And there’s a light shining in the dark
Leading me on towards a change of heart
i’ve just read an interesting blog post over at mediumhistorica entitled representing colonial politics in modern america: the tea party movement and the need for a federalist response. i do not remember how i stumbled there, but i’m intrigued by some of the ideas i read in the piece.
the author notes how modern politicians tend to demonize big government, linking our Founding Fathers as champions of small, decentralized government:
Essentially, our modern interpretation is that Washington, Revere, Hancock, Adams, Jefferson, and any man who fired a gun at an enemy in a red coat, meant for us to be free of a cumbersome bureaucracy.
he further picks up on the idea that the tea party movement has similarly linked themselves to the dudes who