I wrote a post back on January 8th of this month advocating the need to test those people seeking elected office regarding their knowledge of the United States Constitution, since it is this very document and the ideals it represents that they will be swearing an oath to support and defend.
Now Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) was asked the other day by CNS News where in the Constitution is the legal justification for congress and the president having made the "Affordable Health Care Act" into law, particularly the mandate that all citizens MUST purchase health insurance. As his justification for it, Congressman Lewis stated, “Well, when you start off with the Preamble of the Constitution, you talk about the pursuit of happiness.”
What?!?! Never mind the fact that his logic in using this argument is incomprehensible, but as any junior high history student would tell you, one cannot find the words "the pursuit of happiness" in the Constitution, but rather they are a part of the God-given inalienable writes that Thomas Jefferson penned in our Declaration of Independence.
Unfortunately Representative Lewis and his lack of Constitutional knowledge is apparently the norm and not an aberration amongst our elected officials. Indeed a recent quiz was conducted amongst typical American citizens including 165 people who identified themselves as having been "successfully elected to government office at least once in their life." This included members of federal, state, or local offices.
This quiz asked 33 basic civics questions, many of which were taken from sources such as the U.S. Citizenship Exam. Of those 33 questions asked, 10 questions were directly related to the U.S. Constitution. The sad truth of the matter is that our typical American citizen did pretty poorly. The truly frightening thing is that our typical elected official participating in the quiz scored an average 5 percentage points lower still than the typical citizen on the Constitutional questions. Citizens typically scored 54% correct versus 49% for elected officials. (For the record, I got all ten questions correct.)
Of the ten questions asked only 49 percent of elected officials could name all three branches of government, compared with 50 percent of the general public. Let me re-state this: less than half of our elected officials could even name all three branches of the federal government for which some had held office!
Only 46 percent of our elected officials knew that Congress, and not the president, has the power to declare war compared to 54 percent of the general public getting this one correct.
Just 15 percent knew that the phrase "wall of separation" appears in Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists and is NOT in the U.S. Constitution. 19 percent of citizens knew this.
And finally only 57 percent of our elected officials knew what the purpose of the Electoral College is. 66 percent of the public knew this one. Indeed, amongst elected officials 20 percent thought the Electoral College was a school for "training those aspiring for higher political office."
Yes, we absolutely need to pass a law that mandates those seeking at least state and federal offices to have a passing score on basic Constitutional knowledge. I certainly don't expect this to go anywhere, as this would be akin to teacher's unions actually requiring their members to pass competency tests for the subjects they teach. I don't think our congress is going to set up another obstacle to their attaining office. ...Even if that oath of office taken requires their supporting and defending a Constitution of which most of them are more ignorant than their own constituents.