People With Bad Constitutional Foundations End Up with Bad Constitutional Opinions

A lot of people seem to believe Pres. Donald Trump is some kind of limited government constitutionalist. He’s not.

The other day, I got an email from a guy who embraces this idea. He claimed Trump “unwittingly embraces the fundamental ideals of the founders: ie. a smaller unobtrusive laissez-faire government, with emphasis on individual liberty via merit.”

People who have a poor constitutional foundation end up with really convoluted constitutional opinions – like this guy. Whether you like Trump or not, you simply can’t believe he “embraces the fundamental ideals of the founders” if you understand what those ideals actually were.

For instance, Trump has continued the federal surveillance state unabated. But general warrants that authorized British agents to enter and search homes and businesses without any probable cause was one of the first flashpoints between colonists and the British government more than a decade before the colonists declared independence. These warrants never expired and didn’t specify what was to be searched for. Writs of assistance were completely open-ended. The Fourth Amendment was proposed and ratified as a direct result of this struggle. A president who embraced the fundamental ideals of the founders would have shut down the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program on day one. Trump didn’t. In fact, he extended it and nominated a Supreme Court justice who helped write the Patriot Act.

Or how about war? The U.S. dropped 44,000 bombs in 2017 without a constitutionally required declaration of war. The framers of the Constitution deliberately withheld the power to make war from the president. As James Madison asserted in a letter to Thomas Jefferson:

The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, & most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care, vested the question of war in the Legislature.

Trump’s bombing campaigns do not reflect the “fundamental ideals of the founders.”

Of course, the right to keep and bear arms was certainly a fundamental ideal held by the founding generation. The people of the states insisted on ratifying an amendment that prohibits the federal government from enforcing any law that infringes on that right. Yet the Trump administration has ramped up enforcement of unconstitutional federal gun laws. During the first year of the Trump administration, the ATF investigated 3,349 more firearms cases than it did during the last year of the Obama presidency.

And most recently, Trump proposed a $12 billion bailout for farmers. The administration claims the the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act, a Depression-era funding program that doesn’t require approval from Congress, authorizes the handout. Of course, it doesn’t. The Constitution delegates no such power to the federal government.

I could go on. The Trump administration has continued the unconstitutional drug war, ramped up asset forfeiture and added billions of dollars to the federal budget.

None of this reflects the “fundamental ideals of the founders.” None of it is unobtrusive. And you can’t define any of it as remotely laissez-faire. Only somebody with a really shoddy constitutional foundation could make such an obviously absurd statement.

About Tenth Amendment Center
The Tenth Amendment Center is a national think tank that works to preserve and protect the principles of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of state and individual sovereignty issues, focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power as required by the Constitution. For more information visit the Tenth Amendment Center Blog.

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