The Division of America
From its earliest beginnings, the idea of America united the thirteen British Colonies. There were many British subjects who took umbrage with the heavy hand of King George and the Crown's policies as they were were applied in the Colonies. These frustrations accumulated over time to the point where they became intolerable and more and more Colonists decided they had had enough, until eventually they got together and decided to declare independence from Great Britain. That idea, the spark that ignited what was to become the United States of America, was based on a set of shared principles and values. Those principles are what have held Americans together as a nation all these years, and resulted in the most powerful and productive nation the world has ever seen. Unfortunately, most of these principles have now been forgotten. They are no longer taught, and the majority of voters no longer understand freedom, the Constitution (and thus the proper role of government), and their duties as citizens. Many voters do not even understand the difference between a democracy and a republic, and thus they vote now as if there were no constraints, no limits, no Constitution. The guard rails that have kept America together for centuries have been removed and the electorate is swerving about recklessly, violently, on a road at the edge of a cliff. What follows is a list of the principles that I contend that the majority of voters no longer understand, but that once held us together, and to which we must return if we are to survive:
- The Constitution was a document granting a very specific and limited set of powers from the people to the federal government. Most people today have not even read the simple four page document, and do not understand the Constitution, which is still the law of the land. Because of this, voters are ignorant of what powers legitimately fall to the federal government, versus a state or local government. Thus they vote for parties, people, and platforms that fly in the face of Constitutional limits. Politicians, seeking more and more power, are eager to ignore the Constitution and plow forward as if it was not an impediment to aims that are not even remotely within the legitimate scope of the federal government, or in many cases, government at all.
- The Bill of Rights was a document that the federalists argued was completely unnecessary, because it only prohibited the federal government from doing things that were clearly outside of the scope of it's power in the first place. The antifederalists persisted, and thus we have a Bill of Rights which are now looked at by many, who don't know better, as the only list of things the federal government (and now state and local governments, where 14th amendment incorporation applies) cannot do. This would have been an anathema to all in the founders' generation. Nevertheless, most voters today completely ignore not only the Constitution, but also the Bill of Rights, in their demands on politicians and on each other. We must appreciate and respect the rights of our neighbors to have freedom of thought, freedom of speech, the right to keep and bear arms, etc.
- It was originally a given that the role of government was to be very specific, and very limited. The founders understood very clearly that any concentration of power in government was exceedingly dangerous, and thus designed a number of limits and checks and balances on power to hopefully prevent a similar situation as they had just fought to shake free of through the American Revolution. George Washington put it eloquently when he said "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence,—it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant, and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined." said James Madison. And perhaps most accurately, Thomas Jefferson said plainly that "When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny."
- There was once a time in America that people believed in tolerance, and that individuals had a right to believe what they wanted, and they were free to express those beliefs. That was enshrined in the First Amendment which stated that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Today, however, many voters use their right to petition the government to enact laws specifically prohibiting the free exercise thereof and abridging the freedom of speech, specifically "hate speech" or "offensive speech" or "religious expression" even to the point where they prohibit others from praying or enacting a manger scene or opposing criminal behavior, particularly when that criminal behavior is conducted by a particular "chosen" race or religious class or other group arbitrarily deemed to be "victims." Classic liberals such as Voltaire believed in the principle "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Today, many "liberals" seem to want to fight to the death to silence any and all dissenting opinions. People once said we will "agree to disagree" and move on. Senators once supported the nomination of good people to posts by a President, with whom they disagreed. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a very leftist justice appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton, and confirmed by a vote of 96 to 3 in 1993. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a middle-right justice appointed by President Donald Trump in 2018, was confirmed with a vote of only 50-48 after an extremely contentious battle which nearly ripped the country apart. Civility and respect for the opposition has become a casualty of the loss of these principles, and lies and dirty tricks now pervade. Rampant intolerance of diverse opinions and thought has become the norm, with millions running to safe spaces so as not to be offended.
