The single most important election issue in 2016:  The Constitution!

[No you’re not seeing things — this is a post from a few days ago. The thing is, I think it’s an important post, so I’m keeping it floating at the top for a few days. Scroll down for more recent posts.]

Constitution we the people

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
— Presidential Oath of Office

In 1992, James Carville famously hung a sign in Bill Clinton’s Little Rock campaign headquarters pointing campaign workers to Clinton’s most powerful campaign message:  “The economy, stupid!”  Today, in the run-up to the 2016 election, conservatives need to keep hammering their most powerful campaign message:  “The Constitution!”  After eight years of Obama’s savage disregard for the Constitution, the 2016 election is America’s last chance to return our Constitution to its rightful, and central, place in American politics.

In this essay, I hope to establish three things:

I. That the Constitution is a unique document that empowers individuals over government, making it the bedrock of American exceptionalism;

II. That Barack Obama has significantly damaged the Constitution’s preeminent position in American government, creating a dangerous imbalance in favor of an unlimited executive backed by a powerful, all-encompassing bureaucracy; and

III. That we must choose our next president very carefully in order to redress this imbalance lest we wake up one morning to find ourselves living under a permanent de facto dictatorship.

Part I

After winning the Revolution, America’s Founding Fathers had the unique opportunity to build a government from the ground up.  Being educated men, they had several models from which to choose.  They could replicate the British model, with its monarch, hereditary aristocracy, and House of Commons.  They could attempt a commune of the type that the Pilgrims tried in 1620.  Although that attempt almost killed the Pilgrims, the utopian impulse towards communism has continued to tempt revolutionaries ever since.  They could try to put Plato’s Republic into effect and appoint themselves as the ideal Platonic ruling elite. They could even try the Judges approach from the Old Testament.  They rejected all of those models.

The Founders’ genius lay in recognizing that all previous government models had a pyramidal structure, with power held only at the very top of the pyramid.  This was certainly true of Britain which, beginning in 1066, had vested complete power in a hereditary monarchy.  It took centuries for the aristocracy and landed gentry to chip away at the monarch’s authority, starting with the Magna Carta (1215) and finishing with the Glorious Revolution’s Bill of Rights (1689).

Ironically, thanks to the American Revolution, Parliament concluded that the British Bill of Rights, many parts of which the Founders incorporated wholesale into our Constitution, limited only the monarchy, but had no controlling effect on Parliament. In other words, Britain emerged from the American Revolution as pyramidal as before, only with Parliament at the top of the pyramid, not the King.

This same pyramidal pattern held true for all other governments the Founder’s studied.  No matter the outcome of history’s wars and revolutions, government’s fundamental structure remained unchanged:  Power resided at the top, with those citizens excluded from power enjoying limited freedoms and privileges — and those only at the whim of the ruling class.  The Founders would therefore have been unsurprised to see that the 20th century’s communist revolutions, despite destroying the old ruling classes entirely, created governments no different from the ones they replaced – power was at the top, with the apparatchiks, and the people groaned in bloody servitude under what was just another self-appointed elite.

To prevent the tyranny of the elite – any elite – the Founders created an entirely new government structure, one never before tried:  They broke governing authority into its constituent parts (legislative, executive, and judicial) and divvied that power amongst three different, but equal, branches of government.  No government branch could act alone. The theory was that each branch would guard its power jealously, thereby keeping either of the other two branches from becoming dominant.  These “checks and balances,” integral to our Founder’s design, were an elegant example of the old idea that it takes two thieves (or, in this case, three) to keep an honest bargain.

The Founders also went beyond creating a radically new government structure that diffused power throughout government to prevent the inevitable tyranny that flows from vesting all government power in one person or collective. In 1791, they enacted the Bill of Rights.

The philosophy underlying our Bill of Rights is not found in the Constitution itself, but in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Throughout history, many have called themselves revolutionaries, but they are invariably just as power-hungry as the governments they’ve overthrown.  The Founders, however, were true revolutionaries.  Their new paradigm holds that a majority of citizens can voluntarily elect a legislature and abide by its laws; accept the executive’s enforcement of the laws (including punishments); and allow the judiciary to interpret the laws, if they have concluded that a particular set of political figures will best protect their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. If, however, the majority of the people conclude that this same government no longer serves them well, they may reconstitute the government to make it more to their liking.

