What Made America Great in the First Place?

By Richard A. Viguerie and Mark Fitzgibbons | April 5, 2016 | 11:29am EDT
American flag (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

The slogan “Make America Great Again” has populist appeal to those who are fed up with how the Washington establishment have turned their back on the American people and their ideals.

The slogan, though, begs the question: What is it that made America great in the first place? And, of course, what is it that will keep America free, secure, and prosperous for generations to come?

On Constitution Day in 2011, we published an e-book that we believe provides the answer. “Americans are fed up with the political establishment and how it abuses and misuses the law, legal systems and public policy,” we wrote, and “the anger at, and distrust of, the political class is setting records, and for good reason.”

This should sound familiar to many Americans. We go on to describe the “very foundation of American exceptionalism. Without understanding that one critical concept, America is lost.”

The foundation of American exceptionalism, or what made America great in the first place, is that our government was constituted through a written rule of law over government itself. One of the Founders and our fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall, described it as “the fundamental and paramount law” for America.

This written law over government is what distinguishes America from all other nations, because it not only grants the government its powers, but defines, separates, balances, and limits them as well. This fundamental and paramount law creates a structure for government that is designed to best protect life, liberty, property, and our “pursuit of happiness.” This “law” is what unleashed the greatest nation known to mankind. We are a more peaceful and generous people than any other great power in history, yet we are able to muster the greatest resources in the fastest time to protect our security because of this law. Violations of this law threaten our fundamental rights, and have weakened America.

So, to understand how we can make America great again, it is essential to understand what it was that made America great in the first place.  The title of our e-book is The Law That Governs Government: Reclaiming The Constitution From Usurpers And Society’s Biggest Lawbreaker. The law that governs government, of course, is the Constitution.

The “usurpers” are progressives in the political establishment, including many members of the Washington establishment. Progressives have even usurped the term “conservative.” Therefore, we who understand their lack of fidelity to the Constitution and who see that great law as the foundation of American exceptionalism call ourselves “constitutional conservatives” to help distinguish our views from theirs.

And who is society’s biggest lawbreaker? That would be the government, which hundreds of times each day violates the Constitution, and violates other laws without consequences (like Lois Lerner and the IRS, the Veterans Administration, the EPA, the National Labor Relations Board, and on and on). Government even violates the very laws it enforces, like progressive state attorneys general who target free speech for investigation and prosecution under unsettled or faux arguments of science or tolerance.

Nearly anyone or any business that has had dealings with the government knows first-hand that government is not just a lawbreaker, but is arrogant and uncompromising about it. Government officials know they face few or no consequences for their lawlessness. They do great harm to American exceptionalism by intimidating free speech, religious freedom, and innovation.

By violating the law that governs government, progressives in the political class have weakened America. They have put their interests over those of our country and their fellow Americans, using government to advance their power at the expense of the liberties that give oxygen to American exceptionalism.

In our schools that these progressives now control, the Constitution and the American ideals and principles it protects are mocked and ridiculed. They teach our children that America is not exceptional. But America would not be a prosperous and free nation without the Constitution.

Progressive forces and the political establishment have torn down the constitutional rule of law over government. The Constitution, however, provides a remedy. It is, as James Madison wrote in Federalist 44, a “remedy obtained from the people who can, by the election of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of the usurpers.”

To make America great again we need to understand how the Constitution made America great in the first place, and restore this great law that governs government.

Richard A. Viguerie is chairman of, and his co-author Mark J. Fitzgibbons is a constitutional lawyer.

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