The Preamble as Policy

A Guidebook to Governance and Civic Duty

by Robert Irons (Author) Jim Twombly (Author)
©2021 Monographs XIV, 96 Pages


In The Preamble as Policy: A Guidebook to Governance and Civic Duty the authors show that the Preamble to the Constitution is more than an introduction to the document; it sets the tone for the rest of the document and how it should be viewed and interpreted. It is also a list of goals for a new government and a tool for holding our elected representatives accountable for their efforts on our behalf. The Preamble as Policy looks at the history of the development of the Constitution to show how the Preamble can be used to judge the laws and policies enacted by the federal government. The Preamble as Policy weaves political thought, history, and current events together allowing for examination of an oft forgotten part of the Constitution. It provides a unique framework and firm foundation for class discussions or social interactions about what we have achieved as a nation and where we might have come up short.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the authors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter One A Preamble to the Preamble
  • Approaches to the Constitution
  • The Preamble
  • We, the People of the United States, Do Ordain and Establish This Constitution for the United States of America
  • Applying the Approaches to the Preamble
  • Overview of the Book
  • Chapter Two Form a More Perfect Union
  • In the Beginning
  • Maintaining the Union through the Civil War
  • Manifest Destiny and Economic Growth
  • Political Polarization in the Late 20th and Early 21st Centuries
  • Is Our Union More Perfect?
  • Chapter Three Establish Justice
  • Aspects of Justice
  • Achieving the Goal of Justice
  • Chapter Four Insure Domestic Tranquility
  • Our History of Civil Unrest
  • Balancing Order and Freedom to Achieve Tranquility
  • Actively Undermining Domestic Tranquility
  • Returning to Domestic Tranquility
  • Chapter Five Provide for the Common Defense
  • Framers Make the Case for a Common Defense
  • From Militias to the National Guard
  • Contemporary Applications of Militias (the National Guard)
  • Chapter Six Promote the General Welfare
  • General Welfare and the Size of Government
  • Whose Welfare?
  • Collective or Individual Welfare?
  • Common Good or General Welfare?
  • General Welfare as Economic Rights
  • Chapter Seven Secure the Blessings of Liberty to Ourselves and Our Posterity
  • Limits on Government Power
  • Breakin’ Up Is Not So Hard to Do
  • Laws and Liberty
  • Individual Liberties
  • Chapter Eight A Perfectible Union: Still Seeking Justice, Domestic Tranquility, a Common Defense, General Welfare, and the Blessings of Liberty
  • Chapter Recaps
  • The Preamble and Pop Culture
  • The Preamble as Policy
  • Final Thoughts
  • Index

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Robert Irons thanks his wife, Ruth Ann for her patience and her effectiveness as a sounding board. Her name belongs right beside his.

Jim Twombly thanks his wife, Denise King for her daily support and counsel. He also thanks Elmira College, particularly the Office of Academic Affairs, for creating an environment that allows for creativity and scholarship.

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Chapter One

A Preamble to the Preamble

In 2020, America went through a tremendously stressful period. Much of our public life, both social and economic, was shut down for an extended period due to COVID-19. In the midst of this global pandemic, Americans took to the streets in a variety of protests. There were protests against actions taken by state and local officials to protect the groups most at risk to the virus, some with maskless citizens carrying guns to state capitols (and sometimes into the buildings), fueled by the record high unemployment rates created by the shutdown of all non-essential business. Just as some states were beginning to reopen their economies, four Minneapolis police officers arrested, and in the process murdered, George Floyd over his passing of a counterfeit $20 bill, leading to mass protests in cities big and small, both here and abroad, against continued police violence towards communities of color. A deadly pandemic, widespread unemployment, racial and social unrest, and a government seemingly incapable or unwilling to respond effectively became a perfect storm to highlight and re-examine our founding goals. The current political divisions in this country rival those that were in place just ←1 | 2→before the Great Depression, with many of the same or similar issues at the root of the division. America is stubborn in learning the lessons of its past, especially if connected to race or class.

As a “perfect” wrap to such a tumultuous year, an incumbent president – Donald Trump – called into question the process and results of the election that led to his ouster. His assertions of widespread fraud and a “stolen election” were aimed at two targets. The first was the outcome of the election, which Trump challenged in both state and federal courts, all the way to the Supreme Court’s dismissal of a suit brought by the Attorney General of Texas seeking to throw out the election results in four other states (Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia), which Trump had carried in 2016. On December 14, 2020, the Electoral College, essentially, put an end to the court challenges by deciding in favor of Trump’s opponent – Joe Biden. The second target was the future legitimacy of a Biden Presidency. By exercising constant legal and media challenges to Biden’s vote count, Trump sought (if he couldn’t win) to delegitimize Biden’s Administration.

The “wrap” took a violent and insurrectionist turn on January 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters and conspiracy theory enthusiasts stormed the Capitol during the Congressional certification of the Electoral College vote counts certified and forwarded by the states. The process, mostly a formal and ceremonial one, was interrupted as the mob pushed its way past police officers on its way to the House and Senate Chambers with chants of “Hang Mike Pence” (the Vice president and presiding officer of the Senate) and “Where’s Nancy?” (the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi) with later discovered intentions of her assassination. The insurrection was put down or petered out within a few hours and the Congressional certification of the Electoral College continued into the wee hours of the next day. These events were fueled by false claims of a stolen election and a misreading of the Constitution with respect to Congress’s ability to do anything other than certify the state-by-state results. Many have argued that such events would have been far less likely in a time that was not framed by hyper-partisanship.←2 | 3→

Our Founders and Framers1 clearly warned us of the dangers of, to use James Madison’s words, “the mischiefs of faction.” Some have argued that this was a warning about political parties, others have taken it to mean single-interest groups. Entrenched interest groups, with narrowly defined political agendas, have the ears of Congress and are therefore able to influence the passage of legislation in their favor, and in some cases are able to write the legislation themselves. This is most certainly not what the Founders intended.

The Constitution is the foundation of our entire system of government; it spells out what the branches of government are, their relationships to the other branches, what power each branch holds, and how the branches are intended to work together to support and defend the American people. At the same time, it has built-in flexibility in the form of the amendment process; our Framers had the foresight to presuppose unforeseen circumstances. It makes sense that a government formed from change would see the need to anticipate future change.

The Preamble contains the Framers’ justification for drafting the Constitution. It explains the need for the document, why it is important to the people of the United States. It lays out, line by line, the motivation for forming the government, and therefore what considerations the people should expect from the newly formed republic. The Preamble outlines the responsibilities the Framers saw as central to the mission of the new government; it is a list of the objectives the Framers felt obliged to provide for the citizens of America. It therefore also serves as a checklist of government policies and their effectiveness at following that original intent.


XIV, 96
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (July)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XIV, 96 pp.

Biographical notes

Robert Irons (Author) Jim Twombly (Author)

Robert Irons (Ph.D., Illinois Institute of Technology) is Associate Professor of Finance and Chair of the Accounting and Finance Department at Illinois Wesleyan University. He has taught undergraduate and MBA students for over twenty years and is published in numerous academic journals, including the Journal of Portfolio Management. Dr. Irons worked as a financial analyst for AT&T and United Airlines. Jim Twombly (Ph.D., Stony Brook University) is Professor of Political Science at Elmira College in New York. He is the author of The Progression of the American Presidency, Political Scandal and American Pop Culture: Sex, Power, and Cover-ups, and Directing the Whirlwind: The Trump Presidency and the Deconstruction of the Administrative State (with Lisa K. Parshall).


Title: The Preamble as Policy
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112 pages