Being cautious men, and with Parliament’s gutting of the British Bill of Rights as a grim example of government overreach, the Founders did not feel that just a Declaration and Constitution were adequate protections for individuals.  In 1791, the Founders enacted the Bill of Rights, explicitly spelling out the inviolate sphere of rights that each person possesses independent of government.   Ironically, many of the rights are verbatim restatements of the same British Bill of Rights that Parliament had only recently nullified.

America’s Bill of Rights represents a complete inversion of the traditional power pyramid.  In America, the governing power rests, not at the highest point of the pyramid, with kings and politicians, but in its base, which is comprised of individuals who possess inherent, unalienable rights.  Because these individual rights are so important, they bear repeating here:

Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment 2 – Right to Bear Arms.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment 3 – Quartering of Soldiers.

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment 4 – Search and Seizure.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment 5 – Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment 6 – Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment 7 – Trial by Jury in Civil Cases.

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment 8 – Cruel and Unusual Punishment.

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment 9 – Construction of Constitution.

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment 10 – Powers of the States and People.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The last two amendments hammer home the Founder’s radical political philosophy. The Ninth Amendment establishes that, while the enumerated rights are to be understood to control the federal government, they cannot be read to mean that individual American’s rights are limited to those listed.  Instead, any right not listed can be presumed to lie with the people, not the government.

Moreover, if the Ninth Amendment doesn’t make matters sufficiently clear, the Tenth Amendment says that, unless the Constitution specifically reserves an affirmative right for the federal government, or prohibits it to a state, all other rights — the universe of rights, whether or not articulated — belong to the states or to the people within those states.

Although committed to individual liberty, with the government as the people’s servant rather than the other way around, the Founders were still worried that the people, en masse, could be dangerously impetuous.  They undoubtedly were familiar with the economically devastating South Sea Bubble, an investment mania only seventy years before that resulted in both individuals and the British government bankrupting themselves in their rush to get rich quick. The Founders understood that there are times when people become lost to common sense in the short term from fear, greed, or demagoguery, thereby losing sight of their long-term interests.

As originally enacted, therefore, the Constitution limited direct democracy to 25% of the government – the House of Representatives.  Senators were to be appointed by governors (whom the people elected directly), judges by the president with advice and consent, and the president by the Electoral College.  The Electoral College, especially, allowed a breathing space between the election for the President and the actual selection of the President, limiting the risk of demagoguery and popular hysteria.

Under the scheme the Founders established, it is the House of Representatives that was (and is) truly “the People’s House.”  The two-year term contrasts strongly with the Supreme Court’s life term, the President’s four-year term, and the Senate’s six-year term.  A short term of office means that citizens can quickly punish or reward legislative conduct.

The House of Representatives also mirrors population dynamics.  The Senate is fixed at two representatives per state, there’s only one president, and there are nine Supreme Court justices.  The House, however, is reconfigured every ten years to represent accurately the number of people in various population centers and deserts throughout the U.S.   Because House members are so tightly tied to local demographics, they are the politicians whom citizens know at a personal level.  When voters cast their vote for a member of the House, they have a solid understanding of that person’s values, honor, and effectiveness.

In further acknowledgment of the People’s ultimate control over government, the Founders gave to the House the power of the purse.  It was this power that James Madison, in Federalist No. 58, identified as “the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”  (Emphasis added.)

It is this carefully thought out, sublime, and extraordinary Constitution that makes the United States the exceptional nation it is.  We are the only nation in the world ever, at any time or in any place, that truly places power in the individual.  We do not pay lip service to democracy, something we see in socialist or communist countries that are nothing more than slightly reconfigured monarchies or aristocracies run by socialist, rather than aristocratic (or theocratic) elites.  The citizens in all those other nations, although they may have some temporary material benefits before their government-controlled economies run out of other people’s money, are as fully enslaved as they ever were in the bad old days.

For more than two centuries, American citizens have been, for the most part, free actors whose government exists to support and protect them, not to manipulate, control, rob, or enslave them.  It is this unique structure that has allowed America to become the richest, most powerful nation in the world, all without becoming either a tyranny at home or a tyrannical empire abroad.  We are the only nation in history that frees other countries and then turns back control to their self-rule, secure in the belief that the benefit we receive from our efforts will come about, not because we rule other countries, but because we serve as a role model for them.

