The present character of the American government today is the leading issue of our time.
Our Founders had an astute view of human nature and of power. They saw the rule of law as binding men and women to something beyond themselves.
The Founders thought out our system with great care. They wanted to disperse power, not concentrate it. Looking at the long history of nations, they gave us a public order that would protect our people from the crumbling nature of man’s shortsighted cravings.
To guide our republic, they also created a distributed system of power to keep the heart of liberty alive. So the Constitution shared authority across three branches and with the States making up the union to thwart the aggregation of power.
They also assumed all Americans would be trained in citizen responsibility, exercise it, and become the servants of citizen leadership.
A public order rooted in law, a sharing of power, and citizen responsibility led Franklin to say as the Constitution was being adopted, “You have a Republic, if you can keep it.”
Over time America led the world in vesting all our people with equal rights of political citizenship and building a fuller democracy that was seen as an upward moving ideal for everyone.
But power is a responsibility still, and not a privilege. The gift of political citizenship can only be honored in exercising its obligations.
The first pillar of our responsibility is how a public order based on law demands political rights that exist at precisely the same level as responsibilities. Today, we know that’s not the case.
The second pillar is a code of citizenship that puts Americans under one roof. Today, rights and privileges are partitioned differently across parts of the population.
And, third, our leaders are not a class of citizens unto themselves.
The voice of the people was never to be co-opted by leaders using the tools of collective power to prove they know better than the citizenry.
In lending faith to mass democracy, we appear to have forgotten these citizen pillars. Our democratic house has spread its benefits wisely over time, but separating privileges from responsibilities has weakened rather than strengthened the American nation and its people in recent decades.
We can’t run a country when privilege counts for more than responsibilities, saying which groups have more of them than others, or allowing leaders to manipulate our people for its own ends. America was meant to broaden itself within a system, not let those benefitting from it pervert it.
The time is here to remind us of the deeper intentions of our Republic and to elevate again the American democratic message. That spirit contemplated only the general good.
America’s founding began by sanctifying the precious role of the individual person. We believed in the character and honor of the individual. We expected government to nourish both and that as good government flows up not down, society would tend to produce leaders of great public virtue.
For leaders as well as citizens, government was viewed as a servant not a master. The American way was meant to keep from its midst leaders who ignore or pervert the truth, lie to the public from the top, house scandal perpetually, tax for its own ends, and cease to pay confident and faithful tribute to our character, history, and ideals having the gifts of free thought that steadily create “a more perfect union.”
Two things are now necessary. First, we must limit a system of leaders who now grasp for power and we must only attract ones not bent on their own ends. Second, a code of great personal citizen responsibility also must again flow across our entire democracy. The two must work hand in hand
Order, the rule of law, and public trust should define our republic – and its leaders – once more. Without a foundation of ethics, liberty, and law, societies can temptingly change systems of government to fit the power equations of the world that then exists. Cohering as a people is the best way to defend our selves against challenges that could fracture the nation’s vital center.
Before we can save a world with our heart or money or trade or ideas, we must find a way to ground ourselves again. We were given the best at our Founding, and we must perpetuate it. John Adams made clear only virtue keeps liberty from being lost. The Public Square believes that the present character of the American government is the leading issue of our time.