits to Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, or Muslim institutions violate the beginning phrase of the 1st Amendment?

Clause 4 is designed to correct another wrong which most people overlook. The Standing rules (locus standi) grant the Federal and State governments to much flexibility in their use of authority. The ideal is to reinforce civil liberties of the Citizens of the United States by limiting the courts ability to reject plaintiffs base on “imminently” of harm

Congress continues, regardless of party to pass laws outside its constitutional authority. The healthcare debate is a perfect example. Where in The Constitution does it grant the federal government the power to manage, provide, and appropriate funds for an individuals healthcare? It is definitely not found under the commerce clause. None of the services ever cross state lines. Where does it grant power to tell a U.S. citizen to buy a product? Many consider healthcare a right. However, this “Right” is not written anywhere. It is not in the Bill of Rights or any current amendment to the Constitution. Additionally, how can it be a right if it requires some else to provide you the service? Some say it is part of the social contract. Where is this mythical document? The fact is, The Constitution is written as the social contract for the United States. Regardless of all this, the current President and crop of Congressmen are talking about exercising an authority they do not have. This use of power is part of an ever continuing violation of the 10th Amendment to The Constitution of the United States which states the following.

            The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited   by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The Constitution offers really only two things. Justice and Liberty. It does not offer services. Justice in that every citizen shall be treated equally under the law and liberty, the right of every citizen to determine their own destiny. Every legislature in the United States should consider with each proposed law whether they are violating the liberty of their citizens and Congress in addition should consider with each proposed law whether they are also violating the 10th Amendment. The Right of the States.

Because of the Founding Fathers distrusted governments as a whole they federalized (distributed) the authority between what are supposed to be independent branches (Legislature, Execute, and Judicial) as well as the sovereign states versus the federal. The idea was to create a constant push an pull on authority to keep power in limited ranges for every institution, thus insuring liberty in the balancing of these interests. However, we find ourselves in period where the political parties dominate the institutional design of the founding fathers. Elected representatives are more beholden to their political party and the funding associated than they are to their institutions or the people they represent.

The proposed amendment is one step to reigning in the overuse of unconstitutional authority being practiced today and attempt to narrow the authority of the federal government to be more inline with the original intent of the founding fathers

The Amendment: 

  1. Congress shall pass no law or appropriate funds without properly identifying and specifying the Constitutional authority of the Federal government to invoke such a law or establish the use of public largesse. Each law shall incorporate a statement of intent for that law which will govern the application of that law and will specify the clause in The Constitution which provides for that authority
  2. Congress is prohibited from passing any law which literally violates The Bill of Rights or any civil liberty which has been amended to The Constitution of the United States.
  3. The judiciary shall have authority when invoked to review, suspend for a period, and vacate any law violating the Constitution of the United States. The judiciary shall only consider the Constitution of the United States, The Bill of Rights or any enumerated civil liberty amended to The Constitution of the Unites States in its deliberations and decisions.
  4. The executive branch of the federal government, the states, and any United States citizen shall have legal standing to challenge any statute extending Federal authority beyond what is specified in The Constitution of the United States and violates The Bill of Rights or any amended civil liberties.

Healthcare and The Constitution: Where is the Authority?

The authority of governance for the modern republics of the world comes directly from the consent of the governed. This is very much true for The United States and this thinking informed The Founding Fathers when they created this country. Coupled with the idea that all authority is derived from the consent of the governed is also the concept that people and government would establish a social contract. This also influenced  the early framers of The United States. The social contract is often bandied about by those attempting to empower more authority in a centralized government in the name of more services to the people. However, the truth is that our social contract is The United States Constitution. Any other attempt to create some mythical unwritten social contract outside the one we have is a lie to the citizens hearing it. The Constitution defines governments scope of power and with the bill of rights and supporting amendments limits to it as well. The Constitution also clearly defines the rights of its citizens. These are not menu options but guaranteed to every citizen.

What does The Constitution say about the federal governments authority over healthcare? Is it a federal responsibility? Does it fall within the scope of our social contract?

Some think that the Preamble to The Constitution grants authority within the “General Welfare” reference. The first problem with this perspective is that The Preamble to The Constitution does not grant powers or authority. The Preamble is the summary statement. It describes the intent for all that follows. It sets the context on how The Constitution should be viewed. The second problem with the idea that welfare grants power to provide healthcare is that it says promote the general welfare not provide the general welfare. The goal is not to give things to the American people but to create conditions in which the American people can enrich themselves.

