The Safeguards of Our Liberty

Since the days of the American Revolution, we Americans have feared a government that we cannot constrain. Our founding fathers had lived under such a government, and they sought to protect themselves and us from the likes of it. To this end, they installed safeguards in our constitution that make it difficult for an individual to take control of the government and use it to impose his or her will on us. Since then, every generation of Americans has been taught to value and defend these safeguards, and many of our ancestors made great sacrifices to preserve them. On November 3rd, it will be our turn to defend them.

When we think about the oppression the American colonists experienced, we think taxation without representation. For us, the principle of no taxation without representation is an article of faith. It is the principle that gave birth to our nation. When the British king and parliament unilaterally levied a tariff on tea, the colonies mobilized to prevent the taxed tea from being landed. In Boston, a large group of men boarded three ships in Boston Harbor and emptied 342 chests of tea into the harbor. Their lawless act triggered a series of escalating events that led to the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, and the formation of the government under which we, the lucky inheritors of this great and beautiful land, now live.

As we have all been taught, when our founding fathers gathered to write our constitution, one of their primary objectives was to prevent any one person from having king-like power over the citizens of the nation. To guard against this, they divided the nation’s sovereign power between three branches of government: the Executive, Judicial and Legislative. To the Executive Branch, they gave the power to enforce the laws. To the Judicial Branch, they gave the power to interpret the laws. And to the Legislative Branch, they gave the power to make the laws, and the powers of taxation and spending. In the United States, there was to be no taxation without representation, and our representatives were to control how our taxes would be spent.

The government that our founding fathers created, while imperfect, has served our nation well. Irreconcilable differences, vitriol, and biased media have been with us since the beginning, but the nation has prospered and endured. It has done so, in large part, because of the separation of powers and other safeguards that our founding fathers installed in our constitution. These safeguards promote stability by making it difficult for an individual to take control of the government and use it to impose his or her will on the entire nation.  

Today, these safeguards are under attack. Like the former king of Great Britain, the history of the current president of the United States is a history of “repeated injuries and usurpations.” It may be hard for us to believe that an American president would abuse the power of the presidency as the former king of Great Britain abused the power of his office, but now, as then, “let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”

He has taxed us without the consent of our representatives by unilaterally levying $80 billion in tariffs on U.S. imports.

He has diverted $6 billion appropriated for the military to fund a border wall that our representatives explicitly chose not to fund.

He has delayed the delivery of nearly $400 million in military aid, appropriated by our representatives to support a vulnerable U.S. ally, in an attempt to corrupt our election and help keep himself in power. 

He has refused to faithfully execute our laws, compromising the healthsafety and liberty of men, women and children within our borders.

He has threatened to suspend Congress so he can fill vacant government positions without Congress’s approval.

He has endeavored to prevent legal immigration to these states and obstructed our immigration laws for this purpose.

He has used U.S Park Police, National Guard troops and federal agents to violently suppress peaceful protests, and he has said he would deploy our military against U.S. citizens if states fail to contain protest violence.

He has corrupted the administration of justice by pressuring our Department of Justice to dismiss charges against his political allies and, conversely, to open investigations and bring charges against his political adversaries.

He has repeatedly accused his political adversaries of treason.

He has defied Congressional subpoenas and told others to do the same.

He has defied orders of our courts.

He has excited and fomented division, violence and civil unrest amongst us.

He is at this time taking steps to undermine the integrity of our election.

And in total contempt of our electoral rights, he has refused to assent to respect the outcome of our elections.

In short, he has refused to respect the authority of our representatives, our courts, and ourselves. Not since the days of King George have Americans been subjected to such a “long train of abuses and usurpations” by their leader. 

We are about to go to the polls to choose our next president. Given that the president has refused to agree to accept the outcome of the election, it is unclear what it will take to remove him from power. One thing, however, is clear: if we re-elect him, despite all he has done and threatened to do, we will authorize and encourage him to continue to abuse the power of the presidency. We, the people, will have spoken, and the president, our representatives, and our courts, will listen. The president will continue to bypass our representatives and abuse our laws to implement his agenda, and our representatives and the courts will lack the political support they need to restrain him in. 

If we re-elect the president, new precedents and norms will be established that will significantly increase the power of the presidency and offset the balance of powers that has sustained the nation. Future presidents will, for example, be able to use this election and the actions of this president to justify declaring emergencies where none exist and abusing other provisions in our laws so they can impose their will on us by executive order. And if our courts allow such actions now, they will not be able to disallow them when future presidents do the same. 

In other words, we cannot allow a president to bypass the limits on presidential power when we agree with what the president does with that power, and then disallow a different president to bypass those limits when we disagree with what he or she does with that power. If we allow our current president to bypass those limits, we will also unleash future presidents to do the same. And when the day comes, as it surely will, that a president from the far left is elected, there will be little we can do to stop him or her from implementing a far-left agenda.

The president is trying to make us believe that his challenger would be such a president. He claims, for example, that all his challenger cares about is political power and that he would unleash the radical left on us. There is no foundation to these claims. The president’s challenger has consistently defended the safeguards that this president has so egregiously abused, and he has made his entire campaign about unity and healing the divisions within our nation. 

Ironically, it is the president who would unleash the radical left on us. By undermining our constitutional limits on presidential power, the president is paving the way for a future president from the left to be able to bypass Congress and implement a far-left agenda. Paradoxically, one of the best ways to rein in a future president from the radical left, would be to soundly defeat our current president in the coming election. Doing so would require a large number of Americans who agree with the president on the issues to withhold their votes from him. If this were to happen, it would send a strong message to future presidents that we will not tolerate presidents who disregard our nation’s constitutional limits on presidential power, and it would empower our representatives and our courts to defend those limits.

The burden for defending those limits falls more heavily on those who agree with the president’s positions on the issues. It is no sacrifice for those who disagree with the president to vote against him, but it is a significant sacrifice for those who support the president’s policies to withhold their votes from him. Members of the president’s political party rightly fear a government that they cannot constrain, but they cannot re-elect the president without undermining the safeguards that give them the ability to constrain the government. Many have intuited this and recognized that the president has little regard for our constitution and the rule of law. For this and other reasons, many will soon perform a very patriotic act: they will set aside their priorities on the issues, march to the polls, mark their ballots, and leave with the box next to the president’s name empty. 

We should be deeply grateful to these Americans. The empty boxes on their ballots may prove to be as important to our freedom as the chests of tea that the American colonists emptied into Boston Harbor in 1773.