One time, a few years ago, an acquaintance accosted me on the subject of politics, as this individual often did. He was someone I knew to be extremely confident in his own opinions and equally confident that those who disagreed were just wrong. (By the way, it had no effect on his qualities as pleasant company or a person of certain generosities.)
“I’m willing to bet,” he challenged me, “that I voted for a Democrat more recently than you voted for a Republican.”
“I voted for a Republican in the last election,” I replied.
“Oh,” he said. “Well, I guess I was wrong.”
My vote was a for a candidate I believed would provide better representation for our community. My candidate had, in my opinion, more integrity, a better approach to some issues of concern to me and a willingness to listen to people on the other side of the aisle. The balance of party affiliation in this legislative body was at stake, and I knew that the incumbent was important to the party vote-counters. But I couldn’t hold my nose and squander my cyclical opportunity to determine the quality of representation. It was my duty to vote for the better candidate, not the party’s best interests.
The Constitution of the United States prescribes the oath of office that each president is required to take upon inauguration. Article II, Section 1 reports the familiar words: I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Anyone unwilling to be bound by that oath, or willing to lie in taking it, is unqualified to be President of the United States. If you vote for such a person, you are voting against the Constitution that every President must swear to preserve, protect and defend. You are voting for a person who would be, in willful abrogation of that oath, subject to impeachment and removal from office.
And if knowing so you still vote for such a candidate out of loyalty to party, then you are putting party above country. You will be violating your civic responsibilities.
I remind you of some of what our leader must preserve, protect and defend. Article VI prohibits a religious test for any executive, legislative or judicial office. The Fourteenth Amendment declares all persons born or naturalized in the United States to be citizens, Article IV already having guaranteed all citizens their rights. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, an unfettered press, the right of assembly and freedom of religious conscience, and prohibits the establishment of a religious tradition by Congress.
The hyperbole of campaign rhetoric is not always the best indicator of how the office will be filled. I have no affection for President Nixon, but there is no denying that he was responsible for some of the more progressive policies that define us today; he created the Environmental Protection Agency and may therefore by credited with being the father of climate change awareness. President Clinton, whose political instincts were perhaps the best in a generation, moved deliberately to the center from his campaign promises and was better for business than the Republican father and son who served on either side of him.
But I would like to suggest that a candidate for any public office, but most especially on the Federal level, must be able to preserve, protect and defend what is already in the Constitution. There is vast room for interpretation on many laws and values, but no room whatsoever to place personal opinion or pique above the Constitution’s requirements.
The mission statement of the United States is contained in the preamble of the Constitution itself: to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity. Any citizen who casts a vote for a candidate who does not take those words as her or his personal mission is voting against the Constitution.
You may not be able to make the same decision I did when I was confronted with a much less consequential decision. You may feel inherently unable to vote for a Democrat or a Republican, or you may have your own questions about Secretary Clinton or Mr. Trump or Governor Johnson or any of the other candidates of less likely success. With that dilemma, I cannot help you. The primaries are over and the voters have made their choices.
But in this country, the Constitution and the laws that are derived from it, resting on its foundation, are the substance of our success and our vehicle for greatness. In order to deserve the sacred trust, the person who attains the highest office must have a demonstrated and unmitigated commitment to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.
A vote for someone who does not is a vote against the Constitution.