State of the Constitution

Clay Olsen | September 17, 2013

It has been 226 years since the birth of our Constitution. Before taking their positions of power, politicians must swear to uphold the Constitution. Unfortunately, politicians and/or lawyers tend to read the law as something to work around (or sometimes, to step over) instead of looking at the intentions of the law. It is claimed that the Constitution is “living and breathing”. Because of this, our Constitution has strayed away from its original purposes. These intentions are beautifully presented by Mark Levin in his new book, “The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic.”

Levin argues for a state convention, as written in Article V, to restore the Constitution as intended. The Framers envisioned a small federal government; yet today it is the “nation’s largest creditor, debtor, lender, employer, consumer, contractor, grantor, property owner, tenant, insurer, health-care provider, and pension guarantor.” The Framers wanted a federalist system in which the federal government was granted powers that are “few and defined” whereas the state governments receive powers that are “numerous and indefinite.” Today the federal government is involved in your life through rules and regulations at an extent that is mind-boggling. In light of this, it is safe to say that federalism is dying.

Congress has become an entity that operates through pork-filled bills that are thousands of pages long that are passed in the dark of night. Is it right for a democracy to pass laws that can never be read by its people and occasionally, are never read by those passing the law (Nancy Pelosi: “We have to pass [Obamacare] to figure out what’s in it”)? Keep in mind, if you do not follow a rule or regulation found somewhere in these bills, you are liable even if you were unaware of its existence. With bills like these being passed without restraint, it is no wonder our national debt has now passed $17 trillion. The path we are on is unsustainable and change, change that fixes the problem, must occur.

The executive branch has far outgrown its original design. Because the branch is lead by a single man, the Framers were careful not to give much power to the presidency. However, out of the executive branch has grown what could be called a fourth branch: the bureaucracy. Thousands and thousands of unelected officials are given broad power by Congress to regulate your life as much as possible.

The Supreme Court has also gained much more power than the Framers intended. Through Marbury v. Madison the court gave itself the power of judicial review (the power to deem laws unconstitutional). Thomas Jefferson wrote that if the Supreme Court was given the power to have the final say on what laws are constitutional and what laws are not, it “would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.”

We, humans, are imperfect. This was something the Framers understood and counteracted with checks between the three branches and federalism between the states and the federal government. To think that nine people, chosen from among us, have the final authority on laws and cannot be overridden is absurd. Just because they “hold law degrees from prestigious schools, wear black robes, and are each referred to as ‘Your Honor’ does not change the fallibility of their nature.”

And this imperfectness can be seen throughout the court’s history. The Supreme Court’s 1856 decision in the Dred Scott v. Sanford case was appalling. They ruled that an African American slave was the property of its “owner.” But, since it was the “almighty” court’s decision, it became the law of the land. In Plessy v. Ferguson the Supreme Court authorized racial segregation. In the Korematsu v. United States case, the court approved FDR’s decision to place tens of thousands of Japanese Americans in internment camps without due process. It is clear that the court has become more powerful than the authors of the Constitution ever imagined. The Court must be checked.

So what is the plan? Well, there are two ways to amend the Constitution, and it is very important that you know why there are two ways. Originally proposed, the power to amend the Constitution was to be given to Congress alone. However, the Virginia governor, Edmund Randolph, during the Constitutional Convention, suggested that there should be a way to amend the Constitution without having to go through the federal government. George Mason of Virginia and many others strongly supported this. They believed that a federal government that was growing in power would not vote to restrain itself. Therefore, the proposal was agreed upon and inscribed within Article V.

Article V states that the Constitution can be amended by two thirds of both houses of Congress or by “Legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof.” Levin’s proposal is to amend the Constitution through the state legislatures so that we can restore the American republic and put the federal government back where it belongs. In his book he also offers several amendments to consider at a convention that he believes will help shift power back to the states as well as to the individual.

Some may say that this is just a crazy idea. They will say that all that we need is to elect the right president or the right congressmen or appoint the right justices. Those are all good objectives, but we cannot sit around and wait for these things. We must act. We must do this so that we will not have to tell our grandchildren, “Sorry, we were just waiting for the right politician to come along.” The Framers of our Constitution gave the states this power for a reason; and that reason is upon us.

The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic by Mark R. Levin

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We the People of Turkey, Brazil, and Syria


Protestors outside the municipal theater in downtown Rio de Jainero June 17th, 2013
Photo Courtesy of Christophe Simon, AFP/Getty Images via USATODAY

Danny Zeng | June 25th, 2013

This week as we wrestle with landmark decisions from the Supreme Court, the controversial “Gang of Eight” immigration bill, and the President’s climate change agenda, we are reminded of the robustness of our democracy. All three branches of government are acting in concert to engage in issues of immense importance to the public. They are leading the political discourse at our nation’s capital that filter through news organizations, talk shows, blogs, YouTube updates, and podcasts to the American people, who then have the luxury of consuming these daily soundbites – and oftentimes boiling tirades-  from people of opposing views without having to give concern to our physical safety or that of our friends and families. And yet these precious freedoms that allow us to have constructive, heated, and  ultimately vibrant discourse about the direction of our country, the merits of a legislation, and the conduct of our public officials are foreign to so many across the globe who enjoy so little freedom in the public sphere.

As I read about what is happening in Turkey, Brazil, and Syria, I am ever so grateful for the kind of hard fought freedoms that we enjoy here in the U.S., even though we are constantly reminded of their slipperiness.  Despite the public ire over IRS targeting conservative groups, government wiretapping reporters, drone attacks against American citizens, or NSA tapping of our phones, the American people largely vocalize our disagreements, peacefully, through non-violent democratic channels. On the other hand,  over 93,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict, and over thousands are injured and four confirmed dead in Turkey in recent weeks as result of the anti-government protest. The Turkish police was firing tear gas and rubber bullets at their own people.  Most of these issues can be understood from the perspective of freedom: a perennial political and economic ideal that mutually sustains each other through capitalism and democracy, a political notion popularly articulated by the late Milton Friedman in 1962 and many others.

Oftentimes in a democracy, people take their issues to the streets, a sign of either economic or political distress. The mix of the two could be fatal to a sitting regime, as evidenced throughout the history of great kingdoms and empires. Present protests happen for the same reasons. The source of protest in Brazil stems from “a strike against a 9-cent bus-fare hike,” a seemingly small if not utterly incomprehensible fuse – for many Westerners at least – that it’s simply awe-spiring. The episode strikes me as a non-graphic replay from a similar incomprehensible-to-the-West display from Arab Spring two years ago, when a Tunisian vegetable peddler set himself on fire in front of a governor’s office. These massive protests against government corruption and graft are testaments, to the chagrin of many big-government advocates I’m sure, that governments with incoherent economic policies are doomed to fail from within as college students, working class, and middle class citizens rise up against an administrative state and layers of public fat that take away from productive sectors in the economy. Economic freedom is invariably linked to political freedom. Both, in my mind, have to harmoniously co-exist for true prosperity and progress.

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