The federal government gets its mandate from the American people. You are in charge. Express your will: vote.
You help govern your country through the exercise of your right to vote. As the U.S. Supreme Court has said: “No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live.”
When he first became president in 1885, Grover Cleveland stressed in his inaugural address the public trust held by every voter:
He who takes the oath today to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States only assumes the solemn obligation which every patriotic citizen—on the farm, in the workshop, in the busy marts of trade, and everywhere—should share with him. The Constitution which prescribes his oath, my countrymen, is yours; the government you have chosen him to administer for a time is yours; the suffrage which executes the will of freemen is yours; the laws and the entire scheme of our civil rule, from the town meeting to the state capitals and the national capital, is yours. Your every voter, as surely as your chief magistrate, under the same high sanction, though in a different sphere, exercises a public trust.
In his farewell address to the American people in 1989, President Ronald Reagan echoed the words of Cleveland a century earlier, emphasizing that the American people remain in charge of their government:
Ours was the first revolution in the history of mankind that truly reversed the course of government, and with three little words: ‘We the People.’ ‘We the People’ tell the government what to do; it doesn’t tell us.
On behalf of your fellow citizens, we ask you to choose carefully in deciding upon the representatives, senators, president, and state and local officials who will make our laws. Your choice, along with the choices of your fellow citizens, will determine what America is to become. You, your fellow citizens, and future generations will live in the America you choose.
Conservatives will do tomorrow and the next day exactly what we did yesterday and the day before: We will continue to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.
We know our principles and we adhere to them. That is our public trust. The American people can count on us, just as we count on the American people.
God bless the United States of America and its people. Now, go vote.
This commentary was originally published on Election Day in 2012, but it’s message is timeless.