The Preamble:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Many would reference the commerce clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3). The next logical question is, does the commerce clause apply? The original intent of the commerce clause was to grant Congress legislative authority over international commerce and to insure ease and fair trade between the states. However, there are some limitations to the power of the commerce clause (many which are ignored today). Congress has no regulatory authority over commerce that does not cross state lines. Congress also has no authority to prohibit commerce across state lines, it may only regulate. Any regulation under the commerce clause must be applied equally to each state. Equal protection for the states.

The Commerce Clause:

Congress shall have power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”

For the sake of the discussion a patient goes to their doctor for a checkup or a procedure. The patient is receiving a service which is commerce but the doctor or even hospital is local, the transaction it never crosses a state or multiple state lines. Thus the commerce clause does not apply. If the patient traveled to another state to receive the service the commerce clause still does not apply because the transaction is again local. The same is true for the purchasing of health insurance All insurance local to the state, so again the commerce clause does not apply.

The law prohibiting the sales of insurance across state lines (McCarran-Ferguson Act) is an interesting case looking at it through an originalist lens. First, the whole act is unconstitutional regardless of previous supreme court rulings. The act is a prohibition on commerce. This alone is a violation of the commerce clause. Congress may not prohibit commerce between the states. The act essentially lets the federal government act with the power and authority of a state but lets it act as all states. This is a violation of the tenth amendment. The irony of the McCarran-Ferguson Act is that it has created complexities for those looking to nationalize the U.S. Healthcare industry. If one thinks about it, The Affordable Care Act violates the McCarran-Ferguson Act by creating a centralized insurance exchange.

The Tenth Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”.

ObamaCare (The Affordable Care Act) attempted to nationalize activities that fall squarely within the authority of the individual states. Additionally, there is no constitutional authority to guarantee any commercial services be mandated to the populace nor for the federal government to require the consumption of a commercial product. These requirements are both a violation of the ninth and tenth amendments to The Constitution as well as a violation of the intent stated in the Prologue. Congress should not be passing laws that take liberty away from the people. The setting up exchanges in place of the state that decided not participate with a state exchange again violated the tenth amendment. The SCOTUS ruling that the word State means whatever the intent of the authors was is a pure violation of historical precedence and calls into question the legitimacy of the supreme court as anything but a political body.

Medicaid and Medicare also have constitutional issues. The very nature of entitlement funding through the federal government with ever increasing expenditures without formal house appropriation bills to fund these programs violates Article I, Section 7, Clause 1. The question here is whether the House of Representatives has the authority to abdicate its constitutional authority to other institutions? Additionally, these programs are bankrupting the Federal government and need to be addressed.

Article I, Section 7, Clause 1:

All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills

Every time the federal government has involved itself in healthcare it has driven the costs for everyone up. The simplest truth is that there is no governing authority for the federal government to establish a managing presence in healthcare as well as there being no constitutional mandate to insure that commercial services are made available or consumed. Doing any of these things throws The Constitution onto the scrap heap. If healthcare is to be legally addressed at a national level, The Constitution will  need to be amended. Repeal The Affordable Care Act and get out of the way. Let enlightened self-interest and the market place drive the services up and the costs down.

The Great Divide: The Media – Its Role and Responsibilities

Journalists in the United States get the right to say pretty much anything they want. Unlike journalists of other countries, they have very little that holds them responsible. The federal government is prohibited from interfering because of the first amendment. However, they take this right as a given with little thought of where it comes from. The reporter thinks they are entitled to this liberty as though there is some higher calling in being a journalist. What the journalist and everyone else tends to forget is that their right to a “Free Press” comes from their U.S. citizenship. It is not an inalienable right. Yet they behave as though their responsibility to there profession is more important than their responsibility to their fellow citizen. The news media’s responsibility is exclusively to the citizen.

The media is always selling this idea of the journalistic ethic. Where is this mythical ethic being practiced? Editors and editorial boards routinely omit stories or place the ones they wish to deemphasize in positions likely to not be read. However, when they want something it is always in the name of the publics right to know. Reporters will comment on information to control the context of how the information is perceived. They cannot just state the facts. Often times the language used is designed to get an emotional reaction over an analytical one. After all, outrage always sells. Ninety percent of these ethical journalists vote along a single political party line. Yet, they would have us believe that their personal perspectives have no impact on the quality of their work. Much of the division we have in this country falls squarely on the shoulders of the news media. They abuse their privilege and only tell us what they think we should hear. They are the first and frontline contributors to our social discontent.

