“This is the most important election of our lifetime!”

“If [insert candidate’s name here] wins the presidency, it could mean the end of the Republic!”

“[Insert candidate’s name here] will shred the Constitution and trample our rights!”

I’ve heard these kinds of statements over and over again since the beginning of this election cycle.

And in 2012.

And in 2008.

And in 2004.

And in 2000.

You get the idea.

Every presidential election ranks as the most important in our lifetime. Every candidate will finally drive the death-nail in the Constitution. Every candidate will save us.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

The emphasis Americans put on the presidency reveals just how far the country has drifted from its constitutional moorings. A president operating within his or her constitutional powers would exercise very little authority and have minimal impact on everyday Americans’ lives.

This raises a very important question: why do those who seek to limit federal authority to its constitutionally prescribed powers put so much energy into electing the “right” president? Do they really think this individual will take office and then work diligently to rein in his own power?

“But the Supreme Court!” they cry.

Again, this signals the sorry state of America’s constitutional system. How did the country get to the point that five of nine unaccountable, politically connected lawyers essentially rule 300-plus million people? And why do so many “constitutionalists” believe that putting a black dress on the “right” politically appointed lawyer and enshrining her in a federal temple will protect their rights, limit federal authority or restore the Constitution?

“But Mike,” they say, “[Insert candidate’s name here] will at least be better than [insert candidate’s name here]! [Insert candidate’s name here] will completely destroy us.”

Probably not. On both counts. At least if history provides any indication. Things rarely turn out as bad as a president’s opponents predict, nor as good as their supporters hope. And when it comes to the Constitution, they’re all horrible.

Let’s just go back 16 years. George W. Bush was driving America toward a cliff at about 100 mph. Then Barack Obama took office. He continued driving the U.S. toward a cliff at about 100 mph. You can give or take a few miles per hour if you want to quibble, but for all practical purposes, the United States has pretty consistently hurdled toward the cliff. In fact, from a Constitutional standpoint, we can roll the clock back to about 1860 and the country has more-or-less remained on the same trajectory since.

In a few months, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will take over the Oval Office. And you know what? The car will keep hurdling toward that cliff at about 100 mph. I guarantee that one year after the inauguration of Clinton or Trump, the federal government will be bigger, violating more of your rights and deeper in debt that it was on Jan. 20, 2017.

OK, maybe Trump will slow the car down to 90 mph. Maybe Clinton will speed it up to 110 mph. But in the big scheme of things, does it really matter?

The bottom line is you’re still speeding toward a cliff. At some point, don’t you need to find a way to stop the car?

This is why I don’t care all that much about presidential elections, or federal politics in general. My political action focused on D.C. will do little to nothing to fundamentally change things, restore the Constitution or protect my freedom.

If you want to limit federal power, you need a better strategy than switching out pieces of the federal government. The people in office aren’t the problem. Centralization in Washington D.C. is the problem. You can’t expect people in positions of authority to limit their own power. It requires an outside force.

The states were always intended to serve as that outside force – a check on federal power. Alexander Hamilton made this very point in Federalist #28.

It may safely be received as an axiom in our political system, that the State governments will, in all possible contingencies, afford complete security against invasions of the public liberty by the national authority. Projects of usurpation cannot be masked under pretenses so likely to escape the penetration of select bodies of men, as of the people at large. The legislatures will have better means of information. They can discover the danger at a distance; and possessing all the organs of civil power, and the confidence of the people, they can at once adopt a regular plan of opposition, in which they can combine all the resources of the community. They can readily communicate with each other in the different States, and unite their common forces for the protection of their common liberty.”

But most Americans remain too fixated on federal politics and presidential candidates to bother with state or local action. Until they realize that D.C. will never fix D.C., the car will continue to rush toward the cliff. If centralization is the problem, then decentralization is the solution. And the centralizers in D.C. won’t ever do that.