by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Our divisions are driven primarily by what some of us know, and what some of us do not know, about our national purpose. It’s almost surreal to have to spell this out, but I fear many Americans, maybe even most, have lost this knowledge.
Once upon a time, American students got an unvarnished look at the U.S. Constitution. They learned about the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as stated in the Declaration of Independence. Equality of opportunity. Minimal interference from the government. Checks and balances. The separation of powers.
The logic of barring the state from policing our speech and our thoughts and our conscience was simple to comprehend: People can only be free if they are free from government restraints. Bloat government power, and pretty soon the state owns you, body and soul.
A student with a good grasp of history could easily put the Constitution into context, and understand that it gave birth to a republic unlike any that ever existed on the face of the earth. It addressed the flaws of the nation because it was designed for self-correction guided by and for the benefit of its citizens. In short, the Constitution was a miracle.
This knowledge and clarity about our founding principles has been deeply eroded. A sort of collective dementia has set into a large part of the electorate. The picture of what America represents has faded and been replaced by distortions, solipsisms, and bafflement.