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To the Republic: Rediscovering the Constitution

To the Republic: Rediscovering the Constitution

About the project

In her nearly 250 years of independence, America has endured brutal wars, catastrophic natural disasters and ravaging economic depressions. Through every challenge, she has survived because of a singular focus on the founding principles that launched one of the greatest experiments in human history and that tested the very boundaries of the capabilities of man.

Can a free people govern themselves?

Today, America faces a crisis unprecedented in her history. Not that we are more hopeless than we were during the frozen winters of the Revolution. Not that we are more riven than during the Civil War. Not that we live with a greater injustice than slavery. Not that we are more frightened and hungry than we were during the Great Depression. Not that we are more outraged than we were after 9/11.

What makes this troubling time unlike any other is the full-scale assault — from the criminal class to the highest levels of governmental power — on the very principles of our Founding. The simple yet powerful ideas of equal justice under law, of self-governance, of rights given by a Creator, not a man or a king, and of freedom of speech and religion have come under open attack from every level of society.

So the time now is ripe to revisit those principles. Remind ourselves how the Founders grappled with every question. Test their answers. Reevaluate their thinking for a modern world that, at least on the surface, looks different from the ink-quilled days when those principles were set to parchment and made into history.

The Washington Times has laid that challenge at the feet of some of the country’s pivotal thinkers. Each week in the coming months, we will present their findings and arguments to you as we rediscover the Constitution.

Recent Stories

The chamber of the House of Representatives is seen at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 28, 2022. Just seven Republicans, along with most Democrats, used remote voting in the House when it began two years ago as the pandemic erupted. As of April 2022, over half of GOP lawmakers used the proxy voting system at least once, along with nearly all Democrats. More than 50 of the Republicans who’ve used it this year also once signed onto a lawsuit seeking to declare the practice unconstitutional. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)  **FILE**

Congress' proxy voting should be abolished

Last week, 158 members of the House of Representatives, many of them already on vacation, gave their vote on the reconciliation legislation, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, to someone else. This proxy voting, initially established during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a perfect symbol of all that is wrong with Congress. People didn't even bother to show up to debate and vote on legislation that many of them later described in statements as "historic."

Homeland Security logo is seen during a joint news conference in Washington, Feb. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)  **FILE**

Free speech under assault by government's new disinformation board

The Bill of Rights, now in many ways the core of the relationship between American citizens and their government, was a happy accident of political necessity, brought about finally by the voters in a congressional race in the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1788.

Montesquieu Portrait from French 200 Franc Banknotes. Photo credit: Prachaya Roekdeethaweesab via Shutterstock **FILE**

How a dead French aristocrat helped the Framers create the Constitution

In considering the Constitution, it is essential to remember that there were two factions involved in the discussion -- the Federalists, who prioritized liberalism, and Anti-Federalists who prioritized democracy -- and one dead French aristocrat and political philosopher who helped them both find their way.

In this Aug. 6, 2018, file photo, a statue of Thomas Jefferson stands in front of the Rotunda on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

Respecting separation of powers key to restoring Congress

In a March 1789 letter to James Madison, Thomas Jefferson wrote: "The tyranny of the legislatures is the most formidable dread at present, and will be for long years. That of the executive will come in its turn, but it will be at a remote period."

In this Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020, file photo, a statue of Alexander Hamilton stands in Central Park in New York. A new research paper takes a swipe at the popular image of Alexander Hamilton as the abolitionist founding father, citing evidence that he was a slave trader and owner himself. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

Alexander Hamilton indispensable to America's success

Alexander Hamilton's relentless insistence on a set of national institutions - a commercial economy, a navy of respectable weight and a central bank -- laid the foundation for modern American global hegemony.

Bible on a pulpit. Photo credit: Wolkenengel565 via Shutterstock. FILE

Freedom comes from God, not men

No text is more celebrated as a guide to the genius of our nation's founders than The Federalist, and no single essay from The Federalist is more celebrated than James Madison's No. 10. In it, Madison offers the promise of the "well-constructed union" that tends "to break and control the violence of faction."

In this Aug. 14, 2019 file photo, The Statue of Liberty is shown in New York. The Department of Homeland Security says New York residents will be cut off from ‘trusted traveler’ programs because of a state law that prevents immigration officials from accessing motor vehicle records. Acting Deputy DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli says tens of thousands of New Yorkers will be inconvenienced by the action.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Constitution's preamble explains America's mission statement

The preamble to our Constitution was a last-minute addition to the document that, according to the courts, has no substantive legal meaning. Yet it contains the noblest articulation of the mission statement for our country.

In this March 23, 2016, photo, the U.S. Constitution is held by a member of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) **FILE**

The Lame Mule Act is today's Flat Earth Society

When thinking about the Constitution, we often focus on what has gone sideways or just plain wrong. It is useful, from time to time, to reflect on how our constitutional processes and limits have resulted and can result in a government that is better, more responsive, more adaptable, and more likely to be able to repair itself if something is broken.

Patrick Wyrick, Oklahoma Supreme Court Vice-Chief Justice, arrives for the inauguration of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt in Oklahoma City, Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Think less of judges and rely more on democratic processes

The Constitution gives me as a federal judge the power to preside over certain cases and controversies. This isn't much, as federal cases make up only a tiny fraction of the millions of cases filed in American courts each year, with the overwhelming majority presided over by state and local judges.

In this June 21, 2008, file photo, Susette Kelo, left, former owner of the controversial little pink house, stands in front of her old home at its new location in New London, Conn. Susette Kelo took on the city of New London, which was trying to take her house through eminent domain. She ultimately lost in a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)  **FILE**

Government's power to seize private property must be reined in

Despite the deep polarization of American politics right now and the concurrent divides on a wide range of constitutional issues, there is at least one issue on which there is considerable cross-ideological agreement: limiting the power of eminent domain.

