A Constitutionalist Revolution?
It started even before Donald Trump was declared the winner. The pundits and commentators, stunned beyond belief, began to pontificate about how this could possibly have happened. No one they know thought that Trump was anything but a boorish oaf. And the uniform view in their circles was that Trump’s supporters were even worse. Must be, else they wouldn’t be Trump supporters.
Then I started to notice a different narrative as the night wore on while the country was awaiting results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—the so-called rust belt. White, blue collar workers were angry at Washington, the pundits conceded. They have lost their jobs to a global economy that they cannot control, and the government—their government—was ignoring their plight. Whether Trump could deliver on his promise to help them, they seemed to know that Hillary Clinton would not.
Notice the underlying assumption. Trump’s voters were angry because government was not doing enough for them, not that it was doing too much to them. Six years into the Tea Party revolution—and make no mistake, this is an ongoing manifestation of the Tea Party revolution—the Washington crowd still does not get it.
I spoke to a lot of Tea Party groups when I was running for California Attorney General back in 2010. These were not (and are not) people seeking more handouts from government to make their lives better. And they were not backward hicks clinging to their guns and Bibles, as the Washington establishment on both sides of the political aisle believed. They are rock-solid citizens, deeply concerned about handing a $20 trillion debt to their kids, but even more concerned that we seemed to have incurred that debt in utter disregard of the limits our Constitution places on government. Eight years of President Obama exacerbated those concerns to the breaking point, and the prospect of a President Hillary Clinton doubling down on rule by executive pen, by acting assistant deputy secretaries, by “guidance” memos from deep in the bowels of an unelected and unaccountable bureaucracy, provoked a citizen uprising. Not a populist revolt, as the pundits believe, but a Jefferson Tyranny 2 constitutionalist revolt. Or, to borrow language from the Declaration of Independence, a majority of the American people have finally grown tired of the “long train of abuses and usurpations,” and have reasserted their sovereign authority to reign in their out-of-control government.
You see, the D.C. crowd has viewed the lack of a revolt to their expansion of government beyond its constitutional tether as indicative of agreement rather than mere toleration while the abuses remained tolerable. They should have read another line in that old Declaration: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” Now no one is talking about abolishing the government itself—this is not a revolution of the 1776 sort. But anyone who understands the Tea Party movement, and its carryover into Trumpism, should surely sense that the “forms” of government, which is to say, the deformed institutions of government that bear little resemblance to the limited government with separation of powers our founders envisioned and our Constitution requires, need a radical makeover. Those who have been running those institutions need a reminder that Americans are citizens, not subjects, and that the government works for us, not the other way around.
That doesn’t mean the government provides for us. The Trump voters don’t want more government to help them, and certainly not more of unconstitutionally excessive government. They want government to get out of the way so that they can earn their livings without the foot of government on their necks. Regulations that are strangling the economy are also, in many instances, unconstitutional. They are made by bureaucrats in executive agencies, not by Congress, to whom the Constitution alone delegates the lawmaking power (and grass-march-4then, only in certain enumerated areas). Federal spending is not only steering us into bankruptcy, but it is increasingly being used for private benefit (picking winners and losers), not for the “general welfare,” as the Constitution requires. The movement that elected Donald Trump as President seems to know these things intuitively, even though such basic principles seem to have eluded our nation’s elite for the better part of a century.
In the coming days, we will see the behemoth that is the Washington establishment try to push their alternative narrative, one that spins this extraordinary election into a demand for more government, more benefits to alleviate the concerns of the angry mob, more centralized control of our lives. That would be unfortunate, as we now have the best opportunity in a generation to restore constitutional government to our land, to restore the rule of law, and to unleash America’s unbelievable talent and entrepreneurial spirit for the betterment not just of the people of this country, but of the entire world. For you see, what ails us is not Pocket Constitution 1flaws in our Constitution, but our failure to adhere to its design, its limits, and its core principle, drawn from the Declaration of Independence, that all power derives ultimately from the people. Let us now hope, and fervently pray, that the constitutionalist revolution that hit the ballot box on November 8 will succeed as it takes the helm in Washington.
John C. Eastman