The founding fathers went out of the way to include freedom of the press in The Bill of Rights while denying the federal government the power to regulate the press. However, there was the expectation that the media would be the loyal opposition. Not to a party, philosophy, religion, or institution but to be the opposition equally to all sides of our public discourse. The ethic is to accurately report the news without bias and ask the tough questions equally. Allow for a dialog so that the citizen can decide. When the press becomes the news, takes sides, displays favoritism, manipulates facts, they are not living up to their supposed ethic. They are committing the worst of crimes envisioned by the founding fathers in a democratic republic. The violation of the public trust.

For those who believe that corporations are inherently corrupt or evil, consider the news agency. They make money by selling media and advertising. The more circulation, the more viewership, the more money. Commerce by any definition. However, where almost all other forms of commerce are regulated, the press is exempted. They can put any kind of poison into the public consciousness without consequence. As a consumer, if one does not like a company, or the product of a company, one can purchase from another or not purchase at all. The media however is different. It is like air or a government law. We consume the product without consent. We are effected by the information from sources we do not choose. This happens all the time. Walking past a turned on TV or a radio news report at the top of the hour. It is all there and we are consuming the data. If the information is biased, true or false, liked or disliked, we still consume it. Not much liberty on the consumer side is there.

Unlike any time in history, our technology provides us with a great many advantages, but we do not often recognized the disadvantages. The 24 hour news cycle has changed news. It has had the effect of making mountains out of molehills by what is reported and molehills out of mountains by what is not reported. The immediacy of the communications creates the perception that an event is happening right down the street. Little stories that have huge potential for effecting the future get bypassed or ignored for the sensational, the violent, the horrific. It colors our perspective of our world. We like young teenagers entering puberty are thrown from one emotional reaction to another. Everything is an issue. We can barely get a grasp on the core problem of one issue before we are off on another issue with the next news story. This is all done in the name of some false sense of morality or public service but always better ratings.

It is time for the media to move into a new set of standards that reflects the change in technology and gives the consumer more choice and control. The days of not having enough space in the paper and time on radio and TV are gone. The need for editorial decisions on what is front page and back page information need not exist. Everything that can be covered and should be covered without bias. News should be presented by three contextual categories. The facts, the point of view (POV) of the participants involved, and commentary by pundits who want to color the event or mold the issue. There should be ethics and rules around each category to insure fairness and accuracy. The reports should be labeled with these categories. No more mixing of the categories together confusing opinions and politics with facts. Let the consumer decide what they want to hear and how they want to hear it.

Journalists like to cloak themselves in airs that what they do is a calling similar to being a priest. They throw their moral tones on right and wrong around like manhole covers informing each of us how to feel and think about what they report. The practitioners of this profession should be held in far less esteem than they currently are. They are simply not as smart or ethical as they make themselves out to be. The media does not own the corner on morality. We as consumers of news should become far more discriminating. Believe less, question more. Regulating the news: having politicians and bureaucrats control information flow would be even worse than what we have now, but their needs to be change. We cannot have an honest debate over our differences as long as news providers operate outside any ethic and cannot even report the facts.

The Great Divide: Prologue

We as a species are living in a time period unparalleled at any time in our known recorded history. We have gone to the moon. Each one of us has in effect of the Library of Alexandra (the some of human knowledge) at our finger tips through our handheld devices and the internet. Our life spans are ever increasing with some of us making it to over 110 years of age, and the infant mortality rate has never been lower. Human beings has never had it better. Citizens of the United States live in a country where you can pretty much do what you want. Compared to 90% of the rest of the world the average Americans standard of living is far above what other humans experience. Yet our discontent with our society, our government, and in many cases each other has some near revolt. Why?

The problem is, for one reason or another we as a people regardless of group, category, or classification do not believe that we are living in a just society. We do not trust our institutions, our representatives, or each other. The primary reason there is no trust is the lack of integrity in our interactions with our institutions and each other. This in turn effects the perceptions of having little or no opportunity and a fundamental feeling of no fairness. We see a society without justice, integrity, and opportunity. Our unhappiness has us screaming at each other an neither side can hear or is willing to hear the other.

Any one of us can look and anyone else and make judgments. We can put each other into any combination of categories we want. The only category that counts is whether you are a human being. That should be enough to treat each other with integrity. The truth of our quality can only be determined through our actions. The same is true of organizations. They can package themselves to sound and look like anything. But its the actions that organizations and institutions take that tells you who and what they are. We got to get past the slick packaging. Every group of people that has ever existed in history is guilty of having done something to another group of people. It is time to turn the corner and move on.

