Mike Lee is one of the most courageous and principled defenders of liberty in Congress, and when he has something to say, all of us would do well to listen. Our Lost Constitution: The Willful Subversion of America’s Founding Document, on sale April 7th, is the liberty-loving senator’s latest salvo in the neverending battle for freedom.
There have been a lot of books written about the Constitution; at first glance, one wonders what Sen. Lee adds to an already overwhelming body of literature on the subject. The answer is threefold: passion, clarity, and relevance.
It’s easy to regard the Constitution as a dusty historical relic, a 200-year-old document to be studied abstractly like the Magna Carta or the Treaty of Versailles. Much of the existing literature on the subject reflects this scholarly attitude, inadvertently putting distance between our founding document and the everyday lives of modern Americans. But the Constitution is not obsolete. It does still matter, even if it is sometimes hard to see why.
The better part of Sen. Lee’s book is devoted to explaining, in vivid, relatable terms, how obscure and seemingly arbitrary clauses in the Constitution came about, why they were important to the founders, and why they cannot be dismissed as artifacts of the 18th century. Every word of our founding document was carefully chosen and hotly debated, and nothing made it in without a very good reason. From the Commerce Clause to the Origination Clause, to the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights, Lee shows us why it’s so important that the original text be upheld, and not reinterpreted when it is inconvenient for lawmakers.
Lee approaches his subject with an enthusiasm and obvious love of the source material that reminds you of your favorite teacher. He paints captivating pictures of the Constitutional Convention – albeit with some artistic license – and captures the passion for liberty and good governance that drove our founding fathers to design the most representative republic the world has ever seen.
After taking his readers on a tour of the Constitution’s creation, Lee spend the second half of his book explaining how we can defend it today. I’ve had the good fortune to meet Senator Lee, and I would say that he’s a fundamentally optimistic man, but it’s hard not to be a little discouraged at the list of checks and balances that are actively failing either to check or balance much of anything.
The courts could defend the Constitution, but they don’t. Congress could defend the Constitution, but they don’t. The president could defend the Constitution, but… well, you get the idea. The takeaway from these chapters is not that everything is hopeless, however. It’s a wakeup call that illustrates the need for civic engagement. We, the voters, are ultimately responsible for choosing the direction of our country, and it’s up to us to hold lawmakers accountable who refuse to do their duty.
Late in the book, Lee quotes Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. It’s a line that nicely sums up our position as citizen activists. He says, “You cannot preserve what you do not revere. You cannot protect what you do not comprehend. You cannot defend what you do not know.”
It is our responsibility – each and every one of us, to revere, to comprehend, and to know our Constitution, and demand that our elected officials do likewise. Our Lost Constitution provides a stepping stone to enable us to do all three.