Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Nasty, divisive politics?

All the MSM seem to think that this campaign is especially mean and notably partisan. David Brooks seems to agree and tries to explain this great divide by saying that the two candidates are describing different realities, not only different policies, and we are in the middle of a "leadership war": i.e., Demos and Republicans are looking for differnt things in a leader. Read it and judge for yourself, but I’m not quite persuaded. William Schambra, writing for The Christian Science Monitor thinks that we ought to get a historic grip! Our politics have always been
tough, vicious, overstated and divisive and the people don’t really mind. It is only the elites that mind this, he argues, partly because in this robust political world they don’t seem to have much influence.

"The Founders believed, as James Madison noted in Federalist No. 10, that ’So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.’

The idea is that democracy would liberate individual self-interest and narrow political ambition to an unprecedented degree, thereby skewing our politics toward a fairly low common denominator. But the Founders believed that our dispersed, decentralized political institutions could harness and counterbalance this crude political energy, moderating it and directing it toward some semblance of the common good."

So we shouldn’t be shocked when Andy Jackson was described by his opponents as a bigamist, drunkard, adulterer, and even a murderer. Lincoln was called an ass, a grotesque baboon, a dictator, and a coarse vulgar joker (which he was, by the way). Schambra’s suggestion for us citizens: " In the closing days of this election season, American citizens should celebrate, enjoy, and throw themselves into the exasperating, wonderful spectacle of our presidential election.

And when they hear complaints about our debased politics, they should reflect on this lament: ’The age of statesmen is gone.... God save the Republic ... from the buffoon and gawk ... we have for President.’

That was the New York World in 1864, commenting on the renomination of Abraham Lincoln."

Discussions - 1 Comment

Based on The Smithsonian’s most recent cover story about the election of 1800, I would agree with Schambra. The 2000 election was nothing compared to the wheeling and dealing that went on in 1800. The House voted 36 times before Jefferson was finally confirmed president.

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