We have so much and we are so conflicted.  It is easy to feel. A little critical thinking would go a long way. There will always be disagreements and conflict. It is our nature. However, an honest dialog where we can hear each other would be a step towards some resolutions. Maybe its time to have a serious discussion about what our societal standards are going to be moving forward

The Value of Respect

At the end of the Civil War at Appomattox Courthouse, General Robert E. Lee met with General Ulysses S. Grant to secure the conditions of surrender. After Lee had secured the conditions beneficial to his men it was required that every member of the Army of Northern Virginia was to surrender to union forces. Of all the officers of general rank that Grant had to give the honor of receiving the surrender to. He chose Brevet Brigadier General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain a Medal of Honor winner at the Battle of Gettysburg. Chamberlain requested that in addition to his current unit that the Maine unit he commanded at the Battle of Gettysburg also be allowed to take the surrender. The request was granted.

The Army of Northern Virginia arrives to give their surrender and receive their parole. Given the viciousness of the war and number of dead on both sides, one can only imagine what the surrendering confederate soldier would be feeling. The condition of the Army of Northern Virginia is horrific. They have been harried for weeks with little or no sleep. The army is starving. Many of the soldiers are down to eating shoe leather. Leading the surrendering army is a Georgian cavalry officer named General John Gordon. He is mounted on a white horse. Chamberlain calls his men to attention and orders present arms. The rifles of the union soldiers crack in salute. General Gordon recognizing the gesture and the fact that the union soldiers are not jeering his men, gallantly wheels his horse and returns the salute by dipping his sword. Later as the men intermingle Chamberlain overhears several southern soldiers comment on the gesture saying that had the roles been reversed, they doubted that they would have treated the union soldiers with the same respect.

Years later Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain writes a book called “The Passing of Armies” in which he describes the final months of the civil war including the surrender. The book sets off a firestorm of criticism by those who feel that reconstruction is to good for the secessionist states and that Chamberlains gesture was inappropriate. General Gordon upon hearing of the controversy writes and editorial article in a local newspaper calling Chamberlain one of the knightliest soldiers in the union army.

Treating each other with respect, even people with whom we disagree with or are enemies with can go along way. Showing ones quality might just get you allies from unexpected quarters. One never knows who might come to your aid because of the example have you set.

The Forgotten Promise

Every two years and again every four, the U.S. citizen has the opportunity to go through the process of reselecting their representatives. Each individual running for one of the public offices promise all kinds of actions and behaviors that they will perform in order to get the support of their constituents and those offering money. The truth is that the promises made by the candidates that win election are not binding. It is only the threat of losing their financial donors or constituents support that has the potential to hold them to their promises. What has been forgotten is that every public office holder swears an oath of office. The mantle of authority of that office is not conferred onto that individual until the oath is taken. That oath is supposed to be binding. It is no different than taking an oath in court to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. The oath of office establishes an affirmative obligation to execute the office to which they have been elected and to uphold the promises, limitations, responsibilities, and authorities set in The U.S. Constitution. It is in the failing to uphold the oath of office and the citizens losing the meaning and source of that promise that the country is being lost and the promise of the country forgotten.

What is the Promise? Is it a guaranteed a living, job, or home? Is it free health care or  education? Where is the promise written? The promise can be found in the Preamble of The Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and  our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The Preamble is the executive summary for the intent of everything that follows it. The Bill of Rights are the a limit to the authorities of not only the Federal government but the State governments as well. It is the contractual rights of the citizens of the United States. There are many that talk about the idea of a social contract. The Constitution of the United States is the social contract. Voted on, confirmed by the States and citizenry. Reaffirmed in blood and by oath generation upon generation. However, it is not just an agreement between the government and its citizens, or an agreement of the division of powers and responsibility between the States and the Federal government. It is an agreement of conduct from one citizen to another.  Every citizen has a stake and responsibility to uphold this contract. Not just those holding office.

The Preamble can be broken down into five obligations, guarantees, or promises. The establishment of Justice, the ensuring of domestic tranquility, the providing for a common defense, the promoting of the general welfare and the securing of liberty. These are the core promises of the country.

Establish Justice It is a requirement that the laws instituted be equitable and principled. The adjudication of the law be evenly applied for every citizen.

Ensure Domestic Tranquility This is a guarantee that the interaction between the States and the federal government and the States are peaceable. Some think that this also includes public safety. However, there is no formally established power for public safety in the Constitution. The only mention of safety is in respect to Habeas Corpus.

Provide for the Common Defence This is an obligation which the U.S. has as a nation. The Constitution also reaffirms the authority with very specifically defined powers in both Article 1 and Article 2. The States have also historically been held the same obligation.

Promote the General Welfare This is both an obligation and a promise to create conditions by which citizens may enrich themselves. The Constitution grants a limited set of authorities to do this within Article 1. There are simply no powers granted to provide for the General Welfare.

Secure the Blessing of Liberty This is the ultimate promissory note. It has been the delineating difference between the United States and almost every other nation in history. It is the promise to govern with the smallest amount of interference or restriction on the lives of its citizenry.

Liberty is not a term in common practice in our daily discourse. When was the last time anyone heard a legislator oppose a law because it violated the liberty of the citizenry that they represented, federal or state? Better still, rescind a law to restore a lost liberty? Every time a new law, a new tax, or a new fee is created it steals in increments, pieces of liberty. Some of these trade offs may be reasonable, many are not. Citizens should be aware of what they are allowing their representatives to take from them.

We have forgotten the importance and value of the oath. Everything comes down to the oaths we take. The entire system of government is based on the oath, from the local up through the federal. Every elected, appointed, or hired individual receiving taxpayer money is required to take the oath. The quality of the these individuals determines whether the promise of this country is realized. When anyone takes an oath to The Constitution, regardless of office, they are assuming the responsibility to deliver on the promise of liberty and justice for every citizen. It is an affirmative obligation. Every citizen should be holding the system and these individuals accountable.

The requirement of the oath was not only enshrined in The Constitution, but also into law. The current statutes being,  5 U.S.C. §3331 and 2 U.S.C. §25.

U.S. Constitution, Article VI, clause 3

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

It is of note that the statutes 5 U.S.C. 3331 and 2 U.S.C. 25 have no proscribed legal recourse if violated by the institution applying the oath or the oath taker. Is it appropriate and ethical that the most powerful citizens holding the greatest power and influence be not held to their oaths? Should any publicly elected or appointed official be treated any different that the average citizen? Members of Congress and civil servants take the following oath.

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

What is the point of having a law that does not require or proscribe enforcement? Do the individuals who take this oath or an oath like it know what it is they are swearing to? The affirmative obligation of the office holder or civil servant is not just in the execution of the office or job. It is to insure the entire system is being upheld in all of their participation. Its in the oath. An oath that should be legally binding.

It seems that every decade there is a change in dialog that decides which group of people are more special, more deserving over another. Each of these categories assign attributes and moral value attempting to grant special privileges to a given group. The results being more divisiveness and the eroding of the promise of what this country was envisioned to be. The Constitution only recognizes two categories of individual. The citizen and the non-citizen. No one citizen should have any more or any less in treatment, opportunity, or obligation than another. There is never a discussion about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Like liberty it is never discussed. Many who argue the rights of non-citizens confuse the inalienable rights (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) as the same thing as the Bill of Rights. These are not the same. The Bill of Rights is for the citizen. A citizen has a vested interest in the promise of the United States of America. They have responsibilities to pay taxes, participate in the legal system, and be called to the defense of the nation. Those elected or appointed officials who argue a privileged status to the non-citizen are essentially representing individuals who are not entitled to representation in The United States. They are violating their Oath of Office.

The Founding Fathers considered the violating of the public trust to be the most egregious of behaviors of a elected or appointed public official. The elected and appointed official have a much louder microphone than that of the average citizen. It is supposed to be that way. It is called representative government. However, when a public official uses the bully pulpit of the office to endorse the use of power or public largesse for things the are outside the protection, guarantees, authority, and responsibilities established in The Constitution. They are then in violation of their oath of office and violating the public trust. The public official may not abdicate the responsibilities of their office to another office or institution. They may not represent organizations or individuals that cannot lawfully elected them over the interests of their constituents, nor may they represent the interests of non-citizens over the interests of citizens. The Public official should be held to the highest of standards. Citizens who hold public office have the same rights as any other citizen. However, the use of their public office should be limited to its role and authority. Securing the blessings of liberty means that the public office holder will first look for ways to not use power, not create more governing authority. It is truly a lost concept. The first lost promise.

The promise of this country is to insure that justice and liberty are guaranteed to every citizen. This responsibility is not only on the public official but also on the citizen. Defend each others liberty, insure that justice is fairly applied and principled. Do not ask for more advantage from your representatives than what is promised. Hold the elected official and appointed official to their oaths. The Constitution of The United States is the social contract. Every citizen has an interest and responsibility in its fair and honest application.