12/20/2021 0 Comments
By: Rep. David Ray
There are several things I learned in Mr. Allen’s 11th grade American Government class that I quickly forgot and had to re-learn during college. At the time, I couldn’t have recited the Bill of Rights or told you the difference between The Stamp Act and the Alien and Sedition Acts. But two of the basic pillars of our American Republic that stuck with me were our Constitutional framework of separation of powers and our system of checks and balances that reinforces that framework.
That framework – which divides the powers of government between three separate but co-equal branches – is not just fundamental to understand how our government works on an academic level, but it’s also “essential to the preservation of liberty,” as James Madison wrote in Federalist 51.
The concept of separation of powers evolved throughout antiquity but was articulated more clearly by Enlightenment-era philosophers Locke and Montesquieu. The basic idea was that if the powers of government were divided up between separate and independent divisions, it would prevent anyone from usurping total power and becoming a dictator. The American Founders drew heavily on this idea when drafting our U.S. Constitution. They granted expressed and limited powers to each branch of government – the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary.
The worldview of the Founders often rested upon the Biblical truth of the fallibility of human nature. Humans are imperfect, and so are the governments which they create. Madison famously wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
Importantly, the Republican Party of Arkansas’s Platform recognizes the importance of separation of powers. The party platform states as its tenth principle, “Our republican form of limited government requires three separate and independent branches…to facilitate a robust system of checks and balances so that no one branch of government – whether located in Washington, D.C. or Little Rock – should wield more authority than the other two.”
Many of the problems plaguing our political system stem from our government deviating from the Founders’ vision of separation of powers. For example, judges who legislate from the bench by inserting their own opinions into their decisions rather than relying on the text of the law have done immeasurable harm to our political system. And in modern times, legislative bodies (particularly the U.S. Congress) have ceded massive amounts of authority to the executive branch and its agencies, tipping the balance of power in an unhealthy direction toward whichever party controls the executive branch. Modern Presidents, when Congress declines to rubber-stamp their agenda, often issue executive orders to accomplish through Presidential fiat what they can’t pass legislatively. President Obama’s infamous declaration he has “a pen and a phone” certainly comes to mind.
The concept of “checks and balances” is very closely tied to separation of powers. It gives each branch of government the power to limit -- or “check” the other two. For example, the executive branch can veto laws passed by the legislative branch. The legislative branch can check the executive branch by exercising the power to confirm (or not confirm) executive appointments. And the judicial branch can check the legislative and executive branch by determining the constitutionality of their laws and orders.
In Federalist 51, Madison explains this concept by stating, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” Our Founders knew that because of the fallen nature of man, people are prone to seek power and control. Madison said, “the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers…consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others.”
While we often complain about the slow pace at which government sometimes moves to address certain problems, our Founders viewed this as a feature, not a bug, of our system. Checks and balances help to guard against the growth of government and help protect the rights of political minorities against what is sometimes called “the tyranny of the majority.”
Concepts like separation of powers and checks and balances may seem academic – or even archaic – to some, but it’s important that we work to preserve their importance. As President Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. It has to be fought for and defended by each generation." While we no longer face the tyranny of the British Crown which our Founders sought their independence, we do face a subtle and gradual erosion of our freedoms as we continue to veer from the path our Founders laid out for us.
If our Founders were alive today, they would probably cringe at how much erosion has occurred of the concept of separation of powers. They would never have imagined Congress giving up so much of its power to the Presidency, only to see that power delegated to federal agencies – where government bureaucrats who are unelected and unaccountable make policy that affects people they will never meet that live hundreds and in some cases thousands of miles away.
But I believe there’s reason for hope. Over the course of four years, President Trump greatly transformed the judicial branch with a wave of federal judges that are originalists in their interpretation of the Constitution. Part of why I’m a Republican is because of the respect and reverence we have for our U.S. Constitution. We cherish all of this incredible document, not just bits and pieces that suit our momentary political whims. I believe the Republican Party represents our best and perhaps only chance to truly restore the Founders’ vision for the balance of power in America.
12/14/2021 5 Comments
By: Sarah Jo Reynolds
“We strongly believe that all legal proceedings should be conducted and adjudicated based solely on the United State Constitution, the Arkansas Constitution and the statutory and case law framework of federal and state law, without reference to or influence by any foreign law.” The Republican Party’s latest platform addresses that Constitutional principle of equal and just enforcement of the law, without which the defense of the individual and the American way of life is impossible.
One of the favorite claims of the Left today is that the Constitution can’t possibly be an accurate and effective law of the land if it was written by a room full of old, white men. Progressives often scoff at the language and principles of our Founding documents because the original text would not have assumed equal protection under the law for gender or race.
The Founders were wise enough to understand their own fallibility and their own limits, but that brings us to another proof of their brilliance: the Amendment process. Throughout history, more wise Americans have understood the self-evident nature of our rights and worked to ensure that everyone enjoys the fruit of that liberty. Now, anyone regardless of race, religion, national origin, or age can live equally.
Equal and just enforcement of the law is directly linked to the conservative idea of limited government and the defense of the individual. The Bill of Rights, specifically, is replete with protections of the individual. Those accused of crimes are promised the same legal protection. Throughout criminal proceedings, a citizen is protected from self-incrimination and unreasonable searches and seizures, and they are promised the liberties of a speedy, fair trial, access to counsel, the ability to cross-examine witnesses, among many others. Even after a conviction, criminals are afforded the right to appeal their conviction to a higher court.
