A major reason Americans have been losing confidence in their government in recent decades is that our government has grown so unwieldy, ineffective, and unaccountable. The federal government has taken on more and more responsibilities, inserting itself into every nook and cranny of American life, yet it seems incapable of performing even the most basic tasks competently. Corporations face multiple regulators. Presidents revise laws without bothering to consult Congress. Federal agencies wield massive authority while facing little in the way of accountability. The limited but effective government envisioned by the Founders bears almost no resemblance to the chaos that now reigns.
Restoring something like constitutional government is a task that will take generations, and it will have to be undertaken by citizens and legislators as well as by courts. The rise of the Tea Party movement has helped remind Americans that the work of constitutional government must be done by all Americans, and not just federal judges. Conservatism should be home to everyone who takes seriously the task of strengthening the constitutional structure. Conservatives must draw out the constitutional dimension of everyday policy disputes, and make clear the ways in which their policy initiatives reflect our constitutional ideals.
Ramesh Ponnuru is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a senior editor of National Review, and a columnist for Bloomberg View.