So many times during the year we get asked, “What can we do?” with reference to the goings on within our government. The plea’s heard from the people who read this site at times, can be devastating. Collectively the notion comes forth that “…we don’t want this…or….we do want that…” what can I do? For the life of me I’ve always advocated that the individual get in touch — either by letter, email, or in person — with the elected officials of their congressional district.
How do I know what congressional district I’m in — get the applause for the most oft asked question. Everyone’s congressional district is listed in the telephone book — normally in the blue government sheets. Although one may just as easily check with their postal service, or when online the possibilities are endless starting with Thomas.gov, or even a quicker way is to go to the House of Representatives or Senators pages and simply pick the one’s who represent you.
Yet by far we have found that our readers (some, a few, very little) do not have a handle or grasp on what makes the American government so unique; therefore, we have taken the liberty with our sources to do just that — explain how the government works.
A political regime has three dimensions: the ruling institutions, the rulers, and the way of life of the people. In America, the rulers—the people themselves—and their ruling institutions—staffed by the people’s representatives—aim at securing the Creator-endowed natural rights of all citizens. The Framers did this in two ways. “Vertically” considered, our ruling institutions are defined by federalism, or the division of power between the national, state, and local governments. “Horizontally” considered, the ruling institutions of the federal government itself are separated and co-equal. (See diagram on right.)
In the American regime, the Constitution is the “supreme law of the land.” No one branch is superior to it; all three branches have a duty to abide by it. While each of the three branches plays a unique role in the passage, execution, and interpretation of laws, all of the branches must work together in the governing process.
The legislative branch is closest to the people. It is also the branch in which the danger of majority tyranny lurks. The passions of the people are reflected most in the House of Representatives, where the members are elected for terms of two years. The Senate, with its six year terms, was designed to be a more stable legislative presence than the House.
The defining characteristic of the executive is “energy.” The president can act swiftly and decisively to deal with foreign threats and to enforce the law, and can also provide a check on legislative tyranny through the veto.
Members of the judiciary, the third branch of government, must exercise judgment in particular cases to secure individual rights. Through “judicial review,” the judiciary is given the authority to strike down laws that are contrary to the Constitution. But judicial review is not judicial supremacy; even the Supreme Court must rely upon the other branches once it has rendered judgment.
The checks that each branch can exercise against the encroachment of the others ultimately protect the liberties of the people.