Opperman: Revisiting The FederalistWritten by Matt Opperman | | email@example.com
“Nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit, which has, at all times, characterized political parties.” — The Federalist
Partisanship is so rampant in this country it seems as if moderation is a relic of the past. Our politicians have become so engrossed in beating the other party they seem to have lost sight of everyone in the middle. We are under a constant barrage of differing political viewpoints, with each becoming more and more intolerant of any opposing view. It is getting ever harder to make sense of and discover the truth in all of the heated vitriol out there, and there often seems to be a severe lack of historical perspective in this debate.
The United States Constitution was written in 1787 but not ratified until 1789. During those two years, an intense debate raged across the land regarding the future direction of our newly freed country. Both sides of the battle felt that its vision of America was the lone proper course of action, and there was no room for compromise.
At the time, there was a series of 85 letters written to the American people, all published anonymously in newspapers. Those essays came to be known as The Federalist. The Federalist is now widely considered to be one of the most important pieces of literature in the history of political science. George Washington said at the time, “[The Federalist] will merit the notice of posterity, because in it are candidly and ably discussed the principles of freedom and the topics of government.”
I was surprised to discover how pertinent the debates of the 1780s are to the debates of today. All of the following quotes are taken from The Federalist No. 1, originally published in October 1787.
“Happy will it be if our choice should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests, unperplexed and unbiased by considerations not connected with the public good.”
Before we can answer any of the questions we are faced with, we need to determine just what our true interests really are. Do our politicians really have the public good in mind, or are they serving other interests?
“The plan offered to our deliberations affects too many particular interests, innovates upon too many local institutions, not to involve in its discussions … views, passions and prejudices little favorable to the discovery of truth.”
This is the problem with the majority of modern political discourse. The crises we face affect us all, but so much of the talk we hear is based on the passions and prejudices of a few meant only to hide the truth and disguise the messages we Americans need to consider the most.
“Among the most formidable obstacles … the obvious interest of a certain class of men in every State to resist all changes which may hazard a dimunition of power.”
The incredibly powerful special interests like how the system works today, with their money holding the power in politics. They will do almost anything to hold onto that power, usually at the expense of the common good.
“A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations, and the bitterness of their invectives.”
Both major parties believe that only their position is correct, and the only way to prove this is to discredit the opposition, but we must always remember that moderation and compromise are the keys to achieving a policy beneficial to everyone.
“An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government will be stigmatized … the stale bait for popularity at the expense of the public good.”
While it is true that there is much wrong with the system today, it is nothing that cannot be fixed.
It is often stated that those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it. This has been just a sampling of the wisdom found in the first of the 85 essays that make up the incredible piece of work known as The Federalist.
We can all use The Federalist, “to putting you upon your guard against all attempts to influence your decision in a matter of the utmost moment to your welfare by any impressions other than those which may result from the evidence of truth.”
Email Matt Opperman at firstname.lastname@example.org.