Our blessings, both inside and outside of our borders, prove that free people are extraordinary engines of change who create prosperity in ways unimaginable in societies that have government’s heavy hand bearing down on each person.  The Constitution’s emphasis on individual liberty is the primary cause of America’s success.

Part II

And there’s President Barack Obama. . . .

In the wake of President Obama’s recent executive orders regarding gun rights, a poster from 2014 is once again making the rounds on Progressive Facebook pages.  It purportedly shows that conservatives who decry President Obama’s use of executive orders are nothing more than paranoid hypocrites:

Obama executive orders and presidential memoranda

The problem with that pithy poster is that, aside from its being out of date (President Obama has signed 230 executive orders since taking office), it’s grossly misleading.  What it hides is the fact that, as of January 5, 2016, President Obama had also executed 273 “Presidential Memoranda.”  While these memoranda are identical in effect to an Executive Order, they fly under the radar because, unlike Executive Orders, they’re not formally published in the Federal Register.

Adding together the two types of executive actions, it becomes clear that, seven years into his administration, Barack Obama is responsible for a grand total of 430 unilateral executive actions.  So next time one of your Progressive Facebook friends publishes the above poster, you can respond with one showing actual, not fantasy, facts:

Obama executive actions 1

Not only is President Obama acting unilaterally more than past president’s did, the nature of his unilateral acts is different from those in the past.  Given the limitations that the Constitution imposes on the executive branch, executive orders are intended to be managerial in scope.  For example, presidents routinely sign Executive Orders mandating “Half-Day Closing of Executive Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government” on Christmas Eve (see, e.g., EO 13109 and EO 13713).  This type of mandate is consistent with being the CEO of a large institution.

President Obama, however, sees Executive Orders and Presidential Memoranda as vehicles for substantive action that encroaches upon Congress’s purview.  When Obamacare’s debut was a disaster, President Obama repeatedly amended the law to prop it up.  He famously enacted amnesty, directly contravening federal immigration laws that he was unable to pass even when he controlled both houses of Congress (although the Supreme Court may finally stop him).  He unilaterally initiated war in Libya by refusing to call it a “war,” a bit of word play that gave him the cover he needed to bypass the War Power Clause, which vests in Congress the authority to declare a war.

Last year, President Obama entered into a treaty with Iran that welcomed Iran back into the congress of nations, freed billions of dollars for Iran to spend at will, and put America’s imprimatur on Iran’s continuing nuclear development.  Relying again on word play, President Obama entirely bypassed Constitution Art II, § 2, Clause 2, which requires that two-thirds of the Senate concur in any treaty with a foreign nation. According to the President, his “engagement” with Iran wasn’t a treaty; it was a just a “non-binding agreement.”  Certainly Iran doesn’t feel bound by the agreement.  Both President Obama and Secretary Kerry have already conceded that Iran will use some the billions of dollars from America for terrorism.

This year, we witnessed the beginning of President Obama’s push to destroy American’s Second Amendment protections through unilateral executive action.  Two weeks ago, he announced major bans on the way in which guns can be sold in America, including one that turns every person who wants to sell a gun into a “dealer” who must be licensed and comply with dealership requirements or face the full weight and majority of federal law enforcement.  Anti-gun fanatics concede that this requirement will do nothing to stem the flow of illegal guns changing hands in America, but it will place onerous burdens on the man who wants to sell a Glock he no longer needs to his trusted neighbor who is being stalked by a vengeful ex.  Gun rights supporters understand that the President’s order is just the opening salvo in his ongoing war against the Second Amendment.  (For my thoughts on the Second Amendment, go here.)

None of the President’s unconstitutional power grabs should surprise anyone.  In the lead-up to 2008, those who were paying attention were already familiar with a 2001 radio interview during which President Obama spoke slightingly about the Constitution as a document that unreasonably inhibits the government’s power:

The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society… [The Supreme Court] didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. [It] says what the states can’t do to you. [It] says what the federal government can’t do to you, but [it] doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.

What conservatives see as the Constitution’s greatest virtue – namely, that it elevates the individual over the government – is something Obama sees as its greatest defect.

President Obama made his disdain for the Constitution clear again just a couple of weeks ago when he was touting his new limitations on American’s Second Amendment rights:

This is a ritual about this whole thing that I have to do. I believe in the Second Amendment. It’s there written on the paper.  It guarantees a right to bear arms. No matter how many times people try to twist my words around, I taught constitutional law and I know a little bit about this.

