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  • The Decline of the Constitution in Public Discourse

    As all eyes turn to Denver and the Democratic National Convention this week, anticipation is building for Barack Obama’s address to a crowd of 75,000 at Invesco Field. The speech everyone is awaiting is another in a long line of addresses by both candidates this election cycle. What do these speeches tell us about the status of the Constitution in American politics today?

    Unfortunately, the answer to this question is that our public officials and candidates have progressively ignored the Constitution as a theme of their governing philosophy. Andrew E. Busch, Associate Professor of Political Science at Claremont-McKenna College, has recently chronicled the decline of our Constitution and its principles in public discourse. Public officials from both parties have, to some degree, abandoned the task of discussing their constitutional philosophy when addressing the voters. Over the last 150 years, the downward trend in references to the Constitution by our public leaders has continued largely uninterrupted.

    In particular, the record of 20th Century Presidents is decidedly mixed. Presidents typically present their vision and constitutional philosophy on memorable and ceremonial occasions – Inaugural Addresses and State of the Union Addresses. Professor Busch’s research reveals that only Presidents Eisenhower, Ford, and Reagan averaged over 10 references to the Constitution in their State of the Union Addresses, and that the record of our most recent Presidents, from both parties, is discouraging:

    References to Constitution in State of Union Addresses

    The extent to which our presidential candidates will govern according to constitutional principles will be determined in part by how strongly they connect their policy proposals to those principles. Thus, as we listen to our presidential candidates this fall, we should bear in mind whether they judge the principles of our Constitution a worthy subject for discussion, or, alternatively, whether they will contribute to the ongoing decline of our understanding of those principles which constitute us as a nation.

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    2 Responses to The Decline of the Constitution in Public Discourse

    1. S Ralston Columbia, says:

      Too many of our political class think adherence to the Constitution is passé. Too many Americans have been schooled in the absolute necessity that we maintain a strong connection to and abide by our Constitutional principles.

      Questions about the 2nd Amendment have come up recently only because we have members of the Supreme Court asserting we can rely on international law, rather than our own. These attempts to circumvent the Constitution are direct attempts to "harmonize" America with the rest of the leftist-socialist world. These folks feel we should all be one nation worldwide. The corruption we have seen at the United Nations, presumably the world government headquarters, is beyond belief. Add to this the corruption of our own politicians. WHY would we buy into an international one world government where any corruption would be hidden by the gigantic bureaucracy this one world government would create?

      The world and those who want elected representative government to guide their lives, is best left to the numerous nation states we have now that respect the individuality of their peoples. A one world government would NOT respect the needs of individuals. It would demand we all do everything the same. We all march lockstep to the same political system and rules.

      No thanks. Lets start to educate our kids on the importance of the American Constitution which protects them and which has made this nation great. It is the only document ever that cares about average citizens, is the envy of every nation & people on the planet, and will be the only defense we have when the barbarians try to storm our gates. Then again, perhaps they are already at the gates, with subverter's already in place here in our land!

    2. Pingback: User links about "decline" on iLinkShare

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