We live in a time the framers of the Constitution could never have foreseen. Just in terms of population, the U.S. has gone from a population of 3.9 million at the time of founding in 1787 spread among 13 states to 321 million in 2015 in 50 states. Although the founders created in the Constitution a bulwark against governmental abuse, which has made the U.S. into a great nation, one that Abraham Lincoln called “the last, best hope of man,” we are well on the way to dismantling the founders’ truly amazing work.

Our form of government in the U.S. is a democratic republic. It is first, last and always a republic, because ours is “a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives.” We have a democratic republic, because ours is “a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of [the] state.”

The foundation of our country is our Constitution, which is built around the idea that the sovereignty of the government comes directly from the people and supersedes every other person or body in the government. Because the Constitution is the only body of law that was adopted directly by the people through delegates to conventions held in every state, it surpasses all other laws promulgated by the government. It is literally the law of the land.

The Constitution goes to great lengths, in concise and simple language, to divide and balance legislative, executive and judicial powers among three main branches of the government, and to give those branches the ability to restrain and control the other branches. It is an intricate and elegantly crafted document with amazing insight into and provision for the faults of the human condition.

Of all of the maladies of bad government that the framers wanted to guard against, one of the major ones is majority faction; the idea that a majority can impose a belief by which it can trample the rights of a minority. Such a faction is the rise of party politics in the US. By forming and trusting party politics, we have allowed the abdication of our rights to control our government through our elected representatives to nonelected and irresponsible bodies over which we have no control. It is the administrative state, not the restrained and divided government that the founders constructed in the Constitution, that controls our lives. Agencies, boards and commissions created by a misguided government under the guise of “delivering services” perform the legislative, executive and judicial functions under one central head. In classical political terms, this is despotism, not a democracy.

In modern times, the rise of political parties has replaced substantive debate on issues. If a person is a Republican or a Democrat, he or she is expected to adhere to and argue for the party line. The Constitution intends Congress to be a deliberative body, one house of which represents the people directly and one house of which looks at issues from the longer perspective, in terms of the welfare of society and the governmental effectiveness. We have substituted substantially a two-party system, in which congressmen and senators need not explore each issue separately and reason out the costs and benefits for society independently; they need only to adhere to a party line that has not changed substantially in 50 years. The challenge of office has ceased to be making a good decision on each issue individually and has become instead finding a sound bite by which the party line can be sold to the voters. The crisis in each election is reduced to whether each state is “blue” or “red.” We are being governed, not by the people we elected to office to govern us, but by bureaucrats they have delegated their responsibilities to and by political parties whom nobody elected, who have no standing under the Constitution and owe loyalty to no voter.

The founders gave us a Constitution that is the envy of the world, and we’re turning it into scrap paper and destroying this great country in the process. What would they say?

William R. Compton is a resident of Bloomfield.