Way too many of us stop reading the U.S. Constitution after the first three words. That’s like closing the Bible after the first three words. You miss the point entirely.
I have been in countless political conversations with folks who struggle to articulate an intelligent point and always fall back so easily on “We the People”. That is a cop-out.
That phrase is frequently used in town hall meetings in Wyoming, wherein an elected official is roasted for their voting record because “We the People” don’t like it. Its about the only part of the Constitution that is quoted in these diatribes.
Absent the rest of the Constitution, “We the People” is nothing more than a mob. The balance of the Constitution describes a political process in which a mob becomes a nation under the rule of law. And the end of the Preamble has “We the People” ordaining and establishing that process.
By doing so, “We the People” rose above the mob.
This is what Plato had to say about mobs: “Mob rule is a rough sea for the ship of state to ride; every wind of oratory stirs up the waters and deflects the course. The upshot of such a democracy is tyranny or autocracy; the crowd so loves flattery, it is so hungry for honey, that at last the wiliest and most unscrupulous flatterer, calling himself the ‘protector of the people’ rises to supreme power”
“We the People” in the context of our Constitutions means that we reject mob behavior in favor of a system of common governance. It means that we have entrusted that system with our own political power.
It means that, even though demagogues may try to sway our emotions to their point of view, our Constitution prevails over emotions. Everything after the first three words says so.
It means that we favor elections every couple of years over storming down some dark street with pitchforks and torches to guillotine politicians when they don’t do what we want. Our Constitution is not mean to protect politicians from mob rule, its meant to protect us from ruling by mob.
Our Constitution all but guarantees that pissed off citizens will always be present in our republic. We live in a system that promotes opposition instead of suppressing it. How those angered citizens express their anger is how they define themselves as “We the People” in our Constitution, or the mob.
Keep this in mind while you talk with your fellow citizens about our political life together. Pay attention to the level of political discourse around you, and when you hear an appeal to mob behavior, remember that our Constitution has 4,400 words, not just three.
When you hear someone pull that “We the People” crap on you, tell ‘em to read the whole goddamn thing.