Conversely, it is also necessary that the victim of a crime must have a voice through the criminal justice process. The Republican Party supports the incorporation of victims’ rights into the justice system and that they be honored by the judiciary.
The age-old debate between conservative textualists and liberal activist judges weighs heavily upon this intended defense of limited government. Sometimes too often, the Court creates law rather than interprets it, as was seen by decisions like Roe v. Wade (1973). In this case, the Court gave no consideration for the equality of persons under the law, only the persons which they favored. Unfortunately, Lady Justice is often not blind, as she should be. Systemic perjury runs rampant in Court rooms across the nation, and political factors often affect which cases are adjudicated at all.
The prison system in the United States should focus their efforts both on punishment and on rehabilitation if incarcerated persons are to reenter society after serving their time. While many on the Left argue that prisons are overcrowded or even prejudiced, it is true that nearly half of those released from prison after serving time for a violent crime will return to prison. Incarceration, while important for efforts of rehabilitation of the incarcerated, is first and foremost a protection of the community and the preservation of justice for both victim and society at large.
Closely related to the principle of separation of powers, one of the most serious threats to the equal and just enforcement of the law can sometimes be the judiciary itself. In Federalist 78, the Founders stated that the judiciary was to act as an intermediary between the people and their Legislature and to ensure that the elected acted within their Constitutional limitations. Furthermore, Federalist 78 states that any law codified must be consistent with Constitutional principles, and if it isn’t, the Constitution must be preferred. At the same time, the will of the people must be preferred to the will of their representatives.
Our duty to this equal and just enforcement of law is to prevent all injustices from occurring. Republicans everywhere should be encouraging our young conservatives to become attorneys, since our attorneys will become our elected judges. Only through the accountability of our judiciary to uphold the Constitution as supreme and of our legislature to the consent of the governed can equal and just enforcement of the law remain.
12/6/2021 2 Comments
By: Jaime Land
No amendment is more contested or attacked than the Second Amendment to the Constitution. While the language seems straightforward, some interpret the simplest of sentences so distinctly from the rest of the document. Amid the jargon of academics and activist judges, rights are diminished to those of sportsmen rather than citizens. Or to the collective, rather than the individual. The right to keep and bear arms is infringed upon every day, sometimes by an Act of Congress, but mostly by a Progressive agenda that diminishes the power of the individual.
It’s no coincidence that the protection of the people’s right to keep and bear arms follows the First Amendment, which lays out what’s often called the “Five Freedoms.” I believe the Republican Party Platform summarizes this best when it states, “Without the right to own and bear arms to serve as an individual’s hedge against government overreach and as a means for self-defense in our home, on our property, and of our person, none of our rights and freedoms can be guaranteed.”
The interpretation of the language most often centers on a few key phrases. The key language that’s most often misinterpreted is “the right of the people.” This language seems self-explanatory, but to many in the academic community and other “Constitutional scholars,” they interpret the right of the people as a collective of the public, rather than the rights of an individual citizen. However, you will also find this phrase repeated in the First, Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments in the very same Bill of Rights. Either the Left chooses to view the Second Amendment as an exception to individual rights, proving their own biases, or they hold no appreciation for the principle of individual liberties at all. Such logic is inconsistent with American values of personal responsibility or freedom and allows a worldview that makes rights government-ordained rather than God-ordained.
Secondly, many of these so-called scholars focus on that qualifying phrase, “a well-regulated militia.” The Progressive argument holds the idea that the right to bear arms refers to the upkeep of a civilian militia or of a police force, but the decision of the Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, better known as the Heller case, stated that the militia clause of the Amendment cannot limit the operative clause of “shall not be infringed.” The Founders understood that limiting gun ownership only to the military would create the very state-sanctioned force which the Amendment was designed to protect against. The Heller case affirmed the founding principle of individual means of defense by stating that laws that ban handguns are an infringement upon the Second Amendment.
Most comical among the arguments of the Left is the sportsman defense. “You don’t need an AR-15 to go hunting,” they say. Well, maybe we don’t. Any Arkansas deer hunter can explain that the typical .223 round is not near as effective in the woods as the .270, the .308, or the .300 Winchester Magnum, a few favorites around here.
But the Second Amendment has absolutely nothing to do with my desire to hunt, shoot clay pigeons, or visit a gun range. The Amendment’s very purpose is the use of deadly force as a deterrent to the loss of life, liberty, or property. Each tragic shooting at a school or public event serves as a reminder of the necessity of law-abiding gun owners to prevent the loss of innocent life at the hands of criminal actors.
Displayed as a visceral hatred for those “who cling to their religion and their guns,” as former President Barack Obama liked to put it, the Left often searches for any reason to attack the Second Amendment. Whether it’s the interpretation of our stated rights within the Constitution itself, taking advantage of tragedy, or attacking the intelligence of the average gun owner, the battle exists over a simple worldview difference.
We know that the role of our government is not to create our rights, but only to protect those rights which God has ordained and entrusted to us. The personal right to own and bear arms has nothing to do with entertainment, sport, or ego; but, it has everything to do with the power of the American citizen to protect themselves, whether from a home invader or from the government itself. So regardless of the names we’re called or the attacks upon life and liberty, you can rest assured that we will be clinging to our religion and our guns.