The Founding Fathers understood the dilemma of every civilization – how to govern without usurping individual freedoms and rights. Underlying this thought was another reality the Founding Fathers understood, that human beings are fallible. They are inherently self-centered, thinking mostly about their own self-interests, they are prone to making mistakes in how they think and act, and some are compelled to exert their power over others even resorting to violence without some enforced rules for personal conduct.
So, a second dilemma in designing American governance was how to protect the people from each other while ensuring that the consent of “we the people” is reflected in how we are governed. The Founding Fathers would see that reconciling these two dilemmas for government to ensure and protect individual freedom while working to represent the consent of all the people required essential checks and balances on how the government operated.
The Constitution of the United States of America was deliberately designed with a system of checks and balances at several levels. Three distinct and separate branches of government – the legislative, the executive and the judiciary – were not of equal power. The greatest power was conferred on the Congress to represent the people defined in 2,268 words in Article 1 of the Constitution. This was followed by the Presidency representing the executive branch whose role was explained in 1,025 words in Article 2 of the Constitution and the Courts representing the Judiciary with the weakest powers outlined in 377 words in Article 3 of the Constitution.
James Madison would acknowledge in “The Federalist Papers” the rationale for this design by stating:
“The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judiciary, in the same hands whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
The greatest latitude for change within each branch was further defined by term limits with a two-year term for Congress, a four-year term for the Presidency and a possible life-time term for Judiciary. The Founders wanted a high degree of accountability to the Congress which was deemed the most direct representation and voice of the people by having them reviewed every two years.
Another layer of checks and balances was in the creation of a Constitutional Republic granting the greatest power to the states and their people. The 10th amendment makes it clear that powers not granted to the national government are reserved for the states. James Madison once again confirms this by declaring that federal government powers are “few and defined.”
Fast forward to 2023, 235 years after the Federalist Papers were published, we find ourselves as a nation with 70% of the people not trusting their federal government and most of its agencies and many of the 50 states adopting practices not reflective of their own state constitutions. There is a functional breakdown of the three branches of government with many already claiming a tyranny being waged against our country by the present administration. While there are a series of blogs that are needed to capture the present situation, I would like to suggest for this blog that we consider redefining how we use “checks & balances” to keep our country accountable to the people and move the country back toward our founding principles as outlined in our Constitution. Recently, I heard Mike Johnson, a Congressman from Louisiana, characterize our current situation as a “constitutional crisis.”
We now have a new type of “check & balance”, independent organizations who will inform us and act for us.
Over the last ten years, I have been identifying private, non-partisan organizations that have been created to fill this gap of “checks & balances” that is sorely missing at the federal and state levels of government. They are defining themselves as watchdogs and think tanks actively committed to preserving the founding principles of our government which is on track to celebrate its 250th birthday in 2026. There are many of these watchdogs and think tanks and even more in the last five years since the pandemic of 2019.
Here are five that get high marks for what they are accomplishing on our behalf, and I invite you to check them out for yourself. Individually, we can’t accomplish what well-organized groups like this can do. But we can provide them with the funding they need to continue to attract talented individuals to sustain their cause.
#1. Judicial Watch – Founded in 1994 as a non-partisan foundation to promote transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics, and the law. Considered a watchdog for Federal and State Governments, they investigate and litigate to prosecute on issues that protect our constitutional republic. Some of their biggest issues have been election integrity in calling out states on their lack of enforcement of Federal election laws such as maintaining accuracy in voter rolls, and censorship of free speech by big tech and the Federal Government to silence conservative thought. Judicial Watch has become the preeminent voice for civil rights and the law as properly understood under the U.S. Constitution. You can find them at www.judicialwatch.org.
#2. Heritage Foundation – Founded in 1973 and fighting for America’s Founding Principles, they focus on free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Considered a think tank and political research organization, they have become an invaluable resource to Congressional leaders in protecting our founding principles. Their 2025 Presidential Transition Project is one of their recent initiatives to prepare the next administration with conservative policy recommendations and properly vetted and trained personnel to take back America. You can find them at www.myheritage.org.
#3. Cato Institute – Founded over 40 years ago, Cato is an independent, non-partisan research institution and think tank committed to defending personal and economic freedom based on classical liberalism and libertarianism. Cato operates within the policy-making process but as an organization outside of politics. Cato researches and tracks public policy across all 50 states and its specific impact on individual freedom. Their 20 years of reporting results in “Freedom in the 50 States” is the only index that measures freedom at the state level. You can find them at www.cato.org.
#4. Capital Research Center– Founded 30 years ago, the Capital Research Center (CRC) is described as a think tank with investigative reporters tracking nonprofit spending in politics. They are considered the conservative movement’s watchdog on the radical Left’s Marxist activities utilizing activists, fundraisers, wealthy donors, unions, and foundations to funnel “dark” money to their left-wing causes. In the election of 2020, they revealed the “Zuck Bucks” initiative of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerman, to distribute $350 million through the tax-exempt, non-profit Center for Technology and Civic Life among thousands of local election offices in swing states to sway the election results toward the Democrats. You can find them at www.capitalresearch.org.
#5. Media Research Center – Founded in 1988 by Brent Bozell to maintain freedom of the media and expose bias and error from national mainstream media and now social media. As a conservative, Bozell stopped the “Fairness Doctrine” designed to boot conservatives off America’s radio airwaves. Bozell has seen and revealed “more bias than ever” in the last 15 years which he attributes largely to the funding of billionaire, George Soros, for leftist, Marxist organizations who hate America, economic freedom, patriotism, and our Constitution. You can find them at www.mrc.org.