Scholars and political pundits today widely regard the Declaration of Independence to be one of the most articulate state papers of all Western civilization. Its prose is eloquent yet simple, and it espouses a series of basic truths that Americans have taken to be axiomatic since the birth of the...
Scholars and political pundits today widely regard the Declaration of Independence to be one of the most articulate state papers of all Western civilization. Its prose is eloquent yet simple, and it espouses a series of basic truths that Americans have taken to be axiomatic since the birth of the country. Though they hardly need repeating, those three fundamental rights—Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—have influenced American political philosophy in profound ways.
A clear example of the influence the Declaration of Independence has had in modern times can be seen in former president Barack Obama’s decision to legalize gay marriage. In 2013, speaking at an LGBT rally, Obama claimed that gay marriage could “be traced back to our Declaration of Independence—the fundamental principle that all of us are created equal.”
Obama is certainly not the only politician to have evoked the spirit of the Declaration in justifying their political policy. In fact, during president Donald Trump’s recent impeachment inquiry, some legal and political scholars have suggested the Declaration could serve as a useful guide to determining whether or not Trump is worthy of removal. They consider that the spirit of the Declaration, which calls for the abolition of a form government if it has engaged in “a long train of abuses and usurpations,” may be brought to bear on interpreting the current-day articles of impeachment. It is as salient a document today as it was when Thomas Jefferson first penned it.
Unless the country experiences a radical reorganization of government and the basic principles by which all Americans form their views of rulership, the Declaration will have a commanding influence on shaping American politics and our society’s worldview in the future. Our current political climate is one in which ordinary Americans take more seriously the rights of minorities, people of color, disenfranchised immigrants, LGBT advocates, the poor, women, and all others than ever before. The Declaration holds a timeless message for our nation: that all men (increasingly nowadays being understood as “hu”mans) are created equal, and that it is the responsibility of our government to secure our rights against any and all threats to their integrity. As American society fights for this basic principle, the Declaration is sure to stay fresh in all of our minds.