We the People need to safeguard our liberties

By Tad Armstrong | Apr 11, 2009

An "epidemic of ignorance" is the greatest threat to this Republic.

Lest one believes this to be an overstatement, consider the fact that the vast majority of "We, the People" would not likely be able to define our form of government, for it is not a "democracy." It is not even a "representative democracy." Very few would conger up the correct answer – "a republic." The word "democracy" is not to be found in either the Declaration of Independence or the United States Constitution, but what of the word "republic" or its various forms?

Most are surely familiar with the Pledge of Allegiance, words that exhort us to promise loyalty to the "Republic" symbolized by our flag, but few are familiar with Article IV, §4 of the Constitution: "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government..."

A republic, derived from the Latin res publica (meaning "public thing"), simply put, is a representative democracy where the majority rules as long as the majority does not exceed the limits of the law, the Constitution, the Supreme law of the land. (Article VI). When asked what the Framers had given us, Benjamin Franklin responded: "A Republic - if you can keep it."

Ignorance abounds and some would suggest that the "rule of law" as set forth in our Constitution is not worthy of serious study today, ranking somewhere below the latest batting averages of MLB and "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" on an average American's need-to-know list. Those that framed this marvelous form of self-government, and many of their successors revered by Americans in marble and bronze, thought otherwise.

"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives," wrote James Madison.

"The Constitution must be maintained, for it is the safeguard of our liberties," wrote Abraham Lincoln.

"The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure," wrote Albert Einstein.

These people stated what they felt "had" to be done to preserve our freedom. Warning shots from some pretty intelligent folks, right?

Yet, how many of us can say we "arm" ourselves with Madison's power of knowledge? How many of us can say we tend to Lincoln's suggested maintenance of our Constitution? Indeed, how can anyone possibly provide an Einstein-like "defense" of that which we know not?

We have arrived at a place in our Country where far too many citizens are persuaded to vote for the candidate who is best at the art of "wool pulling." It has become a studied and polished discipline practiced by Republicans and Democrats alike. Let me refresh your memory with one such example I call "The Reid/Durbin caper."

In late December 2008, a weakened, but still standing Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich appointed Roland Burris to fill the Unites States Senate seat vacated by then President-Elect Obama.

The majority leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, a lawyer who had taken an oath to defend and support the Constitution, responded: "Roland Burris will not be seated on my watch. The Senate decides who sits in the Senate. It has been that way for hundreds of years. We have the constitutional right to deny him a seat and that is the way it is going to be."

President-Elect Obama, a lawyer who had taken an oath to defend and support the Constitution and who taught Voting and Election Law at the University of Chicago, initially agreed with that arrogant stance. After the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the Illinois Secretary of State's signature on the Blago appointment was not required, enter, stage left, Senator Richard Durbin, second in command in the Senate and also a lawyer who had taken an oath to defend and support the Constitution: "Listen, we're not going to seat this man without Jesse White's signature in accordance with our rules, I don't care what the Supreme Court of my state says. I think we should hold this up, wait for Blagojevich to be impeached, then when Pat Quinn becomes governor he can make a nice clean appointment that won't smell. Who knows? Quinn might even appoint Burris." [Pause for canned laughter.]

Two to three weeks later, after refusing to cave in to the foregoing fiction, Unconstitutionally-Delayed-But-Constitutionally-Empowered-Roland-Burris was finally seated. After abusing their duty in return for hoped-for political gain, Reid and Durbin finally realized that at least five of the folks across the parking lot would eventually inform them that they are not omnipotent – that the rule of law is Supreme and it (the Constitution) requires seating Roland Burris. (Remember, that is what makes a representative democracy a republic.)

And, what was the Republican response? Enter, stage right, the Illinois Republican Party Chairman, Andy McKenna – all quiet on the set, ready, action: "Democrats chose to trust a madman over the people of Illinois. Today's endorsement of Rod Blagojevich's handpicked choice for U.S. Senate confirms what Republicans have been saying for years – that Illinois is in dire need of change."

And, let's not leave out the Republican National Committee Chairman, Robert Duncan, a lawyer who had taken an oath to defend and support the Constitution: "Democrats had every opportunity to strip Governor Blagojevich of his power to appoint a U.S. Senator, but ultimately they accepted a Blagojevich appointee rather than risk losing a Senate seat in a special election."

Does anyone doubt that ignorance of the masses is our greatest threat? Reid, Durbin, Obama, McKenna and Duncan all had to know what most of the media had not figured out due to their own form of selective ignorance – that the Constitutional duty of the Senate, regardless of personal desire, was to immediately seat Roland Burris.

The Democrats knew they did not have a choice. Don't kid yourselves, so did the Republicans. Heaven help us if they were so oblivious to their oaths and their own responsibility to investigate their duties that even they were ignorant of what was constitutionally required of them.

Case closed. Both mainstream parties hoodwinked the American people for three weeks. Why? Because they knew they could. Because the inclination of those in power is to grab more of it if they know no one is looking. Because (1) they knew most of the media would fail in its job to inform (and they did); (2) each party spokesperson used words intended to attract voters, the truth be damned; and, (3) they did so because they knew "We, the People" had fallen asleep at the wheel like lemmings following their leader over the cliff of blind obedience.

If a significant portion of our citizenry were to maintain a minimum level of Constitutional education, does anyone believe these leaders would so readily risk making fools of themselves in the daylight? It is easy to take the risk of being caught in a lie when the audience is clueless and the media can be counted on to fail.

"We-the-People-of-this-era" have failed ourselves in our own self-governing. Indeed, we have failed over one million Americans who have died on the battlefields of freedom (from the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan) and countless others who have been disabled, orphaned or widowed (the additional price of freedom).

Many Americans "make the time" to watch American Idol (so do I), but cannot "take the time" to "arm themselves" with the knowledge James Madison believed to be required of us all if freedom is to survive. We cannot blame the media – we cannot blame those whom we elect – "We-the-only-truly-self-governed-People-in-the-world" have only ourselves to blame.

If we are to survive, freedoms intact, there must be a constitutional renaissance in the land. Ben Franklin said it this way: "It is in the religion of ignorance that tyranny begins." My sentiments exactly. And so, I close as I began: "An 'epidemic of ignorance' is the greatest threat to this Republic."

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Illinois Supreme Court Republican National Committee The University of Chicago

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