Is Biden right that 'We the People' includes the government?
- On Wednesday, April 28, 2021, President Biden addressed his first 100 days in office. In one statement, he said, “Our Constitution opens with the words, ‘We the People”. It’s time we remembered that We the People are the government. You and I. Not some force in a distant capital. Not some powerful force we have no control over. It’s us. It’s ‘We the people.”
- Biden referenced the phrase a few times also mentioning, “We have stared into an abyss of insurrection and autocracy, of pandemic and pain, and ‘We the people’ did not flinch.’”
- The original transcript of the Constitution reads: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
- The controversy is in Biden’s words stating “We the People” as the government. Senator Ted Cruz claimed the phrase explains it as the “people who are in charge of the government.”
- The National Constitution Center says the “Preamble declares who is enacting the Constitution - the people of the ‘United States.’ The document is the collective enactment of all US citizens.”
Aside from the self-evident truth that our government is made from our American citizenry, President Biden is right to say that the opening to the Preamble to our Constitution, 'We the People,' includes the government as this sentiment reflects his administration's theme of making government work for people. Rather than prioritizing deregulation and tax breaks for corporations and the extremely wealthy, as was done under Trump's Administration, President Biden has worked to control the pandemic, get direct stimulus payments to struggling Americans, and tackle race relations head-on. His ambitious proposals on jobs and infrastructure will also work to improve the lives of all Americans. This is the type of direct and pragmatic action from the government that we can expect through the course of his presidency. Elsewhere, President Biden has said the Government 'isn't some foreign force in a distant capital, but it is us, we the people,' meaning that his administration will be practical and hardworking for the average citizen.
It's important for President Biden to explain his vision of the government as being part of 'We the People.' Many Americans are finally waking up to the fact that former President Reagan's legacy of hands-off government isn't working. The Pew Research Center found that more Americans than ever are open to a more activist government, which is what President Biden is offering; it's important that he makes the average American feel that the government is not an abstract concept. Finally, after years of conspiracy theories and talk of a 'deep state,' President Biden is working to show that the government is real, normal, and 'by the people.'
Biden's proclamation that 'We the People are the Government' is a fallacy and can be proven by looking at the branch of our government intended to hold the most power: Congress. Congress is increasingly beholden not to the people they supposedly represent but to partisan politics (depending on White House occupancy), corporations and lobby groups that effectively ensure their reelection or subsequent loss.
We have the oldest active constitution in the world. The framers were visionary men doing their best, with their limited experience and understanding of both the world and human nature, to create a document that could stand the test of time. One method they used was creating not a government of pure democracy, where every person has a say in every decision or law, but a representative democracy where eligible people vote for other eligible people to temporarily go to a common location and make decisions on their behalf. Unfortunately, with our ever-increasing political class of career politicians (of which Biden is a prime example), we have also seen a rise in devotion NOT to one's constituents but to the party of which the representative is a member. Regardless of whether the average US citizen has become more politicized, the two major parties have been pulled toward the edges and are dragging the country apart with them.
The inevitable failure of totalitarianism and 'the government knows best' mentality is seen by looking no further than Stalin or Hitler. Our Constitution was not written for the benefit of the government; it was to inform our diverse population how 'We the People' give power to our government. President Biden should heed the distinction.