David McCullough generously compiled a biography of John Adams aptly entitled “John Adams”. My version of this inestimable work is the Simon & Schuster Paperbacks edition © 2001, from which the following historical data is taken. As you probably recall, George Washington, our first U.S. President was elected to two consecutive terms of office, under both of which John Adams served as Vice President. Adams himself was elected to a single term in 1796 and served as our second U.S. President with Thomas Jefferson as Adams’ Vice President. Jefferson, himself was elected our third U.S. President and assumed office in 1801 with Aaron Burr serving as his Vice President.
David McCullough calls to his reader’s attention the fact of several earnest discussions between Adams and Washington, during Washington’s Presidential tenure regarding the sad state of political “parties” and how these parties were tearing the country apart with the country hardly even being born (my words). The two parties at the time were The Federalists and The Republicans, both of which were stirring the pot quite handily via the backroom dealings of Hamilton and Jefferson. The press during this time was biased and cruel, taking the politics of personal destruction almost to the point of absurdity.
You may also recall that Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison had written 85 essays, now referred to collectively as “The Federalist Papers” encouraging Americans to adopt the newly written U.S. Constitution. This of course was the beginning of what was later to become the Federalist Party, whose platform favored a strong central government. Federalists envisioned the central government being responsible for assuming state’s debts, developing tax law, creating a central bank and, of course, foreign policy. Foreign policy was a significant issue at the time because the French Revolution was under way, Napoleon Bonaparte was on the loose, and U.S. shipping was threatened. The Federalists largely favored England over France in the European disagreement growing out of the French Revolution.
Jefferson became the outspoken leader of the anti-federalist movement, which grew to become the Republican Party in the early 1790’s. Republicans feared that a strong central government might endanger or even threaten individual liberty and state’s rights. Republicans argued vehemently against a central bank, which they believed to unfairly favor the upper class. They tended to support France over England due to France’s support during the American Revolution.
Any of this feel familiar? Reading McCullough’s biography of John Adams brings to mind the possibility that journalism school was born sometime in the 1790’s and never recovered from its birth pains. Apparently, poison pens are passed out at graduation. Adams, who was adamantly against any kind of political party, actually lost his election in 1800 to Jefferson by a very narrow margin, precisely because he refused to participate in party politics or to manipulate public opinion through the press. Jefferson, on the other hand, was an early master at using the press and employing third parties to sway public opinion.
From the very inception of the United States, political parties were perhaps necessary, but personally destructive. As Bruce Springsteen says in a song lyric – I don’t recall which, “with every dream there comes a curse”.
The United States was difficult to manage even in the beginning. Today we span 320 million people coast to coast. Trillions have become common and are so overwhelming a normal person cannot get their arms around the concept. Career politicians now casually use the term to convey a sense of their “worldliness” and supposed grasp of all matters great and small. It is passé for Congress to vote on thousand plus page bills that no one even pretends to read. As a people we have no idea who is writing these bills, what their background may be or their motives. Who do they answer to? Is there any oversight at all prior to the vote? This is not an effective management technique. Peter F. Drucker would rise from his grave and scream in agony, should he learn this is common U.S. practice.
Add to this one more ingredient, which did not yet exist at the time of Adams and Jefferson and you finally have a mix that is beginning to pierce the balloon. That ingredient is corruption. Corruption grown to be so vast, so inconceivably large, so multi-tiered and deeply entrenched that our career politicians caught helplessly in its undertow now consider graft their due if not their obligation. I doubt there is one single politician today who knows or could acknowledge what constitutes a “conflict of interest”.
Fortunately, I believe, I was taught “old school”. My first boss, registered civil engineer Timothy A. Gremmer once lectured me as I was beginning my first season as a construction inspector, “Never accept even a single cup of coffee from a contractor whose work you’re inspecting. It seems like nothing, but suddenly you’ll find it nearly impossible to bite the hand that’s feeding you; and there will come a time when you’ll have to bite if you’re going to do your job.” I never forgot what Mr. Gremmer said to me that sunny, spring morning in Wisconsin and it turned out to be advice that has served me well more times than I care to remember. It has never, however, made me a lot of money.