No Constitutionalist would refer to the Second Amendment as something “written on paper.”  It is an inalienable right burned into each of our souls and fed by the blood of every American who has died in the defense of liberty.  The paper exists to remind people such as Obama about these rights.  It most certainly does not create the rights.

That Obama cares neither for the Constitution nor for the individuals the Constitution is meant to protect was also obvious after the 2014 elections, when voters again rebuked the hubris that had guided his first two years in office when he had an utterly compliant Congress.  Although voters issued a stunning rebuke to Obama in 2010, by 2012 voters were willing to give him, and some members of his party, a second chance.  Come 2014, voters regretted the freedom they’d handed Obama, and once again sought to remind him that “the People,” not the president, control America:  The Legislature makes the laws; the president merely executes them.  Or at least that’s what the voters thought when they handed Congress back to the Republicans.

Obama’s response was to dismiss the will of the people:

We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.  And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.

President Obama is not a very educated man, but he has an instinctive affinity for Plato’s ideal Republic, one that is governed by a self-appointed educated elite that thinks it knows better than the people themselves what’s good for them.

Honesty requires acknowledging that President Obama is not the first Democrat president to find the Constitution an impediment to his goals.  Beginning with Wilson, and with each Democrat president since then, the executive office has aggregated more power to itself.  What’s different about President Obama is that he is the first president to abandon subtlety and incrementalism and, instead, to launch an all-out attack on the Bill of Rights and the balance of power.

Since Wilson’s presidency, the progressive Left has championed the bureaucratic state as a way to govern outside of the Constitution.  Art. 1, Sec. 1 of the Constitution vests all legislative power in Congress. However, under the bureaucratic state championed by Wilson and given vastly greater power under Franklin Roosevelt, our federal agencies routinely pass regulations with the force and effect of law, even though our elected representatives have never voted on them. It makes a complete mockery of our constitutional system and effectively voids the Constitution’s checks and balances.

This administration-controlled bureaucratic legislation was always a system ripe for abuse – and Obama’s White House has revealed what happens when an executive takes advantage of such a system.  Obama has used the bureaucratic state to pass into law things that work fundamental changes to our economy and culture, none of which could (or did) pass into law through Congress.  Here are just three of the most egregious examples:

First, there is the EPA’s unilateral designation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant, a designation that came on the heels of a Democrat-controlled Congress’s refusal to pass legislation that would have had that effect.  Second, there is the EPA’s back-door implementation of a cap-and-trade plan through their new power plant rules, another concept that went down to defeat in Congress during Obama’s first term.   Third, there are the HHS rules that impose a mandate for including coverage for artificial birth control and abortifacients in all health insurance, something that violates the religious conscience of many Americans, something that violates any historically accurate reading of the First Amendment’s “Free Exercise” clause, and something that would never have had a snowball’s chance in hell of passing into law through a vote of Congress.

Standing on the shoulders of Wilson and Roosevelt, President Obama has taken the extra-constitutional form of the bureaucratic state and fully turned it into the tyranny that our Constitution, by its explicit terms, was designed to prevent.

Honesty also requires acknowledging that President Obama could not have gotten away with this aggregation of executive power if Congress had not let him do so.  During President Obama’s first two years in office, a Democrat-majority Congress actively encouraged his “fundamental transformations.” After Americans booted that Congress, though, there was no excuse for Congressional inaction in the face of President Obama’s subsequent encroachments on Congress’s sphere of interest.

It’s fruitless to posit whether Congress has been supine because it feared being called racist, because of crony fascism, because of a collegial loyalty, because of blackmail, or because of something else.  It’s enough to know that the Founders were wrong about one thing:  When the executive branch sought to strengthen itself at the expense of the congressional branch, the latter did not jealously protect its power; instead, it collapsed.

Having read this far into this long essay, you should, I hope, agree with me on two principles:  First, that the Constitution is the greatest political document ever written, and it is what makes America exceptional and blesses Americans with exceptional individual liberty.  Second, that President Obama has been gutting the Constitution’s balance of power and infringing upon the People’s inherent, unalienable liberties, something that is causing great damage now and that sets a very dangerous precedent for future presidents.

