States’ Wrongs

You like state control of health care, Gov Romney? Wanna debate the issue with the Father of the U.S. Constitution?

“The mutability of the laws of the States is found to be a serious evil. The injustice of them has been so frequent and so flagrant as to alarm the most steadfast friends of Republicanism. I am persuaded I do not err in saying that the evils issuing from these sources contributed more to that uneasiness which produced the Convention, and prepared the public mind for a general reform…”

-James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 1787

Bill of Rights and Wrongs

Recently I was part of an international jury at the 29th Aydın Doğan International Cartoon Competition in Turkey. Some of the jurors and competitors were from countries where citizens who criticize the government can find themselves in prison.

The cartoonists, and their editors, in those countries tread carefully. (Yet one of the main themes among the competing cartoons was revolution. Here’s the co-winner, created by the Turkish artist Doğan Arslan.)

In Turkey, there are more than 100 journalists and a number of mayors and activists jailed by the government on invented charges.

In the U.S., our President has been labeled an extremist-Muslim-Communist-terrorist-Kenyan-alien plotting the destruction of our country. The punishment for the accusers is having Fox microphones and cameras thrust into their faces.

We are protected from arbitrary arrest by our Bill of Rights, which, generally, our government has adhered to since the Constitution was adopted. Many people today probably think the Bill of Rights is the Constitution, but it wasn’t even part of the original document.

What Federalists like Washington, Hamilton, Adams, and Madison actually created with the Constitution was a strong central government that was good for business and muscular enough to protect those in power from the people.

But when it came time to vote for or against the Constitution, many citizens refused to give up their demand for a Bill of Rights.

By 1789, with the Federalists pushing hard, all the states had passed the Consitituion. In 1791:

Update: Imagine if George Washington had acted like today’s Egyptian generals and said, “Guys, your Bill of Rights is certainly symbolically important, and I’m all for it in principle, but, for now, I and my army think our national security and the economy require that we put it on hold.”

The Functional Founders

There’s general agreement that today’s Congress is totally dysfunctional. Conservatives and Tea Partiers proclaim that, if we go back to the time of the Founding Fathers and adhere to the Constitution, life would be simpler and better for everyone. They want us to believe that, while the Founders disagreed, they were like an a cappella singing group, hitting different notes, but basically in harmony:

Hardly! As you’ll see in my book, Taxes, The Tea Party, and Those Revolting Rebels, there was at least as much discord then as now. The different sides held diametrically opposing views of what was good for this country. They were suspicious, calculating, devious, bull-headed, and hostile towards each other:

However, the conservatives are on the right track: For all their acrimony, the Founders were ready to get things done for the good of the country.

Eventually, scarred and battle weary, they produced a document solid enough to have carried us forward for over 200 years:

Imagine if today’s Congress were transported back to 1787 and were the ones responsible for producing the Constitution: