“In persons grafted in a serious trust, negligence is a crime.” William Shakespeare
Miss Constitution finds the current political discourse equivalent to the recent brawl at a preseason football game. It is senseless. The purpose of legitimate political discourse is to present background, context, and facts sufficient for the American people to draw conclusions about those they have elected who are grafted in a serious trust. Background and context are the purview of the historian, the conscientious journalist, the philosopher, and the intellectual. Facts are held in trust for the public by the very public servants whose performance We the People are to judge when the facts, context, and background are revealed. This represents an inherent conflict of interest for those public servants, not necessarily a corruption.
What might be helpful in elevating current political discourse is to assume positive motives first and corrupt motives last. Are facts needed by the American people to make intelligent judgments regarding their public servants being withheld by incompetence, misunderstanding or a sincere concern for necessary preservation of national secrets? Or are they being withheld to make an intelligent judgment impossible?
For instance, here is what We the People need to know now in the following controversies:
- The public needs to know ALL the facts regarding the January 6, 2020 incident at the Capitol in Washington, DC. The January 6 Select Committee chosen by the Speaker of the House was not bipartisan or impartial and conducted itself as a Party ad. Nothing should be archived and unavailable to the public. Two independent persons of impeccable character outside of government service, and approved by the Speaker of the House, the Majority leader of the Senate, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, should orchestrate the release of this information within the next three months.
- The public needs to know if any foreign monies ended up in the hands of Vice-President Biden, either directly or indirectly. A search of his tax records should commence immediately and a report delivered within the next three months. In addition, the FBI should release a statement indicating whether or not Hunter Biden’s laptop is real and if real, whether or not its contents have been investigated by the FBI, and if investigated by the FBI, when the investigation took place and how long it lasted. This statement should be released within a week.
- The public needs to know if any government documents, in the care and custody of any former President or Vice-President, that would harm the nation if known by foreign adversaries, were sold to foreign entities, made available to foreign entities by lack of oversight, deliberately delivered to foreign entities, or stolen by foreign entities.
Undisputed facts can be legitimately analyzed differently. When context and background are added to actual facts, citizens place weight on which facts are most important to them in judging the performance of public servants. Well-meaning people can come to different conclusions with the same established facts. Informed judgments by ordinary citizens are only possible when all established facts now known are put on the table. This requires that both elected and non-elected public servants set aside their inherent conflicts of interest and reveal undisputed facts, even if those facts diminish their stature or result in possible negative public judgment of their behavior. This is how a healthy Republic must function. That many of our public servants cannot set aside inherent conflicts of interest for the common good is why Benjamin Franklin wondered if what the Founders created (a Republic not a Democracy) could be kept by the American people over time.
Healthy political discourse (facts, background, and context) goes hand in hand with Unwritten Law (courtesy and comity) and with what is called the “marketplace of ideas” protected by the Free Speech Clause of the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution. There are no political or public policy ideas considered “wrong”; the ideas are authenticated or debunked by transparent facts, background, and context, and then judged as right or wrong by each citizen.
Miss Constitution, this sounds ideal but that is not how the real world is working. Public servants who are grafted in a serious trust routinely withhold important facts from the public and state blatant untruths when asked under oath. Violations of the 1st Amendment Free Speech Clause are routine, with public servants using private company proxies to censor or cancel points of view that should be in the marketplace of ideas.
Miss Constitution agrees; still, the solution must comport with both the letter and spirit of the US Constitution and the larger American Rule of Law. Name-calling is not a part of the marketplace of ideas. Name-calling is discourteous – it breaks Unwritten Law. It is not unfair to judge someone who calls others deplorables, or listless vessels, or fascists, or Commies, or cultists, or left-wing loonies, or any other unkind thing. Insulting whole voter groups by insulting their leader is also outside the bounds of Unwritten Law. The message that an idiot can see that the current Commander in Chief has some level of dementia and only a fool would vote for him is unfair and unkind. Likewise, criminally targeting a person, not a crime, to send a message that only the lowest slug could support this person is also unfair and unkind.
How then, Miss Constitution, if we are called upon by the Founders to hold public servants accountable within the letter and spirit of the Constitution and Rule of Law, is this accountability to be accomplished?
It is accomplished the same way it has always been accomplished since the beginning of time – praise and support, revelation and shame, warning and punishment. Public servants who tell the truth, explain their thinking, apologize for their mistakes, follow their Oaths of Office faithfully, and respect those who oppose them are encouraged to continue this behavior through praise and support. Public servants who either lie, omit important information, or deliberately conceal important facts, must be revealed and shamed. Those public servants who have a high duty of care, violate their Oaths of Office, breach that duty of care, and are the cause of harm to the American people must be removed from a position of public trust. If whole agencies are involved, monies must be suspended from those agencies until their breaches are cured.
William Shakespeare implies that a society’s leadership is what is grafted in a serious trust and negligence in carrying out one’s public duties rises to the level of a crime. What America’s Founders did was to take that sentiment and apply it to the American citizen, as well. The American citizen in a Republic also has a high duty of care to know and honor the Rule of Law, to take care that this duty is part of his or her daily life and the raising of children, and to avoid as much as humanly possible, causing harm to the system or to other people.
We are, then, to hold ourselves to as high a standard as we hold those we elect or appoint. Oops.