Election 2016: Jurisdiction Matters

The biggest issue facing voters this election isn’t any single issue at all.  Rather, it is every issue. Because on every single issue, I see either a smiling Republican or Democrat making promises that he or she shouldn’t be making. Promises that violate the very premise of America as a nation of sovereign states and free people. Promises which ultimately reduce our individual liberty as well as our collective creativity, and which render our country more susceptible not only to external threats, but to internal threats as well. 

I hate to be the lawyer in the room (no really, I do), but jurisdiction matters.  Limiting the powers of the Federal Government matters. Not to Democrats OR Republicans, it seems, but it matters to me, it mattered to the founding fathers, and it matters when it comes to the stability of our republic.

If we expect citizens to respect the law, then certainly the Federal Government should be held to the same standard.  There is no higher law in this country than the Constitution, and, with regards to the powers of the Federal Government, the 10th Amendment reads as follows: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” 

In other words, the Federal Government was designed to be a very limited one, based on a limited number of specifically enumerated powers. If a jurisdictional basis for a given action is not specifically listed in the Constitution, the Federal Government has no business being involved with it. 

There aren’t many ways to interpret the specific language of the 10th Amendment. And yet, today’s DC politicians on both sides of the aisle want a piece of it all. No jurisdiction? No problem. We’ll appeal to the voters’ emotions, and we’ll heighten the stakes with a 24-hour news cycle.  If they vote “No,” we’ll call them racists, sexists, or deplorables. 

Based on the numbers, we’re living in a safer time and place than has ever been known in human history. And yet we’re constantly in crisis and constantly in need a nationwide fix. Prudence and caution? Thrown to the wind.  Consequences, be damned! No matter how safe and productive we become as a nation, there will never be a time safe and productive enough for the Federal government to decide that its job is done. There will always be more to fix, more reasons for more funding, more reasons to grow, and new excuses to encroach on your civil liberties. 

The Federal Government pretends to be your friend, and might even act that way. But the  Federal Government is not your friend in the same way the police are not your friends. Sure, they’re here to protect. But that doesn’t mean they value YOUR best interests over their own, and it certainly doesn’t mean they’re immune to error.  In fact, I’d argue that centralized governments are among the most error prone entities in human history.  They are also the most murderous entities in human history, killing over 100 million people in the 20th century alone.   

Historically speaking, large centralized governments have proven notoriously indifferent to human life. And while the founding fathers weren’t perfect, they were smart enough to know their history. In fact, the concept of federalism was so uniquely important to the founding fathers that they included it in the Bill of Rights despite the fact that it was already quite obviously implied under the language of the Constitution in its original form. 

This election day, don’t lose the forest for the trees. There is so much more at stake than the issue of the day. As Ronald Reagan famously said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” 

We need to stop supporting politicians who don’t respect jurisdictional limits, and we especially need to stop supporting those who use scare tactics to gain power.  We are smarter than this, and we know better.

Every single time we head out to the polls, small pieces of our liberty are at stake. We need to hold ourselves accountable for the people we choose to represent us, and we need to learn the difference between compromise and insanity. Meeting halfway on a controversial issue? That’s compromise. Voting for the lesser of two evils in race with a well qualified third option? That’s insanity. 

While it’s true that no single snowflake is responsible for the avalanche, it’s equally true that each of our individual actions is an integral piece of the future we build together.  Each of us, with our vote and with our voice, contributes to the collective national culture. Will you really contribute your assent to an increasingly invasive Federal government, when you can just as easily take this opportunity to peacefully say, “NO”? 

This Nov. 8, my contribution to the national culture will be as single voice that says, “If you don’t care about the Constitution, then you can’t count on my vote.” This will take the form of a vote for Gary Johnson, the ONLY candidate whom I can trust to represent the principles this nation was founded upon. If you care at all about the increasing size and strength of the Federal government, then I trust your contribution will say the same. 

Dorit Goikhman

Attorney at Law, NY & NJ

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