Thursday, June 08, 2017

America: Revolution, Civil War, or Revival?

By Douglas V. Gibbs

During the Obama administration, many conservatives feared the division being created by the first black president, and the total disregard by the Democrat Party by anyone who dared to disagree with them would lead the country to "blood in the streets."  The Democrats played on the often verbalized fears of the right-wing segment of the population, accusing the Tea Party, and their conservative cohorts, of being dangerous and prone to violence.  President Obama went as far as to accuse the Republicans and their allies of being "bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

People wondered what kind of form the violence the Democrats were sure the conservatives were capable of would eventually morph into.  Revolution?  A bloody civil war similar to the War Between the States a little over a hundred and fifty years ago?  A bitter divorce where the scorn of the loser would eventually lead to the possibility of the first two choices?

After the Revolutionary War against the British, which led to the independence of the United States, and the birth of a new country, the battle over what kind of political system the fledgling country should operate under raged.  The Articles of Confederation, a union agreement that had been tossed together during the war echoed the feelings of most residents in the former English Colonies.  The States retained all power, with the central government holding nearly no authorities, aside from, perhaps, declaring war.  However, in the face of insurrection, better known as Shays' Rebellion, it was realized that, though fearful of the potential tyranny of a strong central government, a new government was needed, and it needed to have more teeth than what existed under the "Articles."

During the Annapolis Convention in August of 1786, delegates from a number of the States suggested the Articles of Confederation needed to be fixed to reflect the new necessities that had arisen under the scope of being a new union of States that found it necessary to operate as a unified nation.  Alexander Hamilton, a Revolutionary War Hero and supporter of the United States becoming the next great empire, went so far as to suggest that the new country needed a new constitution.

Ripping up the Articles and replacing it with a new constitution was not a popular notion, at first.  The States had just fought Britain to get rid of a big government system ruling over them.  Why would they wish to create another big government system to replace the one they had just defeated?

During the Summer of 1787 a new constitution was written, and it was ratified by the number of States needed during 1788.  In 1789 a new Bill of Rights was proposed, and in 1791 enough States ratified it so that the first Ten Amendments became a part of the Law of the Land.  Out of that emerged two sides of the argument regarding the authorities granted to the new federal government by the U.S. Constitution.  One side argued that the original intent, based on the idea that the federal government's powers were limited to only those expressly enumerated in the document, was the basis of the rule of law in the country, and that the concept of constructionism should be strictly adhered to.  Thomas Jefferson emerged as the leader of the originalist ideology, and so emerged the Jefferson's Republican political party.

Alexander Hamilton led the charge behind the party of opposition against Jefferson's republicanism.  He argued that to keep the union intact, the federal government's powers needed to be more expansive, and that such a model for government was available through the Constitution through a concept he called "implied law."

Hamilton wrote that "there are implied, as well as express powers [in the Constitution], and that the former are as effectually delegated as the latter.  Implied powers are to be considered as delegated [to the federal government] equally with express ones." A nationalized bank, he went on to argue, was one of those implied powers.

Jefferson disagreed, arguing that the express powers delegated to the federal government in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution were expressly stated because they were the only powers delegated to the federal government by the sovereign states that ratified the Constitution. Any new powers, Jefferson believed, could be delegated only by a constitutional amendment.  Jefferson noted that such a doctrine as "implied powers" would render the Constitution useless as a tool for limiting government if the limits of government were simply left up to the imaginations of ambitious politicians like Hamilton.

George Washington condemned the notion of a "living constitution" in his Farewell Address. In that address President Washington said, "If in the opinion of the People, the distribution of modification of the Constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation . . . the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed."

Hamilton's theory of implied powers went against everything the Framers of the Constitution had intended, but his offerings would be eventually adopted as the way things are supposed to be after generations upon generations of lawyers and judges created a web of case law through the unconstitutional concept of judicial review.  In the long run, the courts have become the interpreters of the U.S. Constitution, rendering obsolete the formal amendment process, and essentially rendering the constitutional constraints on government null and void.

To promote and initiate his big government beliefs, the statists and nationalists of the era joined with Hamilton to form the Federalist Party, a political party that was hardly federalist in its platform, but they seized the name to soften the reality that what they really wanted was to usurp federalism, and rewrite the Constitution through implied law.

