“Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?” (Hamilton, Alexander; Jay, John; Madison, James. The Federalist Papers, p. 185, Kindle Edition.)
“… [T]he common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
“… The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.” (Washington’s Farewell Address, 1796)
It does not bode well for the survival of our constitutional self-government that the politics of the United States presently exhibits, in an increasingly uninhibited way, precisely the threats and dangers our nation’s founders foresaw as most likely to destroy it. At the moment, for example, our political news is dominated by controversy over the allegation that, during our last presidential election, the strategists of a foreign power were bent on “raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy” of the U.S. government. Such an ill intention ought obviously to be of great concern to everyone, but especially those sworn to uphold and defend our constitutional self-government and independence.
But instead of an effective effort to ascertain whether there was a real threat to our national independence, and deal with it effectively, our government officials seem totally preoccupied with its implications for their partisan interests and ambitions. This has inevitably focused attention on the use or abuse, for partisan purposes, of the supposedly non-partisan officials staffing our national intelligence and counter-intelligence bureaucracies.
In the last presidential election, did the Obama/Clinton Party abuse the resources of those agencies to aid a smear campaign/witch hunt against President Trump? Are the elitist faction’s minions in Congress now bent on impugning ability of those agencies to function objectively, at a time when public trust in our intelligence professionals is greatly needed but, understandably, in short supply? Does either party in Congress have the ability to eschew factional aims long enough to secure public confidence in an effort to clean house?
With the encouragement of the speciously amoral pretensions of contemporary social and political science, America’s political elites now routinely neglect, or openly dismiss, our first president’s warning against “the spirit of party.” In fact, they encourage us to accept an analysis of politics which treats the manipulation of partisan passion as a positive good – the indispensable generator of the energetically alternating currents needed to sustain the waves of support and opposition people in positions of power can exploit to invest themselves with public authority.
This approach to politics discards the idea of a common good, rooted in premises of God-endowed natural right and justice, which all the people of the United States are supposed to respect and preserve. This idea induced our country’s founding generation to stake their newborn nation’s future on a radically novel experiment in democratic, republican self-government. Unlike our present elitist faction, the prevailing leadership in that generation saw common ground between the nation’s likely leaders and the people as a whole.
It was this common ground that led President Thomas Jefferson to believe that “… every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principles. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. …”
But Jefferson also recognized that the key to this commonalty had to do with the fact that the people of the United States were “enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here, and his greater happiness hereafter; …” (Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address)
Even a cursory review of our nation’s present social mores suggests a less promising list of traits, in which self-serving deceit and fakery has replaced honesty and truth; self-indulgence and self-sufficiency have overridden temperance and gratitude; and unapologetic narcissism and self-love have vanquished all but the outward show of love for humanity. The dispositions of God’s Providence are now to be overridden by the whims of speciously autonomous and self-regarding passions, emboldened to force themselves, by law, upon any conscience that refuses to serve and honor them.
In both wings of the elitist faction the freedom derived from superior power has replaced the premise of obligation, rooted in God-endowed right, as the core meaning of liberty. But where power usurps the name of right, all forms of government devolve to forcible tyranny – which people enslaved by ambition forcibly impose on others, enslaved by fear or the addictive blandishments of selfish materialistic passions.
Among a people thus surrendered into slavery, where will the government established to control them find characters willing to govern themselves disinterestedly enough to do so? It might be, as Madison suggests, among the angels, but why should a people that has openly or tacitly abandoned all respect for God expect His Providence to supply them? Instead, their government must consist in people like themselves, habitually overruled by selfishly passionate desires, attachments and ambitions, that unfit them for any duty but directly perpetuates their stay in power.
Thus, it continues until, as Washington foresaw, “the chief of some prevailing faction … turns this disposition to the purposes of his [or her] own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.” To Americans willing to believe their eyes, those ruins of liberty are already in the making. Does it really matter which elitist faction tyrant-in-the-making seals its fate? Is either wing of the elitist faction at all capable of casting aside its factional bonds in order to identify and serve the nation’s common good?