Here's the Horse Sense: Many, if not most, nations have a Bill of Rights, but they don't have freedom like America does. That's not what gives us our freedoms. But with the path our nation is on we need to change in order to protect the freedoms we do have.
On Friday, May 8th, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke to the Federalist Society in New Jersey and made what many would feel is a radical argument. The Daily Signal is reporting that Scalia said the structure of our government under the Constitution is what gives us our freedoms, not the liberties defined in the Bill of Rights. It's pretty radical to most people to think that the list of rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, trial by jury of one's peers, etc., as expressed in the Bill of Rights, is not what gives us our freedoms.
Scalia said, "The genius of the American constitutional system is the dispersal of power. Once power is centralized in one person, or one part [of government], a Bill of Rights is just words on paper." James Madison said that the power that the people give to government is secured by dividing it between the federal and state governments (2 separate governments in his view). Then he went on to point out that each of those governments were divided into branches (i.e.; executive, legislative, and judicial). This gives double protection of the people's rights. He felt that the design of the American system would cause the governments (state and federal) to control each other, which would be a check and balance system to protect the rights of the people.
Scalia then raised concern over the breakdown of this power structure that happened with the passage of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution in 1913 when election of the U. S. Senate was given to the people through voting instead of the original design where they senators were chosen by the state legislatures.
This design was to create balance where the House of Representatives was elected by the people, but the Senate was chosen by the state legislatures so that the Senate would not disregard or overpower the state's authority. With the change in 1913, the federal government has since seized power from the states and weakened the power of the citizens over their own government.
Scalia gave good examples of how this worked to give the states power over federal action. He said, "When you have a bill that says states will not receive federal highway funds unless they raise the drinking age to 21, that bill would not pass. The states that had lower drinking ages would tell their senators, 'You vote for that and you are out of there.'"
Scalia makes an excellent argument. The 17th Amendment has so weakened us in the past century that the states no longer have the power they once had. Now you may say, "But we've still got 3 branches in the federal government to act as a check and balance against each other." Unfortunately that isn't working any more. Our legislative branch not only won't hold the executive branch or the judicial branch accountable, they act like they worship them. The judiciary is now seen as the final authority on everything and they legislate from the bench. And the executive branch is treated as above the law with no one holding them accountable for their illegal actions.
The fact that we are at a place where the president demands and takes actions that are illegal and nobody does anything should send a chill of fear down the back of every citizen. The only action the legislative branch takes is to file lawsuits against the executive branch when the Constitution gives them not only the authority, but the responsibility to hold them accountable. First, the House is to use the power of the purse to defund expenditures that are unconstitutional. Second, they are to impeach an out of control president and the Senate is to then have a trial and convict when the law has been broken. But that doesn't happen. And it's not new.
In 1999 when the Senate refused to find Bill Clinton guilty when the evidence was clear and overwhelming that he'd committed perjury, both political parties proved that they were more worried about protecting another politician than they were about upholding the law (and that's when I left the Republican Party).
Scalia is right, but unfortunately we are far, far past the point of fixing this easily. Repealing the 17th Amendment would be a start, but with a nation full of citizens who refuse to do their civic duty and be involved in their government, the chances of saving this nation are slim at best. Ann Graham Lotz (Billy Graham's daughter) has called for Americans to take our situation seriously and turn to God to save our nation. We should all take what she says to heart.