While we may not yet be able to see it, I believe the circumstances of our most recent presidencies have set the stage for an awakening of federalism.
Federalism, as manifested in American constitutional government, is a multilateral system where limits and checks on power are more important than the exercise of power, and the rights and liberties of the people are more important than the risks those rights and liberties may place on society. Federalism is inherently optimistic in regards to the inherent decency and limitless potential of the individual, and necessarily cautious towards collective determination of individual destiny and the dangers of unbridled accumulation of power.
This idea of federalism stands in stark contrast to what many Americans have believed in recent decades. Namely, that it is within the realm of possibility to wield government power to the ultimate benefit of its citizens in their health, prosperity, and happiness. This unfortunate viewpoint, that external and political forces are more powerful than individual choice, has led our society to place a premium upon the ends of desired policy while turning a blind eye to the corrupted means and subverted processes that inevitably arise from unilateral governance.
The realities of these viewpoints have been stark. The Executive Branch, in particular, has accumulated increasing power to influence our lives as Congress has continued to take a back seat to governing our country. It should be of no surprise, that passions and emotions have risen to a fever pitch of near hysteria during the elections of Presidents, as so many Americans recognize and grow fearful of how their individual lives might be changed by one or another candidate assuming office.
We the people may rage at the politicians, bureaucrats, and lobbyists who’ve crafted the present state of government affairs, but we ultimately are the enablers because the truth of the matter is, they have only sought to forge a society that we have been demanding. The creation of the imperial presidency, as some have called it, is a direct product of the competing concerns which desire to wield it on their behalf.
With emotions and resentments still fresh from perhaps the most heated and divisive election in modern history, it may seem to the casual observer that most Americans are doubling down on the path that led us here in the first place. But I have often found the loudest voice in the room rarely speaks for the common sentiment.
Regardless of ideological preference, no one wants an imperial presidency arrayed against them. This nation is now experiencing the full effect of two successive presidencies seeking to impose the totality of their political desires, upon the whole of the nation, over and in spite of the concerns of no small portion of the American people. Absent the traditional paths of redress, which the means and processes of constitutional government should provide, many Americans feel disenfranchised and disregarded by the powers that be.
Presently, many frustrated citizens are entertaining populist sentiments and engaging in populist movements, resulting in competing masses of discontent descending upon each other. And, while I fear things will get worse before they get better, these times of civil strife will give way as emotions and passions fade and reason once more occupies our national considerations.
What fills the void left by the failure of the populist movements to allay the fears and anxieties of the American people is up to us. Those of us blessed, whether through happenstance or intellect, to see and recognize the true nature of our nation’s woes have been given a responsibility of dire consequence. We represent a vanguard of thought and action which can return our nation to the principles of federalism and constitutional governance.
This awakening of federalism lies before us as an opportunity, I believe, from the very throne of God. But, it will not happen on its own. It cannot possibly take root and thrive through chance alone. Our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor must be pledged to it, for how can we ask less of ourselves than what was given by that first generation of patriots and federalists.