Once a high-level Reagan-era diplomat, Alan Keyes is a long-time leader in the conservative movement. He is well-known as a staunch pro-life champion and an eloquent advocate of the constitutional republic, including respect for the moral basis of liberty and self-government. He has worked to promote an approach to politics based on the initiative of citizens of goodwill consonant with the with the principles of God-endowed natural right.More ↓Less ↑
Questions are now being raised about whether certain GOP politicians satisfy the Constitution’s eligibility requirements for the office of president of the United States. Throughout my own involvement in the controversy over Barack Obama’s constitutional eligibility, I have maintained the view that the nub of the issue is respect for the U.S. Constitution. When the words of the Constitution are ignored; when they are twisted this way and that according to a naked calculus of power; when they are shamelessly construed without regard to any standard of reason and common sense; then constitutional government degenerates into a pernicious masquerade. It gives a thin veneer of legitimacy to the age-old lie that might makes right, but it ceases to be an instrument of legitimate government. It becomes instead a means of inducing people quietly to accept the lie that it is just and lawful to be ruled by tyrants so long as they are tyrants chosen by the people themselves.
Once the real point of concern is clarified, it becomes obvious that the essential focal point of the eligibility issue has to do with the meaning of the words “natural born citizen.” Questions about Obama’s birth certificate are significant only because the Constitution’s words set a standard for eligibility that depends on the characteristics of an individual’s birth. In particular, the standard requires a natural claim to citizenship rather than one derived from human law or convention.
I believe that this is the main reason why all the subservient elements of the elitist faction have simply refused to acknowledge or discuss the substance of the constitutional requirement. To do so they would have to: a) acknowledge that the U.S. Constitution recognizes and applies as authoritative a standard derived from nature; b) engage in the process of reasoning whereby that authoritative natural standard is applied to human politics; and c) reach a conclusion that applies the natural standard under circumstances in which it cannot be denied that the Constitution recognizes the natural rule or law as a political constraint, even upon the will of an electoral majority of the people.
American judges, lawyers and law schools have for several generations propagated the self-evident lie that the Constitution does not derive from, depend upon or apply any understanding of natural law. But in fact, when structuring the process whereby the people elect the individual who actually wields the quintessential power of government, the Constitution constrains the choice of the people with reference to a natural rule. It does so in words that cannot be understood or applied without thinking through what it means to recognize and apply a standard that draws upon nature’s way of doing things.
Of course, this requirement naturally invites people to question the reason for making the natural rule a rule for human affairs. In our era human ingenuity has extended human capacity well beyond what previous eras accepted as the limitations of nature. In light of this fact, haven’t human science and invention brought us to the point at which humans are justified in regarding themselves as the authors of their own nature? Doesn’t this imply that human affairs are subject to no authority but human will, subject to no constraints but what we devise and impose upon ourselves?
Whether they openly acknowledge it or not, this attitude of resistance to the idea of any natural rule or standard is now the prevalent assumption of America’s elitist faction. In many respects adopting this attitude has become its defining characteristic. Is it just a coincidence that it is a stance consistent with the view that there are no rules or standards to limit what successful elites may do with the power they amass as a result of their success? Is it just a coincidence that it is a stance that undermines respect for the reasoning whereby less successful people lay claim to rights that all powers, including those of government, are obliged to respect?
Be that as it may, we must still deal with the fact that it is natural for human beings to question the authority of nature. It is especially so when the prevalent method for dealing with nature rests on the assumption that the human capacity to raise the question is entirely the product of the mindless interplay of forces that reflect no substantive meaning, purpose or intention. According to this view, what appears to be the result of intelligent action is nothing more than a perception, imposed after the fact, by a faculty for intelligent construction that is itself a meaningless accident.
America’s elitist faction rejects the authority of nature because their supposedly scientific understanding of nature has no place for the assumption of intelligent purpose that makes the concept of natural authority intelligible. When the first step has no purpose, no goal or aim exists to order the steps that follow.
Though well aware of the moral implications of this way of understanding the consequence of modern science, America’s founders held to the relevance of the natural law. They did so because they rejected the notion that the apparent order of nature is simply an after-the-fact imposition of human origin. They spoke of the laws of nature and of nature’s God, thus explicitly assuming the existence of a purposeful and intelligent will that determined both the order perceived in nature and the nature of the human faculty that perceived it.
Most American’s share the founders’ perspective. When will they awaken to the fact that America’s self-regarding elite have abandoned it? When will they begin to deal with the damage this abandonment has already done to our country, and the final destruction it implies for the way of life built upon an idea of right that transcends the claims of arbitrary power? One sign of that awakening will be their insistence that the Constitution’s reference to the authority of natural law be taken seriously, no matter which parties or politicians it inconveniences.