I believe firmly that the U.S. Constitution is the greatest governing document in history. Yet it has always been known, that if it were just words on a page, it would amount to little. At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, one of our greatest founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, was asked what kind of Government the Constitution gave us, “a Republic or a Monarchy?” “A Republic,” Franklin replied, “If you can keep it.”
How true Franklin’s words were and how prophetic they have proven to be.
236 years ago this month, the U.S. declared its independence. It has been governed by the same Constitution for 223 years. It has grown to be the most powerful and prosperous nation in the face of the earth. Yet we face serious problems in large part because we have forgotten our character and forgotten the wisdom of our founders and the Constitution they wrote.
The facts bear out that far too many Americans do not understand the Constitution. For example, a 2010 study found that 55% of Americans disagree that the Constitution sets up a government which is limited in power. 50% also believed that elected officials, and not the people, were the source of governmental authority. A 2011 study found that just 38% could name all three branches of the U.S. government: the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. 33% were unable to correctly name any of the branches.
In fact, the Founding Fathers set up three branches of government precisely to limit power. They did this because they believed people, not a king or any elite body, were the ultimate source of power for a legitimate government, and that given the appropriate framework of a limited government, the people could govern themselves better than any monarch.
In recent years, the trend of ignoring the separation of powers, increasing dependence on government, and eroding the Bill of Rights, has accelerated to a frightening pace. As a Congressman, I have sworn to uphold the Constitution and because of that, I have fought against this trend at every opportunity. I have voted against bills I believe are unconstitutional and have been very careful to ensure that every bill I propose has a clear citation to Constitutional authority included in it. I have spoken out in favor of the values of our Constitution and done what I can do promote the values and wisdom of our Constitution. I have fought to keep our government limited and our citizens free.
Yet ultimately, as the Founders knew so well, it is the people, not elected officials that are the ultimate source of authority. If we do not have a culture that respects the Constitution and who prizes independent men and women who ask not what their country can do for them, but what they can do for their country, then our nation will not long endure. It is thus vital that the people know, respect and love the Constitution.
I ask the people of rural Arizona whom I represent to join with me in creating this culture. Learn more about our Constitution and our heritage whenever you get a chance. Teach your children about the Constitution and discuss it with your neighbors. Demand that your elected official at all levels of Government knows and respects the Constitution and appreciates this culture. Because ultimately, as George Washington once said, the Constitution’s “Only keepers,” are “the people."