SAN JOSE, Calif., Sept. 20, 2015 — On the eve of Constitution Day, millions of Americans tuned into the second GOP debate to watch the GOP hopefuls duke it out on stage to help voters get closer to a decision regarding the best possible candidate to run for POTUS for the Republican Party. It was indeed refreshing that many of the candidates answered questions in light of the Constitution. Yet, speaking to such a crowd of friendlies about the value of the Constitution is a bit like preaching to the choir. A much more difficult task would be to speak to those promoting anti-American values in this nation.
One dramatic example of such effort in American history, which stands out with respect to supporting the Constitution of the United States, came at one of the most divisive periods in the nation’s existence.
The ex-slave, Frederick Douglass, who initially opposed the Constitution as a document condoning slavery, publicly reversed his stance and stood boldly in support of the law of the land. It is quite remarkable that in the times in which Frederick Douglass lived, all across the nation there was another incredibly divisive debate that raged regarding whether the Constitution had permitted the travesty of slavery in the United States.
Many abolitionists, such as William Lloyd Garrison, seriously attacked the Constitution.
Frederick Douglass had previously been in agreement with his mentor, William Lloyd Garrison, who had a rather dim view of the U.S. Constitution, as he believed it sanctioned slavery, and he even went so far as to publicly burn copies of the document. On Jan. 27, 1843, Garrison generated a public resolution denouncing the U.S. Constitution as a document that sanctioned the criminal activity of slavery. He boldly stated, “The compact which exists between the North and the South is a covenant with death and an agreement with hell.” The resolution was adopted by the American Anti-Slavery Society and profoundly impacted Douglass. In the North Star, the newspaper that Douglass ultimately founded, he initially replicated Garrisonian views.
Eventually, however, Douglass matured as he read more and became aware of other strong abolitionists who supported the Constitution; he began to pull away from Garrison’s orbit and realized that Garrison was wrong.
In the North Star, Douglass publicly reversed his stand against the Constitution. Later in a public speech, he proclaimed it as “a glorious liberty document.” James Colaiaco, in his book Frederick Douglass and the Fourth of July, makes the point that this speech given to the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society in 1852, is arguably the most powerful abolition speech of the time. Colaiaco examines this shift in Douglass’ thinking regarding the Constitution.
Such a dramatic shift in personal opinion reflected a much deeper study of the Constitution than Douglass had previously attempted. Dramatically, a former slave could appreciate the value of the Constitution. Because of the amendments to that “liberty document,” slavery could be brought to an end, and specific solutions be implemented. However, even though the Civil War ended the military conflict, the white leaders, who had retained the primary political power throughout the Deep South, still fought politically and publicly to prevent those amendments from being practically implemented.
The white establishment in the South congealed power through the Democrat Party, which generated state laws opposing the Constitution before, during and even after the Civil War — even after World War II! Is it not that surprising that many Democrats today are still in opposition to the practical implementation of the laws of the land. Even more remarkable is that in the 21st century, there is still one major political party in the U.S. that disregards the practical implementation of the Constitution. The underlying intellectual premise is that the law of the land has outlived its usefulness, that it is no longer relevant in the contemporary world.
This is one of the reasons the candidates in the recent GOP debate who dealt with specific issues or policies in relation to the Constitution provide hope for a future United States of America that will return to the fundamental principles and values of the Founding Fathers. A central test of adherence to the Constitution consistently demonstrated in U.S. history is the amount of power utilized by the one elected as president. Although the original blueprint called for a balance of power between three branches of a federal government, the office of the president lent itself most to a comparison to a monarch. Yet, the essential and prevailing purpose of the American War for Independence was to not accept King George’s dominion.
Ironically, it was Abraham Lincoln, accused by the white Southern slave owners as being a tyrant, who reminded Americans in his Gettysburg Address that the founders created a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” He was a president who was forced to deal with a political power in the South who absolutely wanted nothing to do with the Constitution as established.
The inherent beauty of Lincoln is that he believed that he was elected president of the United States and not just president of the abolitionists, or the Republican Party and its supporters; he believed he was president of all Americans.
In 2015, many Americans, even many conservatives, seem to harken for a king to “kick butt.” It is as if the public has been conditioned to expect the president to wield power like a king. Is it likely that Americans just want a different king? Although there are many hopefuls running for the GOP nomination in 2016, some who resemble monarchs, the one who stands out as a candidate who could heal America, and not perpetuate the divisiveness that has been perpetrated by the current administration, is a man very much like Lincoln. That one man survived dangers in the inner city, raised himself via education and became successful and respectable despite all odds.
Dr. Ben Carson stands out as more than just another GOP candidate amidst the entire group who participated in the debate arena Wednesday. He comes upon the foundation of Frederick Douglass in his respect for theConstitution, and he stands upon the foundation of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who called upon America to redeem the promises to all Americans made at the time of the founding. He does not view himself as a future “king” of the U.S. He views the people of America as being of one nation, not a fragmented nation of self-centered, self-promoting, special interest groups. He sees the people, not as enemies of one another, but as Americans who have continued to move beyond differences to unity.
Dr. Carson truly represents the truth of “E. Pluribus Unum,” a true unifying leader, and a genuine man of the people who will not rule, but serve the nation humbly and to ”preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” This is the reason an entire movement of American people — Conservatives, Republicans, Independents, and even Democrats – have been inspired to support him. It was never wise to dismiss him because it is equivalent to dismissing “we the people.”