Andrew P. Napolitano*
What if we didn’t have a Constitution? What if the government were elected by custom and tradition, but not by law? What if election procedures and official titles and government responsibilities merely followed those that preceded them, and not because any of this was compelled by law, but because that’s what folks came to expect?
What if those elected to office, and those appointed to it, as well, took oaths to uphold the Constitution? What if those who took the oaths promised fidelity to the Constitution? What if the Constitution declares itself to be the supreme law of the land? What if the supreme law of the land means what it says?
What if all in government, from presidents to park rangers, from generals to janitors, from judges to jail guards, take substantially the same oath? What if very few who have taken their oaths take them seriously? What if very few who have taken their oaths have actually read the Constitution? What if very few who have taken their oaths understand the values the Constitution upholds?
What if even fewer understand the historical, moral and legal bases for those values? What if most who took those oaths did so expecting someone else in government to tell them what the Constitution means and how to deal with it?
What if the whole purpose of the Constitution is to limit the government, not to unleash it?
What if the plain language of the Constitution puts clear limits on what the government in America may lawfully do? What if those in government began cutting constitutional corners about 100 years ago and overlooked prohibitions and limitations in the Constitution because they enjoyed exercising power over others and because they thought they knew what was best for everyone?
What if those prohibitions and limitations -- some of which were in the corners that were cut -- were written into the Constitution intentionally to keep the government off the backs of the people?
What if personal liberty is the birthright of all persons? What if government is essentially the negation of that liberty?
What if the Constitution represents the value judgment of Americans that our rights are higher in value than the government’s powers to interfere with them? What if those who wrote the Constitution believed that personal liberty is the default position and government power the exception? What if the Constitution means that our rights should be maximum and government minimum?
What if our rights are natural components of our humanity? What if that humanity is a gift from God? What if we were created in His image and likeness? What if the greatest likeness we have with Him and the greatest gift from Him is free will? What if we are perfectly free as He is perfectly free?
What if He created us with such free will that we are free to reject Him? What if we are so free that we are free to reject the government? What logic could underlie an argument that we are free to reject the Creator who made us but not free to reject the government we created?
What if a government that rejects its own Constitution were to be rejected by the people? What if the people have had enough of politicians and government leaders who promise safety and demand the surrender of liberty? What if liberty once surrendered is never returned? What if the liberty-for-safety trade is a façade that impairs both liberty and safety?
What if that trade makes government’s job easier, but does not keep us safer? What if the Constitution was written to keep the government’s job from becoming too easy? What if it is easier to listen to everyone’s phone calls than only to those as to whom the government has probable cause to listen? What if the Constitution recognizes that liberty is personal and cannot be sacrificed by a majority vote of representatives, but only by individual consent?
What if the greatest right protected by the Constitution is the right to be left alone, the right to be oneself, the right to answer only to one’s own free will? What if the Framers who wrote the Constitution so valued the right to privacy that they wrote very specific criteria into the Constitution to govern the government’s ability to interfere with it? What if the government violated those criteria millions of times a day in the name of safety?
What if the violation of the right to privacy is a gateway to all other government violations of personal liberty? What if every government witch hunt never stops until it finds or creates a witch? What if every government inquisition never stops until it finds or creates a heretic? What if government does create modern-day witches and heretics and then arrests them and seeks credit for keeping us safe from them? What if they never posed any threat? What if we fall for this?
What if those who love power defeat those who love liberty in a government election? What if there is no one left to enforce the Constitution against those in power?
What if all this is happening right under our noses? What do we do about it?
*Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. Judge Napolitano has written seven books on the U.S. Constitution.