On the eve of Constitution Day, a September poll from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center generates a great deal of understanding about why America’s Law of the Land is allowed to be attacked by those within the government and those outside of it. The poll can shock the most optimistic believers in the Land of the Free, and the implications for the current state of American education are frightening.
The annual Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey that was released September 12th reveals that a significant number of Americans are clueless about the bedrock law of the nation that is the very foundation of American freedom. The annual survey queried 1,013 adults in the United States between August 9-13 and revealed that 37 percent of those surveyed could not name any of the rights guaranteed to citizens under the First Amendment to the Constitution. And sadly, only 26 percent could name all three branches of the U.S. Government.
It is astounding to discover that so few Americans know much about even the simplest components of the government under which they live. Americans are more likely to be able to rattle off their favorite sports teams’ won-loss records or chances of a winning season than they are about laws that have much more effect on their lives. People are more likely to know episode by episode of West Wing than they are to know the reality of the government that that generates literally thousands of new life-changing laws every year. Damn tinsel town!?! Damn ESPN!?! No, Americans must look in the mirror.
Since the days of the blame anyone-other-than-me Czar, Barack Obama, citizens have found justification in blaming anyone but themselves for the problems they incur. Hillary Clinton’s new book seems to indicate that she is an avid disciple. Yet, if Americans are honest with one another (and themselves), do people really care to pay attention to the smelly swamp that is the political realm? According to other polls that have awarded single digit approval ratings to the men and women of Congress, how well the team is doing this year is a great escape from a dismal reality of how government works—or does not work.
Americans, in reality, are to blame, nevertheless. Despite all the clamoring for attention while running for office, politicians often find it tough to compete with prime-time sports or the hottest docu-drama of “reality” television. Virtual reality has become more “real” to an incredibly significant majority of Americans than what those politicians actually do once citizens elect them. The poll provides a wake-up call that a significant majority of Americans do not know what the government is about. Annenberg Director Kathleen Hall Jamieson reflected that:
Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are.
One would think that protecting such rights are important, but it may simply be an illusion that is created by the mainstream media. The MSM are certainly fond of covering rioting and violence over the people’s “rights” as it certainly attracts viewers as well as the big advertising dollars. But, if a large majority of people do not even know what those rights are, how does the viewer know whether such rights are even guaranteed under the Bill of Rights? It is especially disturbing if few can even identify any of those actual rights! As the media covers more rioting and violence, it shapes the illusion that it is well within one’s rights to break windows of shop owners, or to trash a town. Just as it shaped the illusion that there was nothing wrong with their favorite President’s executive orders.Today, the rule of law is not just being violated by the rise of anarchism on America’s city streets, it has also been abused and “transformed” by elected officials as the highest level—including the President. President Obama got away with signing one executive mandate after another because the media helped the American people with knowledge that other Presidents had signed more executive orders while in office. That made the number relevant and rendered content of the mandates irrelevant. That made the actions of a strong-willed President justified while it diminished the value of the separation of powers of the three branches of government—even ignoring the reality of the structure of the federal government.
Today, President Trump is criticized by the MSM and almost everyone because he is fulfilling a campaign promise as he recently announced the dismantling of DACA and passed to Congress the political hot potato that he inherited from his predecessor. Yet, the public has little indication from the MSM that what Obama did was in violation of the Constitution and what Trump is doing is honoring the provisions of the three branches of government that were created by the Founders. There is the extreme irony: one POTUS dishonors and violates the Constitution and he is praised, while the one who upholds the Constitution in this regard is criticized.
The obvious is that all of this is all politically motivated within a very clearly divided and politically polarized nation. However, this is simply the present reality. At this moment there is a civil war being silently (without many weapons—except those on the streets when violence is waged against the freedom of assembly and freedom of speech). Yet, what is actually being fought over is not whether the Democrats will finally become the majority ruling party as it once was in the Deep South, or as it is now in California. The fight that is dividing America right now is the fight over the fundamental veracity of the founding beliefs: 1) the nation as organized upon the Judeo-Christian heritage; 2) the ideals and values expressed in the Declaration of Independence; and 3) the true principles of a democratic Republic as established in the Constitution and amendments.
A long time ago, in another time of political polarization in the United States, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech entitled “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions.” In this speech from young Lincoln (just before he turned 29), he prophesied such a time as this, but more specifically, Lincoln may have foresaw the coming civil war in his day because he delivered the speech in 1838. It had only been 50 years since the ratification of the Constitution, but young Lincoln was concerned about the survival of America’s political institutions. The young Lincoln bravely asserted:
… whenever the vicious portion of [our] population shall be permitted to gather in bands of hundreds and thousands, and burn churches, ravage and rob provision stores, throw printing presses into rivers, shoot editors, and hang and burn obnoxious persons at pleasure and with impunity, depend upon it, this government cannot last.
One must remember a time in the 1830s when a young Lincoln would have witnessed another President violating the Constitution, as Chief Justice John Marshall proclaimed Andrew Jackson had, as that POTUS forced thousands and thousands of Indians off of their ancestral lands at the point of bayonets. One must remember Lincoln witnessed the lynchings of blacks and abolitionists alike, and the rampant violence in city streets in his own time. He got it, and he was concerned, much like many Americans are today with witnessing the anarchists and “Brown Shirts” in America.Lincoln was concerned in 1838, as many true Americans are today, that angry and hate-filled mobs of people could simply get away with disrespecting the rule of law and law enforcement officials, as well as the court system. The young man was deeply concerned that America was losing touch with its foundations inherited from the Fathers of the nation. He accurately predicted that America would be seriously threatened from within, and offered a frightening scenario that essentially came true as the Democrat Party of his day created the Confederate States of the Union by trashing the Constitution and creating an alternative government. Lincoln warned:
At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.
Lincoln’s answer was that adherence to the Constitution would save America in such a divisive time as he was then living:
… it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his (potential tyrant’s) designs.
Unfortunately, with such rampant ignorance of the Constitution, only true Americans who truly love America are the answer to helping the nation weather yet another attempt to destroy the nation from within. Long live genuine love for the United States of America! Long live the Constitution!