Editor’s note: This is one in a series examining the Constitution and Federalist Papers in today’s America. Click HERE to read the series.
“It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.” — Federalist 1
When Alexander Hamilton wrote those words, he recognized that the crisis of America’s Constitution was bigger than the mere policy issues that led to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Indeed, the challenge that was before those tasked with creating a more perfect union was the survival of the republic itself, and therefore the hope of free, representative government the world over. Then, just as now, the American people face the question of whether we can keep this republic or if the principles of our founding will live on only in the history books.
In 1787, the crisis came about because the states were not sufficiently bound together as one American republic. In his “Vices of the Political System of the United States,” James Madison outlines the chaos created by the Articles of Confederation and calls for a government in which powers could be better balanced against each other to meet the needs of the country while preserving liberty throughout the states. The answer, after years of deliberation and ratification, was the wisdom of our Constitution’s federal system.
Today, America has reached another, markedly different crisis. Our federal government has become powerful enough to enact a train of abuses against the American people and the states through both action and inaction. The actions we see are moves such as taking federal tax money to fund the spread of toxic ideologies throughout our schools while teachers unions and politicians collude to deny parents the right to choose their children’s education.
We see the federal government using crony carveouts and corporate welfare to concentrate economic power in massive corporations that undermine the very bedrock of our liberty by intimidating states that dare to secure their elections.
We see our hard-earned tax dollars used to prop up a failing health care system while many are denied access to the doctor and care of their choice.
We see a federal bureaucracy strong enough to destroy the livelihoods of everyday Americans nationwide based on the ever-changing opinion of public health “experts” while the government ramps up inflation by paying people not to work and handing our children $30 trillion in debt and counting.
At the same time, the federal government is failing to do its basic job of providing for the safety of the American people via the rule of law. Right now, the federal government is failing to protect its own citizens from the cartel operations and criminal aliens that are coming over our border and expanding further into our communities, further taxing state and local law enforcement and endangering our citizens.
Law enforcement in suburban areas more than 150 miles from the border that I represent are now seeing cartel-driven human trafficking apprehensions running through the streets where their families live and their children play.
On the international stage, our federal government is emboldening Iran by effectively abandoning Israel, a close friend and vital strategic ally. When we fail to back up our allies and keep our adversaries in check, it puts American lives and interests in danger. One of the litanies of abuses described in our Declaration of Independence was that the king had declared the colonies “out of his protection.” Well, how else should we describe intentional actions that leave Americans less secure?
I’m not alone in understanding the gravity of this moment. Talking to folks in my central Texas district, I’ve lost count of the people who ask me what good it does for our state to remain a part of the union. When I talk to Texans who have lost loved ones at the hands of illegal aliens, or families destroyed by fentanyl and dangerous narcotics brought over the border, or local law enforcement whose communities are seeing spikes in crime from illegal border crossings, all while the federal government refuses to do its constitutional duty, it isn’t hard to see why they’re asking.
Now, just as we did in 1787, we must decide if we are willing to take the path necessary to preserve this republic for our children. To Hamilton, the decision was between “reflection and choice” versus “accident and force,” but today it is between freedom and federalism or fracture and dissolution.
We can embrace principles of the American founding and Constitution as things worth respecting, preserving, and applying to the challenges of the 21st century. Or, on the other hand we can listen to those who say that our country is irredeemably, systemically racist and must be destroyed and remade to their liking, and that their fellow Americans are better off as subjects of a ruling class than as self-ruling citizens.
The first gives us a chance as a vast nation to unite and work together on truly national things, to agree to disagree on the prudential questions best handled by states, cities, communities or families, and to reject that which is fundamentally opposed to our Constitution and the self-evident truths it serves. The other will only keep us on our current path toward dissolution and the hell that follows with it.
• Rep. Chip Roy is a Republican representing the 21st Congressional District of Texas. He is a former federal prosecutor and former first assistant attorney general for Texas.