What if the government never took the Constitution seriously? What if the same generation — in some cases the same human beings — that wrote in the First Amendment, "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech," also enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts, which made it a crime to criticize the government? What if the feds don't regard the Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land?
What if the government regards the Constitution as merely a guideline to be referred to from time to time, or a myth to be foisted upon the voters, but not as a historic delegation of power that lawfully limits the federal government? What if Congress knows that most of what it regulates puts it outside the confines of the Constitution, but it does whatever it can get away with? What if the feds don't think that the Constitution was written to keep them off the people's backs?
What if there's no substantial difference between the two major political parties? What if the same political mentality that gave us the Patriot Act, with its federal agent-written search warrants that permit unconstitutional spying on us, also gave us Obamacare, with its mandate to buy health insurance, even if we don't want or need it? What if both political parties love power more than freedom? What if both parties have used the Commerce Clause in the Constitution to stretch the power of the federal government far beyond its constitutionally ordained boundaries and well beyond the plain meaning of words?
What if both parties love war because the public is more docile during war and permits higher taxes and more federal theft of freedom from individuals and power from the states? What if none of these recent wars has made us freer or safer, but just poorer?
What if Congress bribed the states with cash in return for their enacting legislation that Congress likes, but cannot lawfully enact? What if Congress went to all states in the union and offered them cash to repave their interstate highways, if the states only lowered their speed limits? What if the states took that deal? What if the Supreme Court approved this bribery and then Congress did it again and again? What if this bribery were a way for Congress to get around the few constitutional limitations that Congress acknowledges?
What if Congress believes that it can spend tax dollars on anything it pleases and tie any strings it wants to that spending? What if Congress uses its taxing and spending power to regulate anything it wants to control, whether authorized by the Constitution or not? What if anyone other than members of Congress offered state legislatures cash in return for favorable legislation? What if Congress wrote laws that let it break laws that ordinary people would be prosecuted for breaking?
What if the Declaration of Independence says that the government derives its powers from the consent of the governed? What if the government claims to derive powers from some other source that it will not — because it cannot — name? What if we never gave the government the power to spy on us, to print worthless cash, to kill in our names, to force us to buy health insurance or to waste our money by telling us that exercise is good and sugar is bad?
What if we never gave the government the power to bribe the poor with welfare or the middle class with tax breaks or the rich with bailouts or the states with cash? What if we don't consent to what has become of the government? What if the Constitution has been tacitly amended by the consent of both political parties, whereby instead of ratifying amendments, all three branches of government merely look the other way when the government violates the Constitution? What if the president cannot constitutionally bomb whatever country he wants? What if the Congress cannot constitutionally exempt its members from the laws that govern the rest of us? What if the courts cannot constitutionally invent a right to kill babies in the womb?
What if the federal government is out of control, no matter which party controls it? What if there is only harmony on Capitol Hill when government is growing and personal liberty is shrinking? What if the presidential race this fall will not be between good and evil, between right and left, between free markets and central planning or even between constitutional government and Big Government; but only about how much bigger Big Government should get?
What if enough is enough? What do we do about it? What if it's too late?
Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. Judge Napolitano has written six books on the U.S. Constitution. The most recent is "It Is Dangerous To Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom." To find out more about Judge Napolitano and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.