- The 2018 election demonstrates that the country is dividing on geographic lines. And I don't mean along any modern day Mason-Dixon line. Rural America is getting redder, and urban America is getting bluer. Every election, the trends seem to get even more defined. Republicans are moving out of urban areas to rural areas, and Democrats are moving from rural areas to urban areas. Personally, I believe this has to do with the urban culture of dependence, but I digress. The Democrats cast nearly 8 million more votes than Republicans in 2018, but carried less than 500 counties of over 3100 counties in the US total. Obama carried 800 counties in 2008, and only 600 in 2012. Those of you familiar with the Constitution and history understand the important debate and reasons behind the Connecticut Compromise that led to the Electoral College, and why the Electoral College is essential to keeping a unified nation. That debate used to be widely taught in schools, so that we understood the importance of it, but today, sadly, many voters have never even heard of the Connecticut Compromise, and do not understand why the Electoral College is so important to our election process.
- Even more frightening, many voters do not even understand what kind of government America has. Many people, including even some on the right, believe that we have a democracy, and some will qualify that by claiming we have a "representative democracy" but the truth is that democracies are extremely dangerous and the founders warned against any form of a democracy. Historically, democracies have been short-lived violent experiments where mob rule used the power of the state to attack, steal from, and even kill political enemies. James Madison said that "democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” Thomas Jefferson declared that "A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine." Hamilton, in the last letter he ever wrote, warned that "our real disease is democracy." John Adams, our second president, wrote: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.” The Constitution itself, in Article IV, Section 4, declares: "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”
- Americans, traditionally, have been a proud and fiercely independent people, both collectively and individually. Americans prized "rugged individualism" through which individuals and families would venture into the dangerous unknown to build lives for themselves, and would not accept being told what to do or what to think by anyone. Today, the opposite seems true. Many people have seemingly lost not only the ability for critical individual thinking, but even the ability to recognize themselves as a unique individual apart from one "oppressed class" or another. Not only do many, if not most Americans now see themselves as compilations of various "oppressed" classes, but they then look to governments for social justice, something governments were never designed to mete out. They use government as a bludgeon they can use against their political enemies, silence them, and steal wealth from them. Sound familiar?
- Americans once believed in the principle "e pluribus unum" "from many, come one" America was once a melting pot where race nor color nor creed nor ethnicity determined ones station in life. The Declaration of Independence proclaims that "that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” We are all given equal opportunity to succeed or fail, to pursue our dreams. Today, people are not taught these principles. Instead the reverse seems true- the principle of multiculturalism promotes "e unum pluribus" or "from one come many." We are no longer individual Americans capable of coming to our own conclusions, but now we can only find worth as a member of an "oppressed" race or sex or creed or religion, and the more oppressed groups you belong to, the higher your "score" in society. Why pull yourself up by your bootstraps and make something of yourself when you can ask for handouts and demand that government steal from others to provide for your needs as a member of an "oppressed" group? Naturally, such a system is self-defeating.
For decades, the above principles have not been taught to most American students, who have now, in time, become the majority of American voters. These core American principles have fallen by the wayside, and the majority of American voters no longer understand how to vote properly in the American system. They make demands of politicians that are not consistent with Constitutional principles. They vote as if America were an Athenian democracy, rather than the republic that it is. Many have been indoctrinated to believe that America is not only not exceptional, but that is should be destroyed in some cosmic fit of social justice, and that concentrated power is no longer a bad thing, as long as those in power serve your needs. We are about to cross the Rubicon as a nation. We can either return to the Constitutional principles that made America great, and come together as a nation, or we can break apart fighting one another because we've lost focus of who we are as a nation. We have lost our moral compass as a nation. We are no longer following the Constitution, the rule of law, or the Judeo-Christian values upon which the law is built - all of which are absolute prerequisites to a stable and free society. I will leave you with the wise words of Thomas Jefferson: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”