Friday, April 1, 2016

From the Mailbag and Right Back Atcha

     From faithful reader CC comes an interesting, if wrong-headed article from a so-called scholar of history who seems to glorify the Founding Fathers as being virtuous men of principle who were never once troubled by a single thought tainted by personal political ambition. At times, my responses get the better of me and rise to the level of blog-worthiness.

     Well, what did you expect from a Reagan biographer?
     It's pretty telling that this right winger in this pious encomium is still carrying water for the elitist (Elitists as models of governance to the right wing? Oh, horrors!), property and slave-owning merchants and gentleman farmers who conveniently left out women and black people when crafting our shining beacon of freedom and democracy. Why, politics in a Democratic Republic is much too serious an affair to be left to the unwashed masses, to paraphrase a certain individual.
     The original democracy set up by the Founding Fathers (and I have as a historical authority no less than David McCullough to get my back as I'm just starting JOHN ADAMS, which is my primary source of research for my third Van Zant novel) is vastly different from the one we look upon with horror and loathing today. It was an incestuous relationship across the 13 colonies as politicians created politicians by electing them through Acts of Congress and state legislatures. In reality, it looked less like a functioning democracy and more like an oligarchy and at times even looked like a reprise of the oppressive system of non-representative government from which they'd extricated the colonies.
     Taxes were around back then but the people had no voice in their destiny. In other words, taxation without representation since we would not popularly elect our first President until Andrew Jackson in 1824. And the author is right about this: The electoral college which had been in effect (albeit in a much shrunken incarnation than the bloated one we see now) acted as a final bulwark against the will of a people held in thrall.
     And in truth, these checks and balances were always proposed and enacted under the arrogant assumption that the will of the people, whose own advice and consent was neither sought nor wanted, would always be wrong. Only wealthy, educated men who'd studied governance could be counted on to make the right decisions guiding the destiny of the new nation just as children are taught to trust in good old Dad's judgment and pragmatism in handling the homestead's finances and other fortunes. As proof this is still the status quo, well over half the 535 members of Congress are millionaires or multimillionaires.
     But the Founding Fathers themselves were not infallible men. John Adams himself hated politics and was perhaps the most exempt from your mild jeremiad that all the Founding Fathers had political ambitions. He had all but retired from politics after one brief term in the MA legislature. And all throughout, he was beset by self-doubt. Washington earlier in life had sought a commission in the British army. Jefferson barely tolerated the very idea of a central government and felt the states should be on at least an equal footing with the federal government to guide their individual destinies. And, of course, many were Loyalists.
     Democracy had little to do with it. We had merely traded in an oligarchic monarchy for an oligarchic "democracy" that was wrapped in the flag and studded with hagiographies of the Founding Fathers even though it took our "democracy" nearly a half a century to permit the people to elect their own leaders. The issue of slavery during the Continental Congress in Philadelphia was paid little more than lip service by free states such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware so as not to rile up their brethren in southern states such as North and South Carolina, Georgia and the most powerful colony of all, Virginia. They sold African Americans up the river figuratively just as they were literally and never even entertained the thought of giving women suffrage and enfranchisement.
     The electoral college, in my enduring opinion, has always been nothing more than a rotting final bulwark, a useless and destructive vestige of the Revolutionary War era that subverts the will of the people very much like Geraldine Ferraro's super delegate system that's working so handsomely for Hillary Clinton. This nation, even at its most ideal and most democratic, had always feared and loathed the will of the ordinary man on the street even though it is those men and women that wrested for us control of our national destiny from the yoke of British rule. In that respect, nothing has changed. When a candidate for President wins the popular vote and still loses the election because a dodgy, fragmented, easily massageable mess such as the Electoral College and the Super Delegate system says that they lost, something is seriously wrong. And no nation availing itself of its dubious virtues can call itself a democracy with a straight face or the slightest shred of credibility.


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