|Language of Liberty|
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Are State and Local Elected Officials Making Themselves Irrelevant?
By James Wilson
Our federal government was not assumed by royalty or nobility, but was created by the sovereign states. The creature and the limited delegated authority entrusted to it at creation cannot be superior in power to their creator. The federal government may be larger in size, but not necessarily greater in authority.
Understanding this foundational principle and enforcing proper governmental boundaries are essential to protecting the people from the tyranny of a large, centralized government. America’s application of this principle is unique in that local elected officials are not considered lesser in terms of authority, but greater.
For example, county sheriffs are the highest law enforcement authority within their county because they are elected by the people and are given authority by the people for their protection. If a state or federal agent enters the county, that agent must answer to the authority of the local sheriff. The people are protected from outside encroachment because of this essential chain of command. For this reason, the sheriff has the authority to organize a militia of volunteer citizens if needed in an emergency; especially if that emergency involves a tyrannical federal government acting outside its delegated authority.
This essential protection by local elected officials is exactly what America’s framers intended, as stated by James Madison in Federalist Papers #51. Madison writes, “A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions. This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other that the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights. These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of the supreme powers of the State. But it is not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense. In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates…”
Madison continues, “In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself. Second, it is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part.”
Matthew Trewhella explains in his book “The Doctrine of Lesser Magistrates” that if, for example, the Congress, President or Supreme Court, issues an unjust law, order or opinion which violates constitutionally protected liberty, a governor or the state legislature has a duty to stand in defiance and refuse to obey, enforce or implement it. If the governor or other state officials fail to intercede, the local sheriff or county commission then has the same duty to intercede in protecting the people they represent. These essential layers of protection and accountability provide a buffer between the federal government and the people. This is why all public officials take an oath of office, “to uphold the Constitution of the United States and… [their state constitution].”
For any local or state official to say “My hands are tied,” “I’m just following orders” or “Just doing my job” when faced with an unjust law or policy is not an excuse. In light of our unique American form of government, these statements are either ignorance, cowardice or a lie on the part of the official and it is the people’s duty to inform them of it.
Local elected officials do not answer to the federal or even to the state government. Our government is designed so that the only power or authority they have was delegated to them by the consent of the governed. They must ultimately answer to the people in their district.
A prime example of federal encroachment that impacts the people locally is the U.S. Department of Education, established in 1979. Article 1, sec 8 of the Constitution does not list education as one of the federal government’s enumerated powers. Therefore it is an illegitimate agency and its adoption a violation of the 10th Amendment. Education is a responsibility reserved solely for the states and the people.
Allowing the creation of a federal department of education is precisely why many parents were completely unaware that Common Core, training in homosexuality and Islamic indoctrination were coming to their local schools. Because these policies were quietly developed at the national level without informing parents, they learned about it from their children after they were implemented and the damage was done.
Now a new decree from the Obama administration looms over every public school in the nation under threat that federal funding will be removed if schools do not comply. All school restrooms, locker rooms, and showers must remain open to “trans-gender” students.
Note this statement from the Justice Department: “A school may not require transgender students to have a medical diagnosis, undergo any medical treatment or produce a birth certificate or other identification document before treating them consistent with their gender identity.”
The edict confirms that the fluid definition of “trans-gender” is completely at the whim of the student, leaving innocent children and teens vulnerable to abuse and invasion of privacy by those who would take advantage of the opportunity.
It is the sworn duty of every school board member to reject these federal mandates if only on the grounds that they originated at the federal level and are void of constitutional authority, especially when the people they represent object to the policies. The local school board is the family’s last line of defense in matters of public education. The failure of this elected body to act against subjecting children to blatant lies, indoctrination and possible harm on their watch is clearly child abuse and explains the dramatic spike in alternative solutions such as private and home-based education.
As a legislative body, local school boards have the authority to initiate programs in their schools and can even reject state or federal programs in favor of alternatives, if they so choose. All policy is filtered through this body and in most states the board can apply for a waiver to fund their choices. Otherwise, the local school board would be irrelevant as a representative body.
Since the states created the federal government, it is the duty of state congressmen to be the first to object to abuse of the people they represent. However, when governors and state legislators are “bought off” with federal tax dollars in order to fulfill responsibilities that rightfully belong to the states alone, they circumvent our republican form of government and open the door for abuse.
If the federal government controls the purse strings of the states in areas where it was never intended to have authority, this leaves the door wide open to corruption and complete control of the people. State and local elected officials have a responsibility to push back and say “NO,” or risk total irrelevance.
The Language of Liberty series is a collaborative effort of the Center for Self Governance (CSG) Administrative Team. CSG is a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization, dedicated to training citizens in applied civics. The authors include administrative staff, selected students, and guest columnists. The views expressed by the authors are their own and do not reflect the views of CSG. They may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org