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What 'We the People' Means

The Constitution's preamble states:

  • We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The phrase We the People is widely interpreted as referring to consent. The American people themselves give their consent and the government's authority flows from that consent. Law provides the framework for this authority, as created, enforced, and interpreted by the separate branches of government, rather than the arbitrary authority of men, as in authoritarian rule.

Like him or not, President Trump has been in the White House for roughly 326 days - not quite a year. The country has been wracked with deep political division ever since he moved in (though, to be fair, our country has been polarized for quite some time, a polarization that has ebbed and flowed since the country's founding).

In one sense, Trump is a symptom of our political division, not the cause, though he continues to fan the flames of "fake news" and publishes blunt, often insensitive tweets, speaking directly to the American public on Twitter in his uniquely informal style.

Having run on the GOP platform, Trump supports Republican tax reform, which serves as an opportunity to examine the role of reason and debate in American lawmaking.

The Founders may have viewed our polarization as somewhat positive in one respect, to the extent that all opinions, however distasteful, should have the opportunity to be heard and debated in the public forum, and to let these ideas and opinions rise or fall on their merits.

That's why we have a separation of powers baked into our constitution and a focus on free speech protection. As frustrating as polarization can be, it is at least evidence, however slight, that we care about the issues confronting us, and that diverging views can coexist.

But the Founders would've recoiled at the thought of Congress passing a piece of legislation as significant as tax reform without meaningful opportunity to debate the issues at stake, to understand what was in the bill, to see whether it was a good idea for the American people.

This is the dark side of polarization.

We the people need to see and hear meaningful debate among our lawmakers if we are to maintain our faith in the political process.

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