It seems this year’s election is setting a record for mudslinging, half-truths and issue avoiding. With such pettiness pelting us every day, it is tempting to join the growing, “why even bother voting” chorus, and simply do anything other than engage in this election. But this is something Americans do not have the luxury of doing. You see, unlike many other parts of the world, we are active participants in our government.
As I have written in columns before, the United States is unique because we are a country based on ideas, or, as our founders said, “self-evident” truths. Truths like equality before the law, the right to life, the right to liberty and the right to pursue happiness as we see fit, and not as a government official determines. Americans recognize that government has limits and have enshrined these limits in our Constitution. Government is not to run rough-shod over our rights to free speech, religious expression, to keep and bear arms, and a number of other rights given to us by our Creator.
In addition to these rights recognized in law, we were given the privilege of determining who would serve us in government. But it is more than that, we were given the ability to check our officials for adherence to constitutional principle.
The Preamble to the Constitution set forth that it was the desire of the American people to “form a more perfect union…” The Constitution was the implementation of that desire. Every four years we are challenged to take our Constitution, our framework of government, and put it against current reality — and then judge our elected officials by it. In this way, we the people are, in effect, our Constitution’s final interpreters.
This issue is very clear this year at the presidential level. There is currently a vacancy on the United States Supreme Court, which arose from the death of Justice Scalia. The court is very nearly divided on matters of judicial interpretation — half favor an expansive reading of the Constitution, the other half favor interpreting the Constitution in the way it was written. The next justice is likely to determine the balance. Our major party nominees essentially split on this issue. This alone, regardless of how you want it to come down, should drive every eligible American to vote.
But the same principle applies at every level of government. All of our elected officials take oaths to uphold the federal Constitution, and state officials are also take a similar oath in regard to the Constitution of Indiana.
Our nation’s founders did not trust government to elites. They did not want a king or queen. They did not want an emperor. They had seen the results of such systems and of tyranny. So, they put it in the hands of who they trusted the most: We the People. People in places like Haubstadt, Owensville and Ft. Branch. And we owe it to them, the hundreds of thousands who have died defending our Constitution, our children and their children, to do our duty, get informed and VOTE.
Rep. Tom Washburne (R-Darmstadt) serves has chairman of the Courts and Criminal Code Committee. He represents Gibson County and portions of Knox, Pike, Vanderburgh and Posey counties.
A high-resolution photo of Washburne can be downloaded by clicking here.