“He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution
That language of the Constitution here is not very specific, but usually, the procedure refers to the President appearing before a joint session of the United States Congress where he highlights the wonderful job he is doing and ceremoniously enlists the aid of Congress to support his upcoming legislative agenda of political and economic priorities. As recent as 1981, President Jimmy Carter didn’t even show up at a joint session, but sent in a written report as to how he thought things were going.
At the heart of the constitutional request, however, is an insistence that there be careful communication between the democratically elected leaders, the qualified voters, and between the designated branches of the government. When the President communicates with the people it is called a State of the Union address (or maybe, an occasional press conference . . . or a Tweet). When the voters communicate with the established government it is called an election.
The communication process is absolutely necessary. If entities or certain power brokers endeavor to highjack or circumvent the flow of necessary communication, then individual ingenuity will generally create a new method to communicate. A successful democracy allows for constituents to group themselves into like-minded ideals or philosophies regarding political, economic, religious, and cultural issues. The like-minded group that represents the largest number of qualified and participating voters is awarded the opportunity to lead the democracy. If a different like-minded group is able to present a more popular idea and garner enough legitimate votes to prevail in the election, then they are given the opportunity of leadership. It’s really pretty simple.
But we should neither be disheartened nor necessarily surprised when the system experiences occasional turbulence, even if it includes trillions of dollars and billions of lives. What is imperative is that we not become sloppy, lazy, or disconnected from the effective process. It is imperative that we reassess where we have determined to go, how we are going to get there, and just why it is deemed so necessary that we prevail in arriving.
Once that is determined and clearly articulated, it is then time to take the pragmatic steps to get the rocket ship on course and to stay on course. That will always require periodic correction burns to alter or correct the truest pathway of the rocket ship to the desired destination. Circumstances will change. People in control will change. Even desired destinations may change. But the final determination of the success of a constitutional democracy will be dependent upon the free flow of accurate and efficacious communication and the ability to make periodic correction burns through the majority of the voters.
Even when NASA sends a rocket to the moon, they know the rocket will eventually get a little off course because of extenuating circumstances in space. The first set of guidance instructions will need to be enhanced and reaffirmed.
NASA Mission News reported on February 8, 2011, that its Stardust spacecraft marked its twelfth anniversary in space with a rocket burn to further refine its flight path. The half-minute trajectory correction maneuver adjusted the path with a blast that consumed 2.4 ounces of fuel and altered the spacecraft’s speed by 1.3 miles per hour. The spacecraft had already traveled 3.5 billion miles since its launch.
We have just come through an interesting political campaign, elections, and inauguration here in the United States. We are presently experiencing a midflight correction burn. Now is not the time for the constituents to get weird. It is imperative that we not become sloppy, lazy, vengeful or disconnected from the effective process. If we are to continue to maintain the successful endeavor of our constitutional democracy we must now double our efforts regarding our careful communication between the democratically elected leaders, the qualified voters, and between the designated branches of the government.
There will always be need for midflight correction burns to reach the ultimate destination. The tricky part comes in recalculating the correction burn from your incorrect position. No one will argue the necessity of getting back on track, but how many ounces of fuel will it take, what new angle will be required, and what new speed will be necessary? Those are the real issues for serious consideration right now. In the days ahead, listen attentively to what the leaders are saying to you with their State of the Union messages, news conferences and Tweets. Then, in just a few short months you will be able to radically communicate in perhaps the most powerful way known to civilizations – you can participate in the election and actually vote.