Donald Trump's victory in the presidential election was an historic upset that presents him and this nation with an historic opportunity.
Our first president, George Washington, faced a great challenge. Trump, who will be our 45th, faces one, too.
Washington took office in a new republic with an untested constitution. He was firmly committed to act only within its strict limits on federal power, to avoid amassing public debt, to engage in no unnecessary wars and to recognize that American freedom was ultimately rooted in the moral and religious convictions of the American people.
He remains the model of greatness for an American president.
Trump will take office in a republic that is 240 years old with a Constitution that for decades has been disrespected, disobeyed and deliberately attacked by duplicitous and self-interested politicians.
These politicians were not committed to the Constitution's limits on federal power. They did not avoid amassing public debt. They did engage in unnecessary wars. And they failed to recognize — or actively rejected — the truth that American freedom is ultimately rooted in the moral and religious convictions of the American people.
The result: Americans now risk surrendering their freedom to their own government.
The current president has so little respect for the constitutional limits on executive power and the authority vested in the legislative branch that he unilaterally ordered U.S. military intervention in Libya's civil war and has attempted to unilaterally legalize immigrants in this country illegally.
However, during this administration, the government's most significant new assault on liberty — Obamacare and its regulatory schemes — involved collaboration between the president, the Congress and the Supreme Court.
By itself, it illustrates much of what has gone wrong in America.
Congress joined in enacting Obamacare, which, for the first time in our nation's history, empowered the federal government to order individuals to buy a product — health insurance — that politicians deemed good for them.
The Supreme Court, led by a chief justice nominated by a Republican president, upheld this new federal power to coerce individuals based on the specious argument that when the federal government mandates what products individuals must buy it is merely engaging in a legitimate extension of its power to tax.
Under the same power, as this column has noted before, the federal government could order you to buy broccoli.
But the Department of Health and Human Services did not use this power to order people to buy a preferred fruit or vegetable. It ordered people to buy insurance that covered sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices.
Thus did an order of Catholic nuns (along with other devout Christians) find themselves in the Supreme Court, fighting the president to protect themselves from his administration's order that they cooperate in the taking of innocent human life.
A divided Supreme Court could not bring itself to unambiguously declare that the First Amendment's guarantee of the free exercise of religion prohibits the government from ever ordering the Little Sisters of the Poor — or anybody else — to do such a thing.
At the same time, Obamacare expanded the number of people financially dependent on the federal government by increasing the number of people on Medicaid and by providing subsidies for people making less than 400 percent of the poverty level to buy government-ordered insurance.
During President Obama's time in office, the federal debt has grown by more than $9 trillion. On Election Day, it reached $19,806,239,858,606.04. That equaled approximately $159,480 for each of the 124,193,000 people the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates had a full-time job in October.
Trump's great challenge is not simply to repeal Obamacare. It is to reverse the accelerating trajectory toward more government and less freedom that we are on.
It is to turn America back toward this nation's founding principles of constitutionally limited government, prudence and restraint in both fiscal and foreign affairs, and respect for the moral and religious tradition that allowed this nation to be free in the first place.
Many of the causes Trump advocated in his campaign would help do this. These include naming Antonin Scalia-like constitutionalists to the Supreme Court, defunding Planned Parenthood and advancing the right to life, securing our borders and enforcing the immigration laws, turning away from the failed nation-building foreign policy of the last two administrations, cutting taxes and reducing discretionary federal spending by 1 percent per year.
But like others who have come before him to Washington with a mandate from the voters, Donald Trump should not be judged by what he promised to do as a candidate.
He should be judged by whether he conscientiously fights for those things, using every constitutional tool in the president's power, after he has taken the oath of office.
Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSnews.com.