- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 16, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In the days of Lincoln, the risks to the Constitution and the chance to save it went hand in hand. The same is true today.

On the one hand, we have accumulated a debt, in a time of relative peace and unprecedented prosperity, that rivals the debt incurred to win the largest war in history. That war eventually came to an end, but our deficits have no foreseeable terminus.

Despite this, we pass a new entitlement to health care in a midnight vote, no one having the chance to read the bill. It is unreadable anyway.

A high official has the shameful title of regulatory czar. He writes that the federal government may regulate (meaning restrict) the political speech of some people so that others may have an equal chance to talk. To restrict the power of one man is to give power to others. And yet, writes Madison, men are not angels, and angels do not govern men.

These are terrible developments. The developments in the other direction are also powerful. The opposition party holds a 9-point advantage in the generic congressional ballot question by Rasmussen Reports. Which of the two parties do you favor? The opposition has held a consistent lead over the incumbent party for more than a year.

Like the “Wide Awakes,” who marched in northern cities for Lincoln before the Civil War, Tea Party people gather in every community to speak of the founding of their country, the loss of its principles, the undermining of its institutions. They march in fear, but also in determination. They have little faith right now that either party will be like the party that Lincoln led.

Could we ever return to the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the practices of the Constitution? It seems impossible because, in the deep of our heart, we do not believe that we can form the full intention to do it. Perhaps we cannot.

But the classics, which are the necessary foundation for the understanding of America, say otherwise. They say that the strongest force to attract the soul is the good, and the highest form of the good is the beautiful. By beautiful, we Americans mean for example those “laws of nature and of nature’s God” under the guidance of which our republic was founded. By beautiful, we mean the courage of George Washington on the battlefield, and the restraint that brought him back to his family and his farm after the war, not to kingship or to despotism. By beautiful, we mean the poise and equilibrium of the Constitution, its ability to empower and to restrain in counterbalance. By beautiful, we mean the right of every soul to live of his own, none born saddled, nor others booted and spurred to ride his back.

The contrast between these beautiful things and the ugliness of the bureaucratic forms now dominant is stark, as stark as that between the Capitol and the headquarters of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Just look at them. You will find in that contrast the attraction that can make possible a return to the Constitution.

The first step toward recovery is to learn. We will be studying beautiful things. You are invited to join us in this endeavor.

Larry P. Arnn is the president of Hillsdale College, whose Allan P. Kirby Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship was dedicated this week in Washington.

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