Why I wrote LIBERTY’S LAST STAND

07/01/16 at 10:05 AM | Published Under Some Personal Thoughts by Stephen Coonts

The novel, Liberty’s Last Stand, published June 13, 2016, by Regnery Publishing in all formats, is a departure for me from the non-political action-adventure thrillers that have paid my bills for most of the last thirty years. Perhaps best described as a political thriller, the plot is that a leftist president, Barry Soetoro, declares martial law in America after three coordinated terrorist incidents kill several hundred people. He goes further, suspending the writ of habeas corpus, jailing political enemies, confiscating guns in violation of the 2nd Amendment, stifling dissent and free speech in violation of the First Amendment, refusing to allow the courts to rule on government actions, and canceling the 2016 elections. Apparently Soetoro wants to become a dictator and rule by decree. Texas declares its independence, followed by almost a dozen other states. The result is another American civil war.

Many people have asked me why I wrote it, so I decided to alter the formula “for the money” and give a thoughtful answer. America seems split by a cultural divide that Barack Obama has made wider and deeper during his seven plus years in office. Civil discourse about political issues is becoming more and more difficult these days, with both sides vilifying the other and refusing to compromise. Compromise is the heart of democracy. None of us in our relationships ever gets everything we want, not with our spouse, our children, our coworkers, our neighbors, or our political choices. Compromise is the very essence of human existence. Yet in public life today we seem to have ditched that option.

One of the casualties of our refusal to compromise is the United States Constitution. This document, along with the attached Bill of Rights, adopted in the late 18th century, is without question the finest political document struck off by the hand of man. It creates a federalist system of three branches of government, the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary, and leaves all powers not delegated to the federal government to the states. Certainly the world has changed dramatically since the Constitution and Bill of Rights were written and adopted in the 1780s. The Supreme Court, in the case of Marbury v. Madison, adopted for itself the right of judicial review of all laws passed by Congress to ensure they fit within the constitutional framework, which meant that the Court necessarily became the arbiter of constitutional interpretation.

Today two points of view push constitutional interpretation. The conservative viewpoint was perhaps best represented by the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who believed that the constitution was a political contract, and as such should be interpreted in light of what the founders meant when it was adopted, and ditto for the Amendments. The constitution does indeed provide a method for amending it, for the working politicians who wrote it knew that from time to time changing conditions and circumstances would make that desirable. This view has been called the “strict constructionalist” approach, or original meaning approach, and leads to strict statutory interpretation. Scalia also believed it led to a defense of the states’ right to decide political questions in their sphere, and not be coopted by a Congress that increasingly tries to make rules about every aspect of American life.

The liberal approach to constitutional interpretation may be called the “living document” approach. Liberals believe that they have the power to constantly redefine the meaning of the constitution and the amendments, changing them as they see fit. Scalia thought this a slippery slope . It means that the political contract that is the foundation of American liberties and the source of all federal power means whatever the liberals say it means today. This approach has, for the liberals, the wonderful advantage of allowing them to change our fundamental law without the bother of going through the amendment process.

For several generations Congress has abdicated its lawmaking powers to federal agencies, who now make law by “rule-making.” Clearly, Congress finds itself unable to cope with their duty to oversee the bureaucracies, and almost always leave to the courts the job of keeping the bureaucrats on the straight and narrow. The courts have done little better than the Congress. Large, amorphous federal bureaucracies rule our lives, regulating everything from school curricula and lunches to creeks, swamps, food quality, air quality, and the warnings required on cigarettes and mattresses. No aspect of American life has been spared by the amazing interpretation of the constitution’s Interstate Commerce clause.

Under President Obama, we have seen serious executive overreach, much of it plainly unconstitutional, and we have found that the courts and Congress seem unable or unwilling to reign him in. Obama ignored the bankruptcy laws to give General Motors unions priority over creditors, and the courts acquiesced and ignored the plain language of the statutes. He has ignored the immigration statutes and re-written the Affordable Care Act. The list goes on and on. Bureaucrats have said that they will obey the executive regardless of what the law actually is.

The current attorney general, Ms Lynch, has announced that the government will prosecute those who argue against “global warming” and wants to define “hate speech” as including any realistic remark about the failings of Islam. All this seems to be ignored by the press and the Congress and the courts, probably because no one has yet been dragged before a judge. But plainly, the First Amendment that the Supreme Court has so jealously guarded through the centuries as the bedrock of our liberties is under attack.

As is the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms. This amendment was added to the bill of rights not to protect the right to go deer hunting, but because the founders believed that the best defense a free people could have against future tyranny was the right to own firearms. Today in America some people are willing to jettison that right. They are apparently willing to rely upon the probity of the knaves, fools, nincompoops and self-annointed messiahs we elect to public office. Ben Franklin once noted, and I am paraphrasing, that people who would trade liberty for promised security usually end up with neither.

The Obama administration and the liberals seem to think that all these extra-constitutional excursions will have no precedent value going forward. Oh, how wrong they are. Allowing presidents and bureaucrats and law enforcement to ignore the constitution will have huge unintended consequences in the years to come.

I am not sanguine. I wrote Liberty’s Last Stand as a warning. The political contract is more fragile than you think. I have read some of the reviews, and liberals seem to hate this book. Maybe they would have liked it better if the rogue president tearing up the constitution were a conservative, and those opposing him liberals. Maybe we should do that version for them.