Thomas Jefferson couldn’t
Issue #112 • July/August, 2008
About 30 years ago I read the above words and thought, “Of course he could. If the American people were presented a Jeffersonian candidate, and they heard his or her message today, they’d rise up and rush out and vote him into office and we’d have our Constitution and our rights back.” I was certain of it. But I was a lot younger then and somewhat idealistic.
I no longer recall who wrote those words, but I’ve come to realize the writer was correct. Because we do have a new Thomas Jefferson on the scene. He is a Republican candidate for President named Ron Paul, and voters, as well as his own party, have overwhelmingly rejected him.
Let me recount for you the gist of a recent conversation I had about Ron Paul with one of my friends. I’ve had similar conversations with other people.
“Who is Ron Paul? What’s he say?” the friend asked.
“You should already know,” I replied.
“But you don’t hear about him,” she said.
“I have,” I said emphatically. “If we expect to solve the problems in this country, we need an informed electorate. If you can’t pry yourself away from watching TV long enough to find out what the issues are and who’s proposing what, then you shouldn’t be voting.”
I reminded her, as I do everyone: “There are trillions of dollars in our economy and tens of thousands of lives at stake when these people take office. Why aren’t you looking into what the candidates stand for, yourself?” I told her that she, as most Americans, wants to be spoon-fed the information about both the candidates and the issues by the media, and I reminded her that she should keep in mind that those in the media have agendas of their own.
I explained what I could about Paul, adding, “If you really want to know his position on almost anything, just read the Constitution. It’s the document by which Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers governed the country. It’s the set of rules today’s politicians are supposed to use. We once had politicians who did govern in accordance with that document, but that’s not what’s happening today.”
Ron Paul, however, representing Texas’ 14th District, does. Of the 535 members of Congress, only he has consistently used the Constitution as a guideline when he votes in Congress. In his own words, he will “never vote for legislation unless the proposed measure is expressly authorized by the Constitution.” Because of his medical background (he’s a doctor) and the fact the he votes against so much of the pork-barreling and special interest bills in the House, he’s called “Dr. No” by his colleagues. Not one other member of the House or Senate, nor any President in my lifetime, has so consistently voted along constitutional lines.
Others in Congress, and even many of those sitting on the Supreme Court, all of whom we have supposedly entrusted to run this country in accordance with that venerable document, have chosen to either reinterpret the words they find there or, more often, just ignore them. By doing so, they avoid the arduous process the Founding Fathers had put in place to ensure the Constitution is not altered without the informed and expressed will of the People. For them, and perhaps the rest of us, the Constitution has become an “anything goes” document subject to the latest political fashions and fads. But Paul steadfastly and unswervingly follows it to the letter.
And there’s an irony in this, if you haven’t noticed, and it’s that when sworn into the office of the presidency, the new President repeats the words from Article II, Section 1, Clause 8. Read them carefully: I do solemnly swear 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.
Senators, Representatives, and a host of others at federal, state, local levels, and the military take similar oaths that includes the words: …I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…
The problem I have with the oaths they take is that I doubt 99 percent of those taking them know what the Constitution says and exactly what it is they are preserving, protecting, supporting, and defending. Jefferson did, the other Founding Fathers did, and so does Ron Paul. And the irony, of course, is that, in attesting they’ll support the Constitution, they are saying they solemnly support and defend the political position many of them despise.
Early in this election cycle, when Paul seemed to garner attention from the public, he was dismissed as an Internet phenomenon, as if that relegated him to nothingness. But the fact is that the reason he’s been an Internet phenomenon is that there are still some people wishing to know who he is and researching him themselves—instead of being spoon-fed their opinions—and they like what they see. In this I see a tiny glimmer of hope.
But the overwhelming majority of voters are still too lazy or apathetic to find out who he is and what he stands for. Because of this he’s fading away. Thus, I no longer have the optimism I had when I was younger that, given the chance, Americans would vote another Thomas Jefferson into the highest office in the land. Sadly, I don’t expect we’ll ever have this incredible opportunity again. We were presented with a Jeffersonian-like candidate, one who would lead us to a government less intrusive in our lives, one who would protect our rights, and who would keep us out of foreign entanglements, but we, as a people, rejected him. Paul is now 72-years-old. I don’t expect to see him run for the presidency, again. And, unfortunately, I don’t see another Thomas Jefferson or Ron Paul on our political horizon to give us another chance. That’s a tragedy.