David Applegate is one of seven children of a farmer’s daughter who survived childhood pneumonia, the Great Depression, the Great Ohio River Flood of 1937, the loss of the family farm, and World War II.His father, the son of a railroader, dropped out of school after the ninth grade, joined the Army to fight the Nazis at the age of fifteen, and was later buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.David worked his way through high school and college as a seasonal farmworker and laborer before heading off to law school, where he began his legal career by handling employment discrimination cases for the State of Illinois.Today he is a partner in a Chicago law firm, and has been honored by the Judges of the Northern District of Illinois and the Federal Bar Association for his continuing and career-long commitment to handling employment discrimination and prisoner’s rights cases as a volunteer attorney for no fee.
When then-candidate Barack Obama was running for president on a platform of hope and change, most Americans probably didn’t think he had in mind the loss of individual freedoms and the steady slide of the United States toward becoming just another European-style social democracy.
When almost President-elect Obama, just before his 2008 election night victory, triumphantly crowed that “we are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” most Americans probably didn’t think he meant ignoring the Bill of Rights in favor of government by an increasingly powerful and intrusive ruling class of experts.
Yet five years into the Obama Presidency, as the nation pauses to observe “President’s Day,” some people have begun to wonder.
Speaking at the Union League Club of Chicago’s 126th annual George Washington’s Birthday Gala on Valentine’s Day Friday, February 14, U. S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told a packed audience in response to a question following his speech that what most worries him at the age of 77, after nearly 28 years on the nation’s highest court, is “the decline of the republican spirit.”
“It doesn’t exist in our people with a vigor that used to exist,” he told his audience as quoted in the Chicago Tribune. “That’s what I’m most worried about, that we’re going to become just another … undemocratic politician-run state. Which our framers would never have supported.”
Scalia may have ample cause to worry.
Sadly, it seems that the Senate no longer understands that the Constitution provides that revenue bills must originate in the House or Representatives, which is closest to the people from whom all government revenue comes; the House believes it must pass bills to find out what is in them rather than thoroughly reading and vigorously debating them first; and the President believes that it is up to him and his Attorney General to decide which laws – once passed and signed – to enforce, which to waive or to delay, and which to ignore completely.
Justice Scalia’s own Court is not without blame. The Chief Justice apparently doesn’t know a penalty from a tax, and Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg isn’t sure she would advise another country to look to the United States Constitution as a model. Excepting Justice Thomas, many of the rest ruminate occasionally about whether the government can or should order citizens to eat broccoli while debating how many multicultural angels can dance on the head of a pin in the public square without offending anyone.
The American people, meanwhile, stagger under a crushing economy while politicians carry on like the crown princes of Europe. The Secretary of State hectors the public about global warming while crisscrossing the planet on a fossil fuel-burning jet; with fully one-sixth of men of working age having dropped out of the labor force for want of meaningful work, the President plays a lot of golf.
Voters nonetheless sit blithely by while the Congress digs the country ever deeper into debt, magically hoping their pennies will grow into dollars instead of the other way around. Somehow many still believe that they will actually find themselves “socially secure” in their dotages after the nanny state has already exhausted its resources raising their children, putting food on their tables and cell phones in their hands, and providing them with “free” health care and birth control.
The government insists that opening the borders to low-skilled undocumented immigrants who are nonetheless willing to work and giving them a path to citizenship and the right to vote will postpone the inevitable, while a metaphorical fence is being built around us and the gates are beginning to close.
Although he declined to opine that the country has passed a “tipping point” beyond which total decline is inevitable, Justice Scalia noted that the framers didn’t expect our democracy to last forever and said he doesn’t think “we can be too cocky about America always being America. It’s going to change unless the people have the same determination to preserve liberty that the framers had.”
The United States Constitution is only 225 years old, and Justice Scalia has been around for over a third of them. His are words to ponder on this 2014 President’s Day.