Are you tired of arguing? Have you lost friends and relatives over your opinions?
Let me ask you: What’s the difference between a debate question and a policy question? Not knowing the answer separates the closest of friends these days in our country. We must understand the difference to lay the groundwork for a civil conversation about our government. Let’s think this through.
First, know or be willing to look up information in the Constitution itself. Many people may argue with you, but they’re claiming the viewpoint of the politician, press, or professor. They actually don’t know what the document says! You are automatically one up if you know even a small amount about our founding documents! I can help with that as we study together here on the Common Sense Civics and Citizenship page.
Next, learn this fact like the back of your hand: If the Constitution doesn’t give the federal government the power to do something, it can’t be done. As I tell my students, “If the Constitution doesn’t say it, the government can’t do it.”
We act like the government is our school principal, and we are children who must comply. Our Founders set it up the other way around. We the People are the principals, and the government must do as the Constitution (the Supreme LAW of the land) says. If not, we must hold them to account. If we don’t, no one else will.
We drift along, parroting what others feel and say. Some of you may remember the old workbook “Think and Do.” I had to read those three words daily in my formative years before I could open the book and do the work. The curriculum never asked me to “Feel and Repeat.”
So it is with the Constitution. The debate question in a conversation is this: CAN the government do it? For example, can we expand the Supreme Court? The Constitution establishes the Supreme Court in Article III but leaves the details to Congress.
The next question in a debate is to ask the policy question: SHOULD the government do this? In our example, we would examine if it is wise to expand the Supreme Court. What are the pros and cons? Has it ever been proposed before? (Yes, it has) Why or why not is this idea beneficial to ALL of the citizenry, not just particular groups?
To debate the constitutionality of an issue, ask: Can government do this or that according to the limited and defined powers listed in the Constitution? If the answer is no, it is not constitutional. The debate is over. If the answer is that it is allowable under the Founders’ original intent (without some-out elastic meaning), then follow up with the policy question: Should the government do it? We think and do, not feel and repeat. (In other words, don’t argue with the wind. The conversation is meaningless and exhausting).
Debate question: Can the government do this (according to our Constitution)?
Policy question: Should the government do this?
We have one more responsibility: Defend the Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land. We are a government of laws, not feelings. If we don’t defend the law aspect (even if we don’t always agree), we will be swept away into living under someone else’s dominance. We may have their approval, but we will lose the freedom that is our God-given right.
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship.🇺🇸
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