Make Americans Care About Civics Again

Now that it's over, every American should watch an entire Confirmation Hearing.

Americans could learn a lot about our nation (and the pettiness of elected officials) by watching Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings. But what is most important is the subject matter that Americans are not normally exposed to, nor would they remember outside of a high school American Government class.

I am not talking about the minutia of anti-trust law or the dull nature of a nominees’ answers or the prudence of the Ginsburg Standard, I am referring to the architectonic ideas that preserve and guide our republic.

These ideas are best understood by reading the Federalist Papers. Justice Scalia has said that a judge’s job is boring legal work. This is true for a percentage of cases, but there are also times when the Supreme Court is faced with landmark cases. These have the potential to alter the political landscape and they always require an understanding of our founding.

The protesters and some of the democratic senators were obsessed with Kavanaugh’s potential effect on policy. This is in error. I detailed several concerns in my last article.

Why is that important? Americans have a fundamental misunderstanding about the role of the judiciary. This why the Federalist Papers are essential. Few Americans are going to read them on their own. The confirmation process gives senators and the nominee an opportunity to reference these important documents.

What can we learn from the Federalist Papers?

The first thing is that they highlight the quality of civil debate in our nation’s founding generation. One can also look to the Anti-Federalist Papers and the records of the convention debates. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay passionately defended the structure and the content of the proposed constitution. With Eighty-Five entries, these papers go on for pages, describing the various aspects of the proposed constitution with references to European history, philosophy, and the governments of old. Current authors could not replicate the depths of intellectual heft presented in these works.

Secondly, we can also learn that our founders had real expectations for how the government were to function. There is some scholarly debate as to whether the founders were grand philosophers delicately planning out the most successful form of government or if they were pragmatists who stumbled upon a working form by logical reductions and experience. The Federalist Papers show that there was a purpose to everything. Obviously, there was compromise, but it was not as simple as “A monarchy is bad, let’s try something else.” We know from their own words, often over objections from the Anti-Federalists, that certain provisions were only intended to go so far. We know that congress was supposed to predominate. We know that the judicial branch is the least powerful. We know that the executive is the most prone to tyranny.

Lastly, we can learn that when dealing with the issues that come before the Supreme Court, the goal is not good and effective policy. A judge’s only concern is the Constitution. The framers understood that desirable policy has to enjoy broad support in order to be legitimate; this is why policy is difficult to make. It can only be done through an exercise of power, but who holds the power? The people do. So when the elected representatives of the people cannot exercise that power because of conflicting views, it is indicative that said policy is not desirable. If it were, it would be the will of the people. When it’s not, our government is designed to block the use of power for certain ends. The alternative is not, run to a judge, but rather convince the voters. So when people do run to a judge, the judge has no reason to care about feelings, about good policy, but rather his concern alone is preserving our system of government and upholding his oath to the constitution.

Both sides have gotten used to being able to run to the courts for a policy remedy. They neglect the standard set forth by our founders. Debate, write, convince your fellow citizens of the merit of your ideas and then vote on it. And what better way to debate than to look back to our founders and see their views on the subjects that concern our government. See their intentions for our Constitution.

Of course, you can use statistics, logic, political theory, sociology, empathy, and anecdotes to make arguments, but it’s best to start at the foundation. Start with the Federalist Papers. See how in 2018, during a confirmation hearing, they are still be used to guide our understanding of the Constitution. They are not archaic documents left to the historians and legal thinkers. They are well-reasoned explanations directed at the people of the various states, urging them to adopt a system of government most likely to respect rights, promote good, and restrain evil. Now, they inform us as to how we can preserve that good government.

The Federalist Papers can be found here: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/fed.asp

Or you can watch parts of Judge Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Hearing here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MkyxSyUf9o&t=5s

Comments
No. 1-5
NWRED
NWRED

I have seen changes in teaching of civics and history.. Civics was remover from being a required class for seventh graders, before I reached that age. Civics was left as the last required class for graduation Just pass the course and we are free, became an attitude.

I was out of high school before attrition completely removed Bible reading and prayer. History was not yet politically correct.. A basic understanding of history has to be know, to understand the why, of civics. There is a line to be drawn teaching facts and indoctrination.

In dealing with slavery, the founding fathers were pragmatist. The founding fathers understood the free will of humans and there carnal nature.. Man has not changed in their greed for power and money. The power of one person should be limited. There has been too much giving and taking of power between the three branches of government. Congress has shifted the writing of laws, or at least the finer details to the federal agencies. Courts should issue opinions, but congress should do the corrections, not let the courts do the work for them. The executive branch is the enforcer, with ability to handle emergencies,

I don't remember the evolution from a part time congress to full time but it happened. The President was given emergency powers because congress was not always in session and legislation takes time

esotericwy
esotericwy

The Left has abandoned Classical Liberalism for Progressivism. Their concern is centered around BIG then BIGGER government that will make all the decisions/Choices for everyone, thus, they believe they will create Paradise on Earth.

aprilmoon
aprilmoon

That's dangerous territory you are going into rhetorically. You could be accused of either being a Tea Party or Progressive advocate.

FreeMkts
FreeMkts

The only confirmation hearing that was worth watching was the one Clarence Thomas. These things are the most boring events ever and just an excuse for useless politicians to feel important for 5 mins. It's not like anything that's said changes anyone's mind.

However if you are talking about porn and mention Long Dong Silver (yes, that really happened) then you have must see TV.

JamesJWilson
JamesJWilson

When Mitch McConnell denied Garland his hearings and then amended the Senate rules to allow a party-line 51-50 vote to confirm Gorsuch, the Senate changed forever.

People should watch those old hearings and read about how things once were. It's probably really interesting.

But let's be clear that all of that is pre-2017 history.

Post-2016, the Senate confirms appointments if they share the party of the president, and denies appointments if they don't. Period.

Post-2016, confirmation hearings are show-trials. They are there only for the benefit of the next election.