- - Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I have been interested in the political atmosphere of our country since my preteen years. It has been particularly interesting to observe the political shenanigans adopted by many of those wishing to obtain or maintain power. Fortunately, there have also been many who were truly interested in serving the people who put them in office. Looking at one’s life, voting record and words can provide significant insight into which of the aforementioned categories a political figure fits.

In the 1960s, John F. Kennedy wrote a book titled “Profiles In Courage,” which was very inspiring, as he examined the lives of individuals who had enough daring to go against the flow and make a real difference in society. As a young, very intelligent president of our country, he was faced with many daunting problems, not the least of which was an attempt by the Russians to supply Cuba with nuclear weapons, which would have been situated just 90 miles off of our shores.

Although there have been many attempts to rewrite the history of the Cuban missile crisis, the bottom line is that Kennedy had the necessary backbone to stand up to Nikita Khrushchev and avert an enormous detrimental shift in the power structure of the world while enhancing America’s international image.

Some readers are probably already irritated that I have said something positive about someone who is not a member of their political party. It is my belief that if JFK were alive today, advocating personal responsibility and patriotism, he might find his views at odds with many in the Democratic Party.

Perhaps it is time to de-emphasize political affiliations and labels, and instead concentrate on the philosophies that define one’s beliefs and actions. The direction of our country is not good, and “we the people” — not we the Democrats or we the Republicans — are in desperate need of courageous leadership, guided by an understanding of our Constitution.

Our divided government was formed by diligent men who had studied the history of governmental structures throughout the world and wanted to design a system that would not succumb to the temptation to continuously expand its size and scope at the expense of the people.

An important concept was the separation of powers with checks and balances among the three branches of government. It was a rather ingenious idea to invest each of the three branches of government with enough power to check unwarranted power grabs by the others.

There is, however, a breakdown in this system when officeholders are more concerned about their legacy or their re-election than they are about the proper functioning of government. Our Founders were most concerned about the possibility of the executive branch seizing power and disregarding constitutional constraints.

I suspect they would have been horrified to witness the manipulative and secretive strong-armed techniques utilized by the current administration to push through Obamacare. I’m sure they would also be shocked to see an administration that picks and chooses the laws it wishes to enforce, thereby diminishing the power of the legislative branch of government.

This practice in some ways resembles that of the centralized government system that swept the Soviet Union, whose notorious founders wrote that it was sometimes necessary to force ideas on a populace that will eventually come to accept and endorse the ideas. Similarly, our current leadership is certain that Americans will eventually see the wisdom of governmental oversight in almost every aspect of their lives.

If we are to pass a free and prosperous nation on to our progeny, it is imperative that the legislative branch of government exhibit the courage to exercise the check function it possesses. Lawmakers cannot be afraid that they will be blamed for a government shutdown if they defund Obamacare.

They have the ability to separate the health care law from the rest of the federal budget and fund one without funding the other. In doing so, they need to make it abundantly clear that they are willing to fund the government and its essential functions, but they feel that Obamacare is detrimental to the future economic health of America.

If the Democrat-controlled Senate reattaches the law, or if the executive branch makes the decision to fund Obamacare at the expense of other vital national functions, the electorate must take notice and act decisively in 2014. Many say that those who want to restore constitutional restraints are fighting a useless battle, but we must remember that freedom is reserved only for those willing to fight for it.

I am confident that the people will awaken from their apathy and vigorously support whoever has the backbone to stand up for them.

Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.