A “conflict of interest” is such an obvious thing and so obviously wrong that I cannot comprehend how any decent person could allow themselves to become compromised by it. Yet in Washington today, it’s a matter of course. Our career politicians are openly bought and paid for “on the table” and the return special interest payoffs are plainly “in our face” without the slightest concern for who knows or who can see. The nearly $800 billion de-stimulus bill consisted almost entirely of undisguised cronyism payoffs. It’s enough to make a goat puke and that ain’t easy to do.
Take a look at our 2008 financial collapse. We see federal regulators forcing banks to write bad business for three decades so the regulators can garner votes from folks who can’t pay back loans. The banks complain about the obvious risk so the regulators transfer the risk to a gullible third party, that would be the tax payer. The bad business bank risk is now guaranteed by the hapless tax payer, so bank greed is encouraged to run amok completely unfettered – not because there is no regulation, but because of the regulation. Then we see banks paying off the regulators to keep quiet about the greed and to make sure the banks are protected from the resounding crash. Next we see the regulators paying off the banks again so the banks won’t tattle on who forced them to write the bad business in the first place. Finally we see the banks paying off the regulators again so the regulators can be re-elected and supposedly fix the problem they caused in the first place.
The fix, of course, involves the regulators passing more regulations making sure the banks are well taken care of and the back door tracks are well coverd. Meanwhile the broken, dazed tax payer, head spinning like a top is paying for all of it; and so will his and her kids. The sickest part of all this is we are calmly discussing a level and depth of financial corruption and theft beyond our imagining and for the U.S. Congress, it’s business as usual. With the “new transparency” arriving in January of 2009 the “Change We Can Believe In” turns out to be “even more business and more usual by even more folks”. Wouldn’t you like to be on this gravy train? Or not?
The question becomes how long can the spinning top spin? Are we simply too top heavy? The red, white and blue top has become a shrinking socialist economy trying impotently to hold up a burgeoning mountain of corrupt government services and debt. Has the United States become too wobbly to manage? The unequivocally obvious answer is yes. The top is not going to fall; it’s falling now behind a comfortable news curtain of denial. The proof is in the failure pudding and the burning utopian pie. I rest my case…but is there a transparent, readable recipe for success somewhere in the cupboard?
Well, fortunately there is. Just behind our unused sterling silver serving tray, the secret recipe lies dusty and dormant within the age old Federalist / Republican debate that raged literally from America’s day-one and ceased on July 4th, 1826. The debate was never resolved; just tabled. It is time to honestly dust off, re-engage and awaken that debate; quickly. The North American Union (NAU) is coming on like a freight train running down hill. If you think the U.S. is unmanageable now, wait till we’re done marrying Mexico’s stupendously endemic corruption to Canada’s listless socialism, the entirety frosted with what has already become the world’s largest banana republic – that would be us. We are in for a very serious, very large serving of failure pie. Bush pushed this mightily for his leg of the relay. Obama has deftly taken the baton and is running his own lap in world record time. Two sides of the same coin rolling on its silvery edge to a single destination; Desolation Row along with everything Dylan sang it was.
Now I understand that China’s one billion people are rapidly becoming the economic force of the world. I understand the European Union organized economic defense system. I also understand that the paltry 320 million population of the U.S. alone isn’t likely to cut it competitively against these two behemoths. Then there are a billion more folks in India and another billion or so Muslims running around on top of all that. So, the NAU then would bump North America to roughly half a billion united people of our own, which may seem better odds. I get that, but I don’t buy it. When your drunken friends are racing off a cliff in the dark of night, your friendship does not obligate you to do the same. Sometimes a good friend makes his other friends, even though intoxicated with utopian dreams, aware of the fast approaching cliff. It’s the decent thing to do. We should do that, if not for our friends, then at least for ourselves and our children.
