The beauty of our democratic system of government is that anyone can be elected. But this feature is also a drawback. We suspect we’re not alone among Americans who watch some of the shenanigans on Capitol Hill and wonder, “How did that guy get elected?” Sometimes politicians seem to know little more than how to win votes.
For a recent example: In his first interview after being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2020, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, a Republican, misidentified the three branches of our government and claimed that World War II was against socialists. Europeans have been done. And he promised to use his Senate resources to campaign for Republicans, which is illegal.
Tuberville is not alone. Examples abound on both sides.
Last fall, Rep. John Yarmouth, DK, suggested that the government “absolutely cannot go bankrupt because we have the power to create as much money as we need.”
Politicians are also not far away. According to the latest installment of the annual Constitution Day poll conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Center for Public Policy, 44% of Americans join Tuberville in misidentifying the branches of government.
Not every elected representative needs to be John Locke, but it would be nice if Americans could trust the Beltway brainpower a little more. U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, D-Way., has an idea that could help, and we think she should pursue it.
In an interview with David Cramer of the George W. Bush Institute last month, Cheney said Congress should create a “constitutional boot camp” for new members of Congress. Freshman induction includes a lot of nuts-and-bolts training, such as an appropriations boot camp, to help lawmakers navigate Washington, Cheney said. But it does not include any philosophy or political history.
An official on the House Minority Committee on Administrative Affairs, which manages freshman orientation, told us that various seminars are offered to new lawmakers, but only three are required: workplace law, ethics and cybersecurity.
We remember the day when it was fashionable among elected leaders to carry pocket copies of the Constitution as patriotic talismans. We don’t think Cheney’s idea should be about such a prophecy, but rather a period of serious decline in the unique beauty of the American system of government and the genius of its designers.
Cheney already has some important tasks on his to-do list, including a congressional investigation into the former president accused of treason. When he finishes defending our founding documents at a House panel on January 6, we encourage him to run a congressional constitutional boot camp.
– Dallas Morning News editorial, July 26