The first major political dispute in this country was the constant battle between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. These two men almost single handedly were responsible for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. They both understood that individualism held the key to the economy. However, they strongly differed on many issues.
Adams was a Federalist. He believed in a strong central government, albeit limited in scope. Jefferson, on the other hand, believed in States’ rights. He believed that the central government’s power was derived from the people and should be very limited. The Federal government was primarily necessary to protect the country. Jefferson was a firm believer in the Tenth Amendment and its principles. You can review my prior article about this Amendment for background. But, that is not what I am talking about today. This article is about the way government operates today and what is necessary of our leaders to keep America great.
What is the main difference between governmental disputes today and the disputes of the Founders? In my opinion it is a deep lack of mutual respect between the opposing sides.
Jefferson and Adams were on both sides of the political spectrum. But, they had tremendous respect for each other. Both of them believed the other had strong arguments and had to be reckoned with. In fact, despite their bickering, the two were always close friends and it is rumored that when Adams died, his last words were roughly, “At least Jefferson still lives.” Little did he know that Jefferson had died a few hours earlier on the same day. Both of them dying that day was not the only coincidence that day. It also happened to be July 4; the day this country was created primarily because of them.
Today, we have extreme governmental infighting. The Democrats that control Congress do not want to hear the opinions of the Republican minority. They are intent on passing whatever legislation they are pushing, whether it be “Cap and Trade,” or Health Care Reform, regardless of the opinions of the minority. And, the war of words from the Democratic side is blistering. From the “great” Pelosi stating that protesting Health Care Reform is “Un-American,” to the blind arguments of Barney Frank, the opposition is ignored and ridiculed.
The Republicans are not immune to this hatred as well. There are many in my party that are attacking the current Administration as being Fascist and Hitleresque. Calling President Obama a socialist is fare political argument, but comparing him to Hitler is not.
And, based upon what I have heard since the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, I fear the rhetoric is going to get worse. As all of you who read my column already know, I am no fan of the Kennedys or of Teddy’s political leanings in any way, shape or form. However, one thing I did not know until this week was that Teddy was considered the master of compromise in the Senate. Per an interview with Oren Hatch this morning, he was always capable of finding the one thing in a bill that the other side could clasp onto. If this is true, then where is the next compromiser now that he is gone?
I can assure you, he or she is not coming from the far left. The language from Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Barney Frank (who from what I hear is salivating at the thought of replacing Kennedy), Chris Dodd, and Barbara Boxer, et. al, is that the Republicans be damned. We have got the votes, to hell with them. Even if the controlling party has to invoke Reconciliation in the Senate, they are going to pass Health Care Reform and anything else that fits their blind ambition.
President Obama is also guilty of this. Although he was elected under the promise of bipartisanship and change, he is doing neither. Allowing Attorney General Eric Holder to begin investigating the interrogation practices of the Bush Administration is setting a dangerous precedent. And, it is breaking his campaign promise of moving forward. It is bringing up the past for what: political gain; revenge; appeasement of the far left; who knows? It is not going to mend any political fences in Washington. It is just going to open up old wounds and further separate the opposing sides of government.
So, where will this spirit of compromise come from? Maybe in the 2010 elections? If the Republicans can gain control of the Senate and/or the House, in the same way they did in 1994, President Obama will be forced to compromise and listen. He will have to listen to the strong voices of Eric Cantor, Oren Hatch and the other Republican members of Congress. We may actually then have a working government again.
But first, the name calling has got to stop. Both sides of the aisle have got to learn to respect the opposing argument and listen to it. You cannot govern with blinders on. Listening is one of the most important ways to learn. Being an attorney by trade, one of the first things I learned when practicing is that both sides may “agree to disagree.” Until that occurs within Congress, the greatness that is America will remain stalled.
As I have said many times in this column, I love my country. I am a proud American. I always have been and always will be. We must remain true to our Founding Fathers. The power of this country is in the individual, not the government. It is in the creativity, drive and ambition of the individual, regardless of that person’s background. I am the child of working class Italian-Americans. Everything I have achieved has been through my own doing with the support of my family. And, that is the same for all great Americans. Let us do whatever is necessary to keep America great. Let us learn to listen.
© 2009 by Frank T. DeMartini. Permission to copy will be freely granted upon request.