Op-Ed

Monday is Constitution Day; so what’s the state of our Constitution?

Schneider
Schneider

Happy Constitution Day!

On Sept. 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the last time to sign the document they had created, which guides our daily lives.

As a consumer, have you ever complained to the management of a business about poor customer service?

As a homeowner or renter, have you ever complained to a property management company or homeowners association about how your community is run?

As a citizen, have you ever complained to an elected official about unresponsive attitudes from government bureaucrats?

In these cases, your complaints rest upon the fact that businesses, homeowners associations or government agencies are not following their own ground rules or operating procedures.

As Republican former Members of Congress, we are very concerned that the managers of the United States government — the Republican leaders in Congress — are not following the country’s own ground rules in governing our nation.

What are the “ground rules” for the United States government? These ground rules are laid out in the United States Constitution, adopted 231 years ago today.

Happy Constitution Day!

We are sad to report that America's constitution — the ground rules of our nation's government — is being ignored by the very institutions charged with enforcing its provisions.

Specifically, the United States Congress — the constitutionally mandated legislative branch — is failing to exercise its constitutional obligation to act as a “check and balance” on the executive branch.

In just the past 18 months, the damage to our country’s constitutional institutions and to our political life has been severe. Of the three branches of government, the Congress was vested with the power and the responsibility to represent us, the citizens of the United States, and to act on our behalf. But Congress has become impotent and self-serving, and has utterly failed to fulfill its Constitutional role.

Just think: if Congress had exercised its constitutional obligation to provide “checks and balances” on the executive branch over the past 18 months, we might have avoided some of the many controversies that have marked Donald Trump’s time in the presidency.

We might have avoided the agony of inhumane family separations in the immigration process.

We might have avoided the humiliation of a president cozying up to foreign dictators while destroying relations with our key allies.

We might have brought both sides together to improve America's healthcare system so that it could actually provide affordable coverage for millions of people.

We might have avoided war — an unwinnable trade war that will impact all of us for the short and long term.

We might have restored regular order in the consideration of judicial (and other) nominees, guaranteeing that every nominee would get a full and fair hearing and that all Senators would have a sound basis of fact from which to determine their confirmation votes.

Happy Constitution Day!

Your constitutional rights — and our future as a constitutional republic — are on the line right now. Be sure to vote on November 6. And make it an informed vote! Consider consulting trusted, verified sources on the issues, such as Vote Smart at www.votesmart.org.

If you vote by mail, be sure to mail your ballot back in time. If you can vote early, then vote early and then tell your friends and family to vote as well.

Though we are lifelong Republicans, we are urging you to vote only for candidates who will restore the kind of integrity and constitutional accountability that our nation’s forefathers intended. Patriotism, honor and integrity do not reside only in any one political party; they have been and must continue to be the cornerstone of American values, regardless of political party or philosophy.

America deserves a Congress that will fulfill its constitutional obligation to provide checks and balances on our federal government. It is time to follow the “ground rules” for governance that enabled our nation to become the world’s pre-eminent economic and military superpower.

After all, we are a nation of laws, and not of men. This is the basis of the “rule of law” that has prevailed in our country for more than two centuries. We do not owe our loyalty to any President or political party; our loyalty is and must be to the Constitution and to the high principles it embodies. Whenever a leader or a party departs from those principles and ideals, it is our patriotic duty, as citizens, to voice our objection loudly to our fellow citizens and through the ballot box.

Our government must remain accountable to its citizens, and your vote in November holds the key. As Republican former Members of Congress, and as Americans concerned about the future of our democracy, we urge you to consider your vote carefully and vote only for candidates who demonstrate the courage and independence of mind to place representative government and regular order above partisanship.

If we want the Congress to put people and policies before power and partisanship, we, as voters, must do the same.

Happy Constitution Day.

Claudine Schneider is a former Republican U.S. representative from Rhode Island. She was the first, and to date only, woman elected to Congress from Rhode Island.

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