In America, every elected official is sworn into office with an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” For elected officials like myself, the Oath isn’t merely a trite recitation of empty words, but rather a resolute conviction to protect and preserve the constitutional rights and liberties of the citizens we represent in all circumstances—crisis or otherwise. Elected officials whose actions do not strictly adhere to the Oath with which they swore, even amidst the most dire of emergencies, are little more than modern day slave masters, viewing their constituents as mere serfs for governing.
Our nation’s founding fathers had a divinely keen understanding of the perversions of power and the exploitations of the men who wield it. Daniel Webster, one of our nation’s early leaders, perfectly noted the intent of the Constitution, and his commentary remains as valuable today as it did when he delivered in March of 1837.
“It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”
Let me be exceedingly clear, nowhere in the Constitution or in an elected official’s Oath is there an exception made for times of emergency or crisis. In fact, in times like this it is a moral imperative that elected officials redouble their efforts to protect the People’s unalienable rights enshrined within our nation’s founding documents.
Consider New Jersey Governor Murphy’s recent remark when pressed by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson about his draconian social distancing mandates that resulted in Lakewood police officers arresting fifteen men for attending a funeral for the rabbi of their Jewish congregation. When questioned whether he had the Constitutional authority to infringe on New Jerseyans’ rights like this, he responded, “That’s above my pay grade, Tucker. I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this.”
Therein lies the problem. Governor Murphy and his team of lawyers, policy advisors and political consultants failed to even “think” about the Constitution while creating and enforcing the Governor’s executive order.
The First Amendment to the Constitution establishes that there shall be no laws restricting the free exercise of religion or the right to assemble peaceably—not to mention free speech, freedom of the press and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. The fifteen individuals arrested in New Jersey appeared to have merely been exercising their rights to practice their religion and peaceably assemble, not in violation of any state statute, but rather the Governor’s unconstitutional executive order.
Make no mistake, Governor Murphy certainly isn’t alone in his trampling of the Constitution during the current health crisis. In fact, he is joined by dozens of governors and mayors all around the country who have enacted similarly egregious violations of Americans’ constitutional rights. Each of these politicians has demonstrated that they are unworthy of the Oath they swore and, ultimately, the trust of the people of which they serve.
Ours is the oldest surviving constitutional system in the world. France, which had its own revolution a short time after the American Revolution, is on its fifth republic; yet over 200 years later we are still the same Republic. Since our founding, the world has kept a watchful eye on the great American experiment of self-governance. Would it work, could it thrive, would it survive?
Our nation and Constitution have survived many challenges: The Civil War, Reconstruction, World War I and II, and the Cold War, among countless other trials and tribulations. While our chosen leaders have not always succeeded in strict adherence to the Constitution, our nation has always maintained that our founding principles were worth defending. In World War II we were challenged by, and ultimately overcame, the technological and military might of Hitler’s National Socialism. During the Cold War we stood up to the nuclear and ideological threat of Soviet Communism. In both circumstances, America countered the arguments of these autocratic systems with the prosperity provided by our system of freedom and preserved liberties.
It would be tragic to allow China’s coronavirus to make our great nation abandon the very principles that make us exceptional—the principles that make us the shining city upon a hill. If we allow this crisis to subvert the very constitutional liberties that make us free, we will, in effect, be proclaiming to the world that America is not the beacon of freedom for all mankind after all—a wholly unacceptable outcome.
Now is the moment for all Americans to stand stronger than ever before in defense of liberty and our Constitution. We must demand the same from our elected officials, not settling for anything less than complete and total adherence to the protection of our rights.
Our children are watching. The world is watching. History is watching. Let us prove that freedom is still the American way.
Jake Hoffman is a contributing columnist at Townhall, the President and CEO of Rally Forge, one of the nation’s top conservative digital communications and media strategy firms, and an elected official in Arizona. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.