After the presidency of the Federalist Party's only resident in the White House, John Adams, the federalists retreated to the stronghold of the courts.  From their perch in the federal courts, the shock troops of the Federalist Party - federally appointed judges - used Hamilton's arguments to essentially rewrite history and the Constitution.  From that point on "liberal judicial activism" was born, and the evolution of the Constitution from originalism to a living and breathing document that could be changed by the whims of politicians and judges was put into motion.

Along the way the concept of "implied" powers has brought us to a point where nobody even understands what is truly in the Constitution.  Only the wise and lawyerly members of the powerful ruling elite, like Hamilton, is believed to be able to recognize what is supposed to be constitutional.  Unconstitutional powers have magically become constitutional.  Now, any action of the government is considered to be de facto "constitutional" by virtue of the fact that the action occurred. This is how Hamilton and his Federalist Party viewed the Constitution; a potential blank check for unlimited powers of government.

The American People, at first, were not fooled.  No revolution or civil war was required to unseat the Federalist Party.  Hamiton's political party simply lost the ability to win elections.  By the 1820s, unable to win even local seats, the party literally faded into obscurity, and a revival of constitutionalism and moral reconnection filled the void.

While the statists who once filled the seats of the Federalist Party enjoyed a new surge in victories through judicial activism, and by infiltrating Jefferson's Republican Party so that by the time Andrew Jackson was president it became the Democratic Party, seeking statism through the transitional concept of pure democracy, for the time being the collapse of the country in the name of utopianism and implied law had been warded off.

The divisions that existed between the Federalist Party and Jefferson's Republicans exists today, but the divide is deeper than mere politics.  The battle lines in the sand are also cultural, and racial.  The mere mention of the current President, Donald J. Trump, can endanger the safety of an individual.  Riots and the beatings of Trump supporters have emerged.  Conservative speakers have been silenced, and face refusal by many venues (often college campuses) to have the opportunity to voice their opinions.  We face a political, religious, and cultural polarization that threatens to not only divide the country along various lines, but also has led to physical confrontations that many times have become violent.  We have divided ourselves into warring factions that remind me more of a feudal system, than that of a country united in liberty.

Many believe we are in the midst of a political civil war.  Both the Democrat and Republican Parties are also experiencing their own civil wars within their own ranks.  The Democrats are wrestling with a form of progressivism that is more like communism; so much so that a self-avowed socialist, Bernie Sanders, made a very significant run for president in the party's primary in 2016.  Many forces tug at the reins of the party, from hard left to flower children, from gay rights groups to Muslim groups, from atheists to religious folks who believe the government should be a giant charity organization.

In the Republican Party the conservatives, the moderates, the constitutionalists, the establishment, and the anti-Trump Never Trump card carriers are all at odds.  The tugging and shouting primarily surrounds the current occupant of the White House, but aside from the Never Trumpers, the rest of the groups are at least willing to appear to try to give Trump a chance.

One thing, however, is for sure.  The right and the left have a greater gap between them than ever before, and many of the troops are willing to physically fight for their position on the political totem pole, rather than debate sensibly.

During the reign of Barack Obama, the liberal left Democrats worked together quite well, and they were convinced the ascension of the first black president was the final nail in the coffin of the hated
Republican Party.  The Democrats were positive the GOP was on its way to go the way of the Whigs (a reference to the party that disappeared as a result of the emergence of the Republican Party as the party against slavery prior to the War Between the States).  Now, the Democrats are in such disarray, despite the grumblings between the various factions within the GOP, Republicans are convinced the Democrat Party is on its death bed with only a communist respirator, a Muslim heart monitor, and a homosexual I.V. keeping it alive.  While the entertainment industry, academia, and the mainstream media continues to wave the Soviet flag of the Democrat Party in support, the people have spoken, and the Democrat Party's weakness has never been this great in recent memory.  The GOP holds the White House, the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, most governorships, and nearly three-quarters of the State legislatures.  But, the Democrats are convinced they will grab a House of Congress (or two) in the 2018 mid-term elections.

What if they don't?  What if the popularity of Trump increases?  What if the supporters of Trump are vindicated, and even the Never Trump crowd begins to see the light?  What if America really does become great again, and the sojourn of doubters to the GOP becomes so great that the Democrat Party, like the Federalist Party, simply loses the ability to win elections?

Are we on the verge of a revival similar to the one that emerged in the early nineteenth century?

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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