by Bruce Thornton
The cracks in our constitutional order continue to multiply and widen.
While We the People distract ourselves with porn stars and royal weddings, the cracks in our Constitutional order continue to multiply and widen.
Evidence continues to mount that a sitting president, Barack Obama, colluded in using the nation’s security and surveillance apparatus to subvert the campaign and then presidency of a legitimately elected candidate and president. This effort consisted of numerous illegalities: a mole planted in Donald Trump’s campaign; a FISA warrant granted on the basis of false opposition research paid for by his rival; the outgoing president’s expansion of the number of people allowed to unmask the identity of Americans mentioned in passing during surveillance; a rogue FBI director, James Comey, who illegally usurped prosecutorial powers to exonerate a felonious Hillary Clinton; and other FBI agents colluding in the plot to damage Trump. And don’t forget a Deputy Attorney General appointing the close friend of the fired and disgraced Comey as a special counsel to investigate the non-crime of “collusion,” an investigation that has gone on for a year with nothing to show but a handful of indictments resulting from dubious perjury traps.
To quote Bob Dole, “Where’s the outrage” at these attacks on the Constitution?
Outrage is surely warranted. These assaults on the rule of law and accountability to the people are akin to the catalogue of “repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States,” published in the Declaration of Independence. Yet our “watch-dog” media in the main have become the publicists for this attack on the foundations of our freedom, as they flack for the political party that long has resented the limitation of power enshrined in the Constitution. Only a few Cassandras, notably FOX News’ Sean Hannity, are trying to alert the citizenry to the coming conflagration that if unchecked could leave the architecture of our freedom in smoking ruins.
In fact, what we are witnessing in the deep-state Democrats’ undermining of divided government, check and balances, and government accountability, is the culmination of a process begun over a century ago. Addled by the false knowledge of scientism and secularism in the 19th century, the progressives took aim at what they scorned as the archaic political structures based on the permanence of a flawed human nature’s susceptibility to corruption by power. Divided and balanced power, the progressives argued, is inefficient and incapable of solving the new conditions and problems created by industrialization and modern technology.
Instead, power must be concentrated, centralized, and expanded. The deliberations and votes of citizens in their towns, counties, and states must give way to the technocrats housed in bureaus and agencies, and trained in the latest discoveries and techniques of the “human sciences.” In 1925, Progressive publicist Herbert Croly expressed this hubristic and question-begging optimism for a “better future” that “would derive from the beneficent activities of expert social engineers who would bring to the service of social ideals all the technical resources which research could discover.” All they needed was the power and authority to create and apply the mechanisms of this new knowledge.
First, though, the Constitution’s antique structures must be altered. This “increased amount of centralized actions and responsibility” required, as progressive historian Charles Beard wrote in 1913, the discarding of the “strong, almost dominant, tendency to regard the existing Constitution with superstitious awe, and to shrink with horror from modifying it even in the smallest detail.” And it required discarding as well the notion of “inalienable” rights that precede government and lie beyond its power, a belief that Beard called “obsolete and indefensible.” Rights can be created by government in order to suit its own ideological and political aims, as FDR promised in his 1944 “Second Bill of Rights,” which expanded rights to include health care, recreation, and a good job, to name just a few of the gifts government would bestow on the people.
Today we live in the world the progressives created, and that too many so-called conservatives have endorsed and enabled. The deep-state technocratic apparatus has encroached ever more deeply into citizen autonomy and freedom. Its millions of faceless, nameless functionaries are insulated from accountability to the citizens. Even when their politicized debasement of their responsibilities become known, they escape accountability and punishment, as have the IRS’s Lois Lerner and her enabling boss John Koskinen, disgraced FBI director James Comey, deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, and of course most egregiously, quondam Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who endangered classified materials on her rogue server, and turned the State Department into the bait for attracting donations to her private foundation.
The result has been a serious erosion of the bedrock principles of equality under the law, and accountability to the sovereign people––violations whose scope and gravity have become more obvious and numerous.
But we shouldn’t be surprised. Over the decades the preconditions of today’s excesses have multiplied and become more accepted. Few of us question any longer the deep state of unelected bureaucrats, a surveillance regime empowered to run wild through our private lives, the unholy alliance between big government and big business, and government agencies usurping the power to direct and manage our lives and our opinions. We now take for granted that government should expropriate wealth and redistribute it to political favorites, the very activity that political philosophers from Athens to our own Constitutional Convention warned is the modus operandi of the tyrant. We shrug off the abuses of power that currently are manifest in the machinations of the previous administration to empower its chosen successor, and the skullduggery of its minions still infesting agencies like the DOJ and the FBI.
In short, we have accepted the progressive “fundamental transformation” of the government’s role from protecting our freedom to “solving problems” that, with few exceptions like war, a free people are supposed to solve themselves through families, civil society, and city and state governments. We have been seduced by the promise of freedom without that responsibility and the accountability that make our choices potentially tragic. And now we see the federal leviathan rampaging in our most powerful agencies, and we are surprised? As the Founders were wont to say, “power is of an encroaching nature.” No human being or human institution is immune from the temptations of power, or satisfied with whatever power has been obtained. We are witnessing the truth of this wisdom right now, as criminals run free, the innocent are hounded, federal agencies are emboldened to defy the representatives of the sovereign people, and a special counsel is unrestrained by any limits on the scope of his power, even as those like Representative Devin Nunes––who is fighting against this cardinal sin of allowing or even enabling power to burst through its Constitutional restraints––are slandered and demonized.
For a century, progressives have been undermining the Constitution as they seek to expand and concentrate government power at the cost of freedom. Their rage at Donald Trump in part reflects their disappointment at seeing the success of Obama in accelerating their achievement of their goal thwarted by a blunt-talking indecorous outsider. Now they have called on all their deep-state powers to destroy the usurper who has snatched from them the victory Hillary Clinton promised to consummate.
This continuing scandal of government agencies corrupting their Constitutionally delegated powers is one of the most important threats to ordered liberty at least since World War II, one far more dangerous than the farcical cover-up of a two-bit robbery that was the Watergate scandal. If we allow those guilty of abusing the power of the state for partisan gain to get away with it, we will embolden even more enemies of freedom to do the same as soon as they get the opportunity. It is up to we the people to demand that Mueller’s inquisition come to an end, and that the true miscreants who have abused their power be investigated, indicted, tried, and punished. Only then will the fabric of the Constitution begin to be restored, and our freedom rearmored.
Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, a Research Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization. His most recent book, Democracy's Dangers and Discontents (Hoover Institution Press), is now available for purchase.
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