Part III

Republican voters have a very stark choice facing them:  Do they vote for the candidate who promises to resurrect American greatness through the power of his will, or do they vote for the candidate who promises to resurrect American greatness by recognizing the Constitution’s centrality in American governance?  Maybe I’m being foolishly reductionist, but the answer to that question seems to lie within the question itself:  You cannot “resurrect” America unless you first resurrect the Constitution to its rightful place in American politics.

I don’t doubt that Donald Trump will fulfill some of his promises to undo some of the damage President Obama has done both at home and abroad.  And I fully understand the appeal of a candidate who seems to have the vigor and courage to carry out an agenda with which a voter agrees.  (I also understand the appeal of an ostensibly conservative candidate who refuses to play the media’s games.)

The problem is that Mr. Trump’s free-wheeling stump promises, well-known business history, and uber-alpha personality make it clear that he’ll carry out his promises the same way Obama did it:  Using executive ukases, manipulating existing laws to his advantage, playing the crony capitalist game, and smearing his political opponents.

There’s no room in Mr. Trump’s rhetoric for the Constitution.  Indeed, as far as I can tell, the only allusion Mr. Trump has made during the primary season to the Constitution is to express support for the Second Amendment.  Moreover, while I appreciate Mr. Trump’s current support for the Second Amendment, I’m not convinced that it’s anything more than skin deep because, in the past, he’s voiced equally fervent support for gun control.

Those who have taken the time to review Mr. Trump’s previous statements about Constitutional issues, such as guns, eminent domain, or abortion, have learned that the pre-primary Mr. Trump characterized himself as a Democrat on those issues, being wholeheartedly pro-Choice, pro-government land grabs, and anti-gun:

Because Mr. Trump has not even bothered to explain how his views have changed so dramatically on fundamental constitutional issues, it’s reasonable to believe that a man who has dedicated his life to winning at all costs will say whatever he thinks people want to hear.  He does not appear to have an abiding commitment to the Constitution’s necessary centrality in American politics, and no understanding that we must act urgently to preserve America’s unique, constitutionally-derived exceptionalism, or lose that exceptionalism altogether.

Mr. Trump may well do everything he’s promised, but at what cost to America?  Based upon the information currently available, Mr. Trump will wreak the same havoc on the Constitution that Obama already has.  America can only be made weaker if the document and philosophy that underlie her exceptionalism are further destroyed.

As best as I can tell, Ted Cruz is the only candidate who has true reverence for the Constitution, seeing it as the sublime document that it is.  Even at a young age, Senator Cruz understood what his conservativism was about. He was never a conservative because it was trendy (it certainly wasn’t during his time at Princeton, just as it isn’t now), nor was he unthinkingly following his parents’ lead, as so many less politically aware young people do. Instead, he delved deep into his ideas:

That [conservative] consistency reveals itself in Cruz’s senior thesis, which he completed under the mentorship of Robert George, a professor of jurisprudence whom The New York Times called “the reigning brain of the Christian right.” [Talk about your dog whistles.]

Cruz’s thesis, “Clipping the Wings of Angels,” quoted James Madison in the Federalist Papers saying in part that, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Cruz focused on the history and theory behind the Ninth and 10th [sic] Amendments in a constitutional defense that reads like a speech he could give at any Tea Party event in the country.

The time-capsule quality of Cruz’s politics is lost on no one who knew him at Princeton, none of whom could point to a political position that he held 25 years ago that he does not seem to still hold today. For some, that amounts to a laudably consistent belief system. For others, it reveals a man of calcified thinking, dangerously impervious to facts, reality, and a changing world.

Progressives damn Senator Cruz for failing to “evolve” in his ideas and, instead, remaining “dangerously impervious to facts, reality and a changing world” (i.e., remaining a committed constitutional conservative).  That type of indictment is true, however, only if one is holding the wrong idea for too long.  As I hope I’ve convinced you, fealty to the Constitution is not the wrong idea.  Instead, it’s best idea of all.

Senator Cruz recognizes that the Constitution is the first and, so far, only document in the history of human kind that vests power, not in a monarchy, or an aristocracy, or an oligarchy, or a people’s collective, or a theocracy, but in each individual.  The Constitution’s obsessive focus on the individual is why it is a bulwark against tyranny and why we must elect a president who understands that fact.  Moreover, as Senator Cruz has shown, he can clearly articulate his constitutional convictions and is willing to stand by them, even if it means taking on the weaker links in his own party.

