It was pizza night at the Di Leo household, and, yes, like any good entertainer, I take requests.
One for plain cheese, one for sausage, one for pepperoni and black olives. My bride gets mushrooms, black olives and jalapenos. I go all out, for myself: pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions and red peppers.
Everyone eats something different, and that’s fine. That’s the point of pizza, in fact: there’s a good deal of variety here, tons of good options. It’s easy to get the impression that there are no limits; if the pantry is well-stocked, you could ask for anything, and individualize your meal as much as your little heart desires.
But that impression would be wrong. No matter how generous, how flexible, how talented or well-prepared the host, he cannot provide the impossible or the illegal. He is constrained by the definition of “pizza” and the laws of the land.
You can’t have it without a crust. You can’t have it without tomato sauce or cheese; it wouldn’t be pizza (flatbread, perhaps, but not pizza). You can’t order it topped with pills, or on a crust with marijuana kneaded into the dough, or made with cocaine mixed into the sauce. Illegal ingredients are not allowed, even if the audience were to unanimously request it. An honorable, law-abiding chef must cordially refuse any such request.
This may seem restrictive, narrow-minded, even unfair. Tough. Without such rules, cooking and eating would be dangerous indeed. There simply HAVE to be rules.
The Mudville Nine have been in a slump. They haven’t won a game in weeks, on the road or at home. They have one great hitter, but one great hitter does not a championship make. The other eight keep striking out.
So they decided to change it up a little. At the next home game, the fans in the bleachers took a vote, and decided to let their star hitter hit for everybody else, every time. The heck with the normal rotation; when Smith was up, Casey would hit for him. When Jones was up, Casey hit for him again. Casey kept standing in one place, slamming the ball, again and again, and his teammates dutifully walked around the bases.
Oh, the other team objected, but hey, it was a home game, so they were outnumbered. When a vote was taken, the home field advantage settled that question. The visitors quoted the rule book… but the home team said “It’s okay; we voted on it. Majority rules, you know!”
They “won” thirty to five that day. Fancy that.
How well do you think such a scene would work out in real life, long term?
Especially once they went back on the road a few days later, and the rest of the teams in their league got a chance at making up their own rules too?
Never set a precedent that could be used against you…
Washington and the Constitution
The world of politics is a lot like these worlds of sports and cooking. There are rulebooks to follow; you can put your own treatment on it, but you can never change the underlying rules. You are allowed some flexibility within the recipe, but that recipe does have boundaries. Cross them, and you’re no longer making the dish that was ordered; you’re no longer playing the game you were contracted to play.
The city of Washington, D.C. has been making the same mistake as the city of Mudville. For years and years now, they’ve gradually pushed the envelope, and gotten away with it. They have the power and the guns in Washington; they can write their own rules and put their own spin on it. And we don’t have a responsible mainstream media to call them on it.
We’ve allowed Congress to pass laws establishing agencies that the Constitution didn’t allow them to establish, but because the people elected the representatives and senators and presidents, we’ve said “well, you know, majority rules,” and we’ve put up with it.
We’ve allowed presidents to exceed their authority, directing their agencies to go beyond those charters, regulating and penalizing far beyond the areas that Congress created them to regulate. And we’ve said “well, you know, the president won, fair and square,” and we’ve put up with it.
We’ve allowed Congress to pass, and presidents to sign, bills that are blatantly unconstitutional, laws like campaign finance restrictions and healthcare nationalization, and we’ve watched them all wink at each other about the excesses. We’ve said “well, you know, the Supreme Court will clean it up.” And then when the Supreme Court lets it stand, we’re horrified. “What? They let it stand???” But why the shock? These justices were appointed by presidents, and confirmed by senators, none of whom adhere to the rules of the Constitution; why should these justices follow the rules either?
It’s been a long, long century since that dark day in 1913 when the enactment of the Seventeenth Amendment eliminated the hold that the sovereign states were meant to exert on the federal government. The nation has sat still while administration after administration, legislature after legislature, has voted to exceed the authority that they vowed to respect during their oaths of office.
Only in recent years, as the Obama administration has accelerated the speed of this runaway train, have the American people begun at last to rise up and recognize the flaws in the argument: people are finally remembering that elected officials DON’T have the right to do whatever they please, just because they won. These elected officials took an oath, not to their donors or their constituents or their parties, but to the Constitution. America has spent almost an entire century forgetting this not-too-subtle distinction.
The Handcuffs of a Free Nation
Campaign speeches may well express love and generosity, compassion and assistance… but the oath of office constrains the representative’s ability to act once he or she takes office.
Every time a representative has an idea, another representative (or his leader or his opponent or his staffer) needs to slap him back to reality with the words “THAT’S Not Allowed!” and “But We Can’t Do That!”
