Your Vote Matters

The Providence Forum encourages all citizen to exercise their right and privilege to vote. We provide non-partisan biblical principles to help guide in assessing candidates running for office. In a democracy, the highest office is the office of citizen. 

The American president is one of the most powerful men on earth. Our first President under the U.S. Constitution understood that the system of government created by the Constitutional Assembly gave great powers to the nation’s leaders.

He also knew such power was dangerous. An overly powerful government could re-create another tyranny over the citizens of the new nation. The founders’ solution was to create a constitution with defined powers limited by checks and balances. George Washington wrote to Marquis de Lafayette on February 7, 1788:

It will at least be a recommendation to the proposed Constitution that it is provided with more checks and barriers against the introduction of Tyranny, and those of a nature less liable to be surmounted, than any Government hitherto instituted among mortals….

Washington called these two concepts – the vast but delegated power of government and the regular return of governmental power to the people – “pivots” that give motion to the entire constitution. In the same letter to Lafayette, Washington says,

With regard to the two great points (the pivots upon which the whole machine must move,) my Creed is simply,

1st. That the general Government is not invested with more Powers than are indispensably necessary to perform the functions of a good Government;

2ly. That these Powers (as the appointment of all Rulers will forever arise from, and, at short stated intervals, recur to the free suffrage of the People) are so distributed among the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches, into which the general Government is arranged, that it can never be in danger of degenerating… so long as there shall remain any virtue in the body of the People.

If we take Washington’s “pivot” metaphor seriously, we as individual citizens have a powerful motivation to be involved in the electoral process. Clearly government is not remiss in exercising its wheel of power. That “pivot” or “wheel” functions like a well-oiled machine. But what about Washington’s second wheel or pivot? Washington was counting on “We the People of the United States” to exercise the rights for which the writers of the constitution fought so mightily, namely:

The power under the Constitution will always be in the People. It is entrusted for certain defined purposes, and for a certain limited period, to representatives of their own choosing; and whenever it is executed contrary to their interest, or not agreeable to their wishes, their Servants can, and undoubtedly will be, recalled. (To future Supreme Court Justice Bushrod Washington on November 10, 1787)

Do “We the People of the United States” exercise our right to reclaim our power on the regular intervals established by our Constitution as the ultimate check and balance? Sadly, millions of Americans remain unregistered and millions more do not vote in election after election. How well would your car function if only half the wheels worked? Our founders were counting on us to keep our government functioning well. Be a good citizen and vote! Remember: In a democracy, the highest office is the office of citizen.

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