If elected as president, Ted Cruz will most certainly exercise his own executive authority to void Barack Obama’s extra-constitutional legislative activities.  After that, though, Senator Cruz has repeatedly stated that he will return power to the People through their representatives in Congress, and that he will nominate to the Supreme Court justices who understand that the Constitution is meant primarily to create a limited government that preserves individual liberties.

Moreover, there is every reason to believe that Senator Cruz’s reverence for the Constitution will play well during the general election.  Currently, Progressives are arming themselves against Senator Cruz by pointing to such things as his deep religious faith, his pro-Life beliefs, and his opposition to gay marriage.  All of those, they argue, mean that a Cruz presidency will be nothing more than an American-style Iranian theocracy.

Senator Cruz, though, is ready to teach Progressives that his fealty to the Constitution means that he cannot harm them in the ways they fear. I know this because of a very interesting appearance Senator Cruz made on Stephen Colbert’s show back in September.

When Mr. Colbert asked Senator Cruz about gay marriage, the reliably Leftist audience immediately started booing Senator Cruz.  While the media loved the fact that the audience booed Senator Cruz, with every news and entertainment outlet honing in on that fact, media outlets ignored the extraordinary thing that happened a minute or two later:  After Senator Cruz got the chance to state his principles regarding the gay marriage question, he got a sturdy round of applause from that same formerly hostile audience (at 2:58):

Cruz: People are fed up. What they want is jobs and economic growth. And, you know, you mentioned before, you know, you said “Cruz, you’re a very conservative guy.” Listen, what I am fighting for are simple principles: Live within our means; stop bankrupting our kids and grandkids, follow the Constitution.

Colbert: And no gay marriage. And no gay marriage. [Scattered cheers.]

Cruz: Well, no actually. Let’s be precise. Under the Constitution, marriage is a question for the states. If you want to change the marriage law —

Colbert: It doesn’t mention marriage in the Constitution.

Cruz: We have had a country for over 200 years —

[Audience interrupts to cheer Colbert.]

Colbert: You may be right, you may be right but it doesn’t mention marriage in the Constitution. You believe that marriage —

Cruz: And that’s exactly why it’s a question for the states because the 10th Amendment says, if it doesn’t mention, it’s a question for the states. That’s in the Bill of Rights. Everything that is not mentioned is left to the states. So if you want to change the marriage laws —

Colbert: I’m asking what you want.

Cruz: I believe in democracy. I believe in democracy and I don’t think we should. . . . [Cut off by booing.]

Colbert: No, no, guys, guys. However you feel, he’s my guest, so please don’t boo him.

Cruz: I don’t think we should entrust governing our society to five unelected lawyers in Washington. Why would you possibly hand over the rights of 320 million Americans to five lawyers in Washington to say “We’re going to decide the rules that govern you.” If you want to win an issue, go to the ballot box and win at the ballot box. That’s the way the Constitution was designed.

[At which point the CBS video clip you see above ended before anyone can hear the sturdy round of applause that Senator Cruz received for his defense of constitutional government.]

Senator Cruz is right on the money there. What he’s saying is, “Yes, I’m conservative but, even if you disagree with my principles on such things as gay marriage, you don’t need to fear my presidency because my constitutional principles mean I will not be – I cannot be – a demagogue. Instead, I will follow the Constitution and will return power to the people, through the states, where it belongs.”

This is a very appealing, all-American message and one that Senator Cruz is carefully and quietly making in multiple speaking venues.

As I see it, at a very fundamental level, a vote for Ted Cruz is not a vote for this agenda or that agenda.  It is a vote for America itself.  No matter how much you agree with Mr. Trump’s stated goals or his possible effectiveness, please think twice before you vote for a person who is not bounded by the Constitution and who therefore will be nothing more than a populist, vaguely conservative version of President Obama.

Ted Cruz has an admirably conservative agenda — strong national security, strong military, strong borders, free market capitalism not crony capitalism, freedom of worship, Second Amendment rights, friend to Israel, enemy to jihadist Islam. Even better, with his deep respect for the Constitution, he’ll implement that agenda through the Constitution, not without it.  Voting for Ted Cruz means that we’ll get the values we seek in a conservative president while preserving the Constitution, American exceptionalism, and our individual liberties.