The confirmation fight over Judge Sonia Sotomayor shouldn’t be approached as merely about filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Even as important as that is, this confirmation fight is bigger than that. It is a fight about whether the Constitution any longer constrains the power of government by and according to its terms. It is about President Obama’s view of government power versus the view held by most Americans.
President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sotomayor has so far managed to unite all wings of the conservative movement — economic, foreign policy, social, traditional and libertarian — in a way we haven’t seen since the early Clinton years. How the various wings of conservatism define and contrast our constitutionalist views against the president’s could literally determine the fate of his entire political agenda.
Conservatives are for limited government because the Constitution was set up in a way to counteract the natural predilections of man to abuse the power of government. It is government that can most systematically and egregiously limit life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our Constitution, properly construed, protects the people and allows the greatest exercise of man’s capacities. Improperly construed, we are weaker and less free. Obama wants it improperly construed.
The enumeration and separation of powers, rights reserved to the people and the states, freedoms of conscience, limits on government intrusion into our property, the right to bear arms, etc. are the distinctions of the United States that account for America’s unique place in history. They, not the federal government itself nor the individuals who run it, enable our greatness as a nation.
In those regards, the Sotomayor confirmation fight is bigger than all other policy matters such as deficit spending to rejuvenate the welfare state, nationalized health care, national security, etc. Those who see this confirmation battle as about just Judge Sotomayor miss the larger point. This is really about President Obama’s harmful and dangerous view of government power.
President Obama wants to remake and thereby weaken America by avoiding the constraints in the Constitution and its structure for political accountability. He is faced with circumstances that make that possible: (1) economic turmoil, (2) a sycophantic press, (2) a passive and sympathetic Congress, and (4) a judiciary that too often refuses to insist that the other two branches act within their enumerated powers. He has taken advantage of those circumstances to expedite his government power grab at a dizzying pace. If Americans had time to absorb what he was doing and the freedoms they were losing, he would not succeed.
We are distracted by Obama’s blitz because we have too many attacks on our system to confront effectively at once. That is why it is important for conservatives to focus foremost on the Sotomayor confirmation fight. Within that one fight alone we can address the very reasons why, as polls show consistently, conservatism is twice as popular as liberalism. This confirmation fight can weaken Obama’s march to a form of government inconsistent with the Constitution if conservatives grasp the challenge.
The official confirmation battle rests in the hands of Senate Republicans. Collectively, they have not always been friends of conservatives or our causes. However, Judiciary Committee ranking minority member Jeff Sessions is not only a reliably principled conservative, he seems to understand what’s at stake in the Sotomayor confirmation.
Senator Sessions will need the help of his colleagues, but given their numerical status, their performance will need to be exceptional. Grassroots conservatives must therefore remind them daily what’s at stake, which is a long and bleak minority status for Republicans, and a change for the worse in our entire system of government.
The quality, intelligence and competence of how Senate Republicans deal with the Obama view of the judiciary and the Constitution itself can only be effective if they show passion, resolve and principle. How they perform will determine whether they are testaments to our heritage, or its goats.
If Senate Republicans fail to understand what’s at stake, not only might the next election be the last for many of them, history will point a mercilessly unforgiving finger at them. Conservatives at the national, state and local levels therefore need to emphasize those consequences. We cannot wait for, nor depend on, Senate Republicans to define President Obama. We must do that.
We now have a president who does not believe he needs authority provided in Article II or in authorizing legislation before he can buy and run American businesses, appoint czars overseeing the private sector without Senate confirmation or legal authority, unlawfully fire inspector generals attempting to prevent abuse in how taxpayer dollars are spent, or act on nearly any other matter and often using his power for political patronage.
Justice Robert Jackson’s concurring opinion in the 1952 case barring President Harry Truman from nationalizing the steel industry during a wartime emergency says about presidential power unrestrained by the Constitution:
“Such power either has no beginning or it has no end. If it exists, it need submit to no legal restraint. I am not alarmed it would plunge us straightway into dictatorship, but it is at least a step in that wrong direction.”
America is on a precipice. The Sotomayor confirmation battle is the best chance for conservatives to articulate our constitutional view of governing and define Obama’s attempt to alter our democracy. It is about whether he will make us a lesser nation, and who will stand up against him.
Richard A. Viguerie was called “one of the creators of the modern conservative movement” (The Nation), and one of the 13 “conservatives of the century” (The Washington Times).
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