What should the average person do when the federal government oversteps its constitutional bounds?
Throw a fit!
That’s what James Madison recommended when he laid out a blueprint for dealing with unconstitutional federal acts in Federalist #46. He wrote that when the federal government enacts an “unwarrantable measure,” or even a “warrantable measure” that happens to be unpopular, “the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand.” One of those means of opposition involves “the disquietude of the people.”
In other words, when the federal government does things outside of its authority people should throw a fit and throw it loudly. In fact, Madison said the people should show “repugnance” toward those actions. This puts pressure on federal officials to back off from their unconstitutional actions. Combined with “a refusal to cooperate with officers of the union,” Madison suggested this approach would place impediments and obstructions in front of the federal government. After all, no politician wants to face an angry crowd – especially an angry crowd of his people he thinks supports him.
But instead of throwing a fit, far too many people rationalize and make excuses when “their guy” (or gal) violates the Constitution.
I’m seeing a lot of excuse-making out of Republicans lately.
For instance, one Trump supporter told me I shouldn’t oppose the president’s proposal to give $12 billion to farmers based on an unconstitutional Depression-era “law” signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt because “I need to look at the bigger picture.” After all, the subsidies will help Trump win the trade war. Another Republican claimed we shouldn’t blame Trump for dropping 44,000 bombs in his first term without a declaration of war because “he inherited the war.” And when it comes to Trump ramping up federal enforcement of unconstitutional gun laws, I shouldn’t criticize the president. “If you disagree with the gun laws, do what you can to change it, but don’t undermine the entire system to serve a personal interest.”
I can list plenty of other unconstitutional actions since the Republicans essentially took control of all three branches of the federal government. The drug war rages on. Obamacare remains the law of the land. Jeff Sessions sent out a memo directing federal prosecutors to ramp up asset forfeiture.
I could go on.
And yet nobody is throwing a fit. Well, nobody on team-Trump and very few people on team-GOP are throwing a fit. Some Democrats have suddenly found constitutionalism. But of course, they were nowhere to be found when Obama was sitting in the Oval Office.
I get it. Nobody likes to attack “their guy” or their team. It feels disloyal. But if you have principles, shouldn’t you throw the biggest fit when your guy violates them? If you believe in the Constitution, shouldn’t you raise the biggest ruckus when the people you voted for and put your faith in disregard it? Shouldn’t you hold “your guy” and “your party” to the highest standards?
After all, you have the biggest influence on “your people.” If you throw a fit and show your outrage when they violate the Constitution, they just might listen to you. You might be able to change their behavior and incentivize them adhere to the highest law in the land.
Instead, we get excuses, justifications and sometimes outright support. It’s classic enabling behavior.
And the excuses just don’t work. After all, Donald Trump swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. If he took that oath seriously, he would immediately call for the end of unconstitutional actions. He would refuse to enforce unconstitutional laws that violate the Second Amendment. He would shut down the warrantless spying programs. He would stop dropping bombs or demand that Congress declare war. He hasn’t done any of these things. In fact, he’s doubled down on many Obama and Bush-era unconstitutional programs.
As a supporter, you owe it to him to put the pressure on when he’s wrong.
But we get nuttin’.
No fit. No repugnance. No outrage.
Look, you don’t have to reject the man completely. You can still support Trump and call him out when he’s wrong. You didn’t swear a loyalty oath to the president or the GOP. You won’t get demerits if you criticize him when he’s wrong.
It’s no wonder these people keep violating the Constitution over and over again. Their own people won’t hold them accountable. As a result, these politicians don’t think it matters. And as long people aren’t willing to throw a royal fit, it really doesn’t.