Thomas Jefferson authored, or wrote the U.S. Declaration of Independence. John Adams eloquently and successfully carried the public debate through its passage and signing by the 56 Founders. Jefferson then is considered the “pen” and Adams the “voice” of the Declaration, which never would have been written or agreed to without the considerable effort and cooperation of both men. Did you know that Thomas Jefferson passed away at 1:00 P.M. on July 4th, 1826 and John Adams passed at 6:20 P.M. that same afternoon; the afternoon of the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence?
Many, at the time considered the passing of these two men on the same day and with that day being of such portent to be a sign of Divine favor; and maybe it was. Today I have come to believe that the deaths of these two Founders constitute an exclamation point of sorts, halting, but never completing their ongoing discussion regarding federal versus state’s rights and leaving the resolution of that discussion to some future generation. Like it or not, we are that generation. It is within our time that this discussion will come to full fruition. It is within our time that our democratic republic will live on or will cease to exist. Whether we choose to pick up the mantle of freedom and carry it forth, or whether we deny our burden in heavy silence; either way the question will be settled. Perhaps it would best if we chose to participate in this settlement so as not to have it imposed upon us by others. Is their yet a civil way to do this?
In that regard I make the following remarks and one request. Political parties are a necessary evil in so far as we have determined no other method of sensible organization toward communicating our societal views with large numbers of people spread over vast distances. This is a problem given the notorious bias of the press and our own stubborn adherence to whatever political views we hold. Our bias makes all of us easy and predictable targets for manipulation in terms of public opinion and policy. The larger we become, the more difficult to manage.
Two things must happen if the United States of America is to continue as the home of the brave and the land of the free. First, as individuals we may have to conscript ourselves to certain political parties, but in no instance should any of us be cajoled into choosing party over country; party over the common good. We may disagree as to what the common good is in a particular instance, but we will always find an agreeable answer if we honestly search for it and in good faith place the good of the people over the good of the party. This is hopelessly naïve, but survival requires it. Political expedience can no longer stand as an acceptable priority.
Secondly, the age old argument between Federalism and Republicanism; that is between big government and states’ rights must be settled in the states’ favor. If we do this, the reins of government will be safely handed to the people. Government will stay “closer” to the people and as such will have a greater chance of success. Should something like the NAU come into being for whatever practical reason; the possibility of it having a totalitarian structure will be significantly reduced. To the extent the United States opts out for bigger government over State’s rights, the U.S. itself is harmed in the meantime and the potential for the NAU to develop into something very bad for people becomes catastrophically large.
I am not a proponent of the NAU. I’m not one who believes that bigger is necessarily better, but as Adams once argued it’s nice to have that big old Navy when the outside world comes calling. A strong military takes a lot of money and a lot of support. It may be that the NAU is inevitable. If so, then the question becomes what will be its nature? What kind of NAU will it be? Totalitarian or democratic republic? Will the smaller component factions or states or provinces or parishes be protected? Will individual liberty be defended?
A healthy foundation constructed by our generation today, will support any imperfect future political structure better than if that foundation is ignored. Our failure to build that foundation today will assure the slavery and indentured servitude of our children, grandchildren and generations of children to come. Is this what our generation will sell out for? Or will we fight for the liberty that others bled for on our behalf, that we might save it for yet some other generation to fight for and protect?
I respectfully request that we agree to argue our points and defend our parties in as civil a manner as possible, but once in the voting booth, to put our bias aside and to the best of our ability as decent people, do the right thing for continued individual freedom in the United States. To do less is to lose everything.
Additionally and lastly, there is no reason to accept the inevitability of the NAU. I see little proof of operational success to date, with the enormously complicated European Union. There is no indication that China can actually support and govern more than one billion people in a constructive manner for any length of time. The Middle East is not yet lining up to play nicely together. India does not seem in a hurry to dominate. There may well be no reason to even seriously consider something as preposterous as the NAU. In any event, that does not constitute a justification for voter irresponsibility on the part of any free American citizen…not if that citizen is to remain free.