Poll worker Phil Dingus cleans one of the voting machines at the Virginia High School precinct during the Virginia Democratic Primary Election, on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Bristol, Va. (David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier via AP) ** FILE **

State legislatures have the power to fix election processes

State sovereignty is at the heart of the election system. The Constitution places responsibility for success squarely on the shoulders of state legislators. The Founders' decision to place elections in the hands of states followed months of debate about the proper balance of power between the states and the national government.

“Without serious engagement in the issues of the day and participation by citizens in the elections, we risk losing our republic. We risk giving up our role as sovereigns and instead become subjects,” writes Anthony T. Caso, a clinical professor of law at the Dale E. Fowler School of Law. (Associated Press)

We risk losing our republic without active participation

Elizabeth Powell was a leading woman in Philadelphia and a political thinker who hosted salons during sessions of the Continental Congress. It did not surprise Benjamin Franklin, then, when Powell approached him at the end of the Constitutional Convention and asked: "What have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" Franklin's answer: "A republic, if you can keep it."

United States armored unit moves north into Cambodia, 10 miles north of Katum base in South Vietnam. Unit is 2/47 Infantry, A-Company, the first to cross the border into Cambodia on May 1, 1970, following orders from U.S. President Richard Nixon to search out Communist High Command Headquarters. (AP Photo/Henri Huet) ** FILE **

War Powers Resolution should be repealed

With the possibility of a more interventionist foreign policy approach looming, questions will inevitably resume over which branch of government actually is responsible for sending U.S. troops abroad.

Immigrants who have entered the United States illegally are giving more congressional representation to districts where they live while taking it from citizens elsewhere. (Associated Press)

Illegal immigrants shouldn't be included in congressional count

The House of Representatives, otherwise known as the "People's House," was designed by the Framers to be the body of the federal government most sensitive and receptive to voter opinion. That's why almost all members represent fewer voters than senators do, and it's why each member represents as equal a number of constituents as is possible and practical.

“There is no more local control than that which resides at the kitchen table. Our Founders knew we were a country of individuals who granted the government enumerated powers,” writes Justin Owen of the Beacon Center of Tennessee. (Associated Press photograph)

Give power back to the states, as Founders envisioned

With the Democrats holding a slimmer-than-expected majority in the House and a 50-50 split in the Senate, the next two years will represent an almost equal tug of war between Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

“[Former President Donald] Trump was a norm-breaker. Some of those norms should not have been broken. The impeachment process is one means by which Congress can attempt to reestablish those norms,” writes Keith E. Whittington. (Senate Television via AP)

What is the purpose of a Senate impeachment trial?

The Senate is starting a most unusual impeachment trial. For only the second time in its history, it is likely to proceed to trial to consider articles of impeachment against a former government official.

The United States Capitol building, east front, at dawn is seen in this general view, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)  **FILE**

States must stand up to feds to stop poaching of their power

The word "federalism" does not appear in the Constitution, yet it is the guiding principle that preserves the United States from the defects of unitary governments, like Great Britain, in which all power flows from one central government, and the defects of confederation, in which power is dispersed and consequently attenuated beyond usefulness.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in an undated file photo. (Associated Press photograph)  **FILE**

Invoking 25th Amendment would set dangerous precedent

The "To the Republic" series has primarily addressed the original Constitution rather than the subsequent amendments. However, there has been much discussion of the suddenly popular 25th Amendment during the Trump administration, particularly since last week's riot at the Capitol.

In 1920, the Senate did not approve the Treaty of Versailles, pictured here on June 28, 1919, creating the League of Nations. “Notably, the United States has not withdrawn from many treaties that we have ratified, but when we do, they have normally been in place for years,” writes David S. Jonas. (Associated Press photograph)

Biden should renegotiate Iran nuclear deal as a treaty

Most Americans believe that the Senate ratifies treaties, but that is the president's function and is one of many brilliant checks and balances in our system of government, as noted by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers.

“Voters need to start supporting legislators who tackle difficult topics using laws passed by elected officials rather than regulations created by the unelected and largely unaccountable bureaucracy,” write Richard J. Crespin and Daniel M. Gade. (Associated Press photograph)

American republic in danger as power seeps out of Congress

Before republics fall -- from ancient Rome to modern America -- their legislatures show signs of dysfunction. They avoid tackling the tough challenges facing their societies, defer to other branches of government, and fail in their basic obligation to represent the popular will.

"Today, it is clear to us that Congress has ceded many of its powers and responsibilities to unelected bureaucrats in regulatory agencies," writes Andrew R. Wheeler, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. (Associated Press)

Vanishing Congress cedes too much power to regulators

If the Founders came to Congress tomorrow and saw the diminished role the legislative branch plays in the function of the federal government -- the degree to which the legislature really is vanishing -- it would be a mystery to them.

“This balance of power has made America the most stable and durable democracy established in the modern world. Unfortunately, this election cycle promises to be challenging to both the Constitution and the republic it formed,” said Rep. Tom McClintock, California Republican. (Associated Press)

Far-left threatens minority rights

The Constitution, as solid as it is, ultimately relies on those who make and execute the laws to do so faithfully and with good intention.

Men are subject to powerful passions and appetites and, if unrestrained, are capable of ruthlessly riding roughshod over their neighbors and the community at large. (Robert Franklin/South Bend Tribune via AP)

Founders gambled on virtue prevailing over passions

In his renowned 1785 pamphlet "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments," James Madison described religious liberty as not only "a right towards men" but also "a duty towards the Creator," and a "duty ... precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society."