The trappings of power are such that this is easily forgotten. The opulence of our nation’s capitol can easily create a feeling of unlimited power. “We are here at last, in a position to help people! Let’s get to it!”
But what they forget is that every government action in support of one group, by definition, requires a corresponding action against everyone not in that group.
- Offer a handout to some demographic? Then you must raise taxes on all other demographics to fund it.
- Guarantee a group the ability to rent from any landlord they choose? To do that, you’re overriding the nation’s landlords’ own right to manage their own private property.
- Offer military support to a foreign nation who is neither our ally nor in a location clearly in America’s interest to defend? To do that, you must now put your own soldiers in harm’s way, in a cause of questionable legality, with the potential to wreak havoc on morale.
If we respect our Constitutional limitations, we don’t have these temptations. Respecting the Constitution spares us the “Solomon’s Choice” of who to rob to fund a program, of whose rights to restrict in order to broaden someone else’s, of which soldiers to send to a Bosnia or Somalia with the hope that the experience doesn’t warp the patriotism that originally drove them to enlist.
Following rules is easy; breaking them – as we do every day, nowadays – is the hard part. And still we continue.
This destruction has a cumulative effect; as we watch the rules get broken, day in and day out, by the people we elect… as we watch oaths solemnly sworn with great pageantry, then blatantly violated with equal pageantry the following day… we lose one of the greatest birthrights an American has: our pride in the system our Founding Fathers designed for us. How can we be proud of this system, when we watch it mocked by the words and actions of our leaders, relegated to a museum piece by an uneducated electorate and an uninterested press?
A Return to the Law
As the reaction to the lawlessness of the Obama administration has grown more sophisticated, we have seen the rise of a new movement, the tea party philosophy. If the Republican Party can be described as the party of patient opposition, the tea party movement is a party of impatience. Many in the tea party recognize that they were late to the realization, but now that the lawlessness of Obama, Pelosi and Reid, and the forces they command, is out in the open, the tea party movement has no interest in waiting patiently for another two, three, or four cycles, like the formal party of the right always has.
The tea party rightly recognizes that this nation cannot afford to keep drifting off course; we cannot afford to wait until we’ve been completely transformed into a European technocracy where every private business is managed by a dozen government functionaries. We need a sense of urgency, to stop the drift and correct it, and we must do so yesterday.
There are a thousand things to fix: agencies to redirect, budgets to cut, regulations to repeal, executive orders to rescind. The next administration will have quite a job ahead of it.
But first and foremost, we must wage an education campaign in the press, in the schools, in the popular culture. We must remind the American people what “limited government means.” We must teach them (for many, it will be for the very first time) this key, fundamental rule about life in a representative republic: that “winning an election” does NOT mean that the winner just gets to do whatever he wants!
The winner of an election in America wins only the right to choose from the legal alternatives given him by the Constitution; he has no other powers.
The system was designed brilliantly; changes are notoriously difficult, requiring the agreement of the House, the Senate, and the president. None can act on its own, not just because it’s not allowed by each official’s oath of office, but also because government action OUGHT to be slow. It OUGHT to be deliberative. NO changes ought to happen until there is broad agreement across the nation that the change should take place.
Our Founding Fathers never intended for the winners of any single election, whether in 2008 or 2010 or 2012, to be able to quickly transform this country from a nation of free people into a nation of serfs, technocrats, indigents and commissars. They never dreamed that we would ever even want to. The Founders thought we would appreciate the pains they took to protect us from such a fate.
As we go into the general election of 2014… as we watch the Resident, on a daily basis, threaten Congress, bully the states, abuse his office to harass private citizens and organizations, and promise to author a limitless string of edicts for his suddenly militarized bureaucracy to enforce… we must educate the public so the voters understand WHY the Right so urgently opposes this administration and its regulatory overreach. We must show the voters that we are not exaggerating when we describe it as tyranny.
We must remind them that government can only grow at the expense of the private sector, and that the private sector is being choked every day, until this leviathan can somehow be reined in.
We have rules for a reason, and we must force our leaders to follow them. The Obama administration has set a precedent that anyone, once he successfully wins or steals an election, can do anything he wants until he gives up the office. That’s not a republic; it’s not even a monarchy. Even when it isn’t tyranny, such power is an invitation for tyranny, which only awaits the right tyrant to wield it.
One of the greatest gifts from the Framers – conceived way back in the 18th century – was that our nation so long enjoyed the limitless potential afforded by limited government. Let us hope that, with our hard work and the blessing of Divine Providence, this great theme of our noble Founders may again carry the day in a renewed America.
November can’t come soon enough.
Copyright 2014 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and trade compliance trainer. A former Chicagoland Republican activist and onetime county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, he has now been a recovering politician for over seventeen years.
Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut and the IR URL and byline are included. Follow John F. Di Leo on Facebook and LinkedIn, or on Twitter at @johnfdileo.