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.
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.