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Friday, July 06, 2007

Founding Fathers to Deadbeat Dads

(Editor's note: James Madison was inarguably one of this country's most significant forefathers with Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, et al. While his contribution to July 4th's Declaration of Independence was non-existant -- he was only 25 and a state legislator at the time -- he is known as the "Father of the Constitution" due to his paramount role in the creation of the document that is not only the foundation of United States law, but also the inspiration for scores of subsequent national constitutions across the world. This column is an examination of original intention versus modern adaptation. Is Madison rolling in his grave? You decide.)


In the warm Philadelphian summer 0f 1787, an esoteric group of Americans, in a fledgling nation, cooperated in the creation of the United States Constitution. To rally the public's support for this groundbreaking and controversial document, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay -- together under the pseudonym "Publius" -- wrote a series of 85 essays advocating its ratification. This column looks at one particular "paper" and its relation to the ongoing 2008 presidential campaign.

It was the most brilliant article of one of the most brilliant publications in the history of man: James Madison's Federalist #10. Federalist #10 lectured its readers on the necessity for the President to appeal to a wide range of demography. Madison argued that while it was challenging to appeal to an entire country, it was easy for a local Congressman to embody a caricature of what his constituents are looking for in a representative.

He was right. We see it today in countless House races. You're running in the Iowa 4th district? Go ethanol! You're in the Connecticut 2nd? Go sub base! You're in the California 30th? Take care of our environment! Nevada 1st? Labor rules! Kansas 4th? Hail Mary! Florida 17th? Vamanos, amigos!

When you're a candidate for Congress, you target your district's dominating demographic and desire, then appeal to it, transforming yourself to be their candidate.

When you're a candidate for President, however, it doesn't work that way at all. You have to try to appeal to the Iowa 4th AND the Florida 17th. You have to woo Texas voters by lauding the second amendment while simultaneously telling Massachusetts that we need stricter gun control. If you don't cross-appeal in the modern national election, you might be okay, but you better make darn sure that none of your base is even thinking about going with the other guy, or you're toast. This has obviously creative a poisonously divisive political culture where a candidate is so busy trying to get their base to like them, they ignore the wants of the dissenting voices.

Madison and other Constitutional Framers knew this, of course. It's why they framed the way they did. They understood that a Ancient Greek democracy, with no central, unifying figure, would be torn apart by competing factions. It'd be mob rule. The President and Vice-President, as the only nationally elected members of U.S. government, must find a way to bring the country together. It is through this motivation that, for years, Presidents were elected on their ability to moderate themselves and appeal to as many different types of Americans as possible.

Then, however, there was President Bush, and, not without fault, John Kerry. Perhaps beginning in the election of 2000, and certainly solidified in 2004, the country turned into two factions: Red States and Blue States. To win an election meant to solidify your political base and win two out of three swing states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida). The product of this strategy is 40% of the country has all but been ignored by the winning candidate. Regardless of who ends up winning the election, there are going to be a lot of people displeased with the results. Then this loud minority group will dedicate the next four years to fighting the victor. You'll see. Partisan conditions have not been this drastic since the election of 1860... and that was when the country declared war... on itself!

Now, as we enter our first election Post President Bush (PPB), who knows how this election will be won? Will we have a Clintonian or Reaganesque unifier? Or will we have someone who finds and exploits the political divide, further pulling apart a steadily widening, partisan gap in order to win an election? Will there be two candidates blindly pulling at the wishbone that is America, both hoping for 50% plus one?

Ultimately, the question is: will 2000 and 2004 be a fluke, or is it the new norm for our presidential elections?

I'm afraid we know the answer.

Finally, beyond Federalist #10 and the upcoming election, there are more constitutional intentions to be examined. In a time when select members of the executive and legislative branches are continuing to look for ways to becloud the Constitution and obfuscate the masses, we cannot help to think how much James Madison and company would approve of the interpretation of their document.

We should be open to the fact that they might indeed approve. Indeed, the Framers were often purposefully equivicol in their language, understanding that the Constitution must be able to adapt to constantly changing times. This facet of the document is perhaps its most impressive.

When the ideals of United States Constitution are being blurred, however, is it not time to ignore adaptations and re-examine the intentions? Separation of powers. Checks and balances. These ideals of the 18th century Enlightenment were not simply suggestions or guidelines. These are It. These are Everything. They are our government. We see it at all levels. The federal government having a CEO (President) and a separate but equal power to legislate (Congress). The states are similarly set up with a governor and state legislature. Even municipal boards -- a school district has its Superintendent as its CEO and the school board to approve of all actions. If a healthy symbiosis is set up, that's when a government is most effective.

And is that not what our country is lacking? A symbiosis between lawmakers? Is this not one of the country's biggest complaints? Look at the numbers. The President? Unpopular. Congress? Unpopular. Democrats? Unpopular. Republicans? Very unpopular. And why are all of these groups lacking in popularity? Because they'd gladly step on the toes of foes to get a temporary leg up, whether it's on one vote or for one election. Each time, they are just temporary victories -- victories forgotten in a month if not sooner -- and they come at the expense of longterm growth, accomplishment, and progress.

How different our politicians were in the 1780s! Our Founding Fathers looked to the future. Have the dreams of our Founding Fathers given way to myopic Deadbeat Dads? Our politicians beat America's liberties, molest its citizens, carelessly throw around money, and their lack of loyalty to constituents can be described as adulterous.

Sounds like a deadbeat dad to me.

Therefore, the American people are rightfully angry. The government has been on a slippery slope. Admittedly, the American people did not see it coming. Neither did politicians. Did anyone?

Yes. A group did see it coming and tried to stop it. They were in Philadelphia and it was the summer of 1787.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

So is Obama's platform as a unifying figure going to carry him to victory?

df said...

Agreed. Not that political corruption and political gamesmanship is new to us, but I think most of the Found Fathers would be appalled at the lack of integrity the majority of modern politicians have.

IC said...

Anon - That's his hope. The question is: Can that strategy win anymore? Since everyone has limited resources, they elect to go with the 50% strategy instead of the 50 state strategy.

DF - Yeah, but they had slaves and stuff. Wink.

Arizona Insurance Broker / Arizona Insurance Company said...

I'm not sure our foundings father's ever knew how vitriolic (spelling) this nation would become in regards to politics. It is sad and unfortunate. Name calling has become a sport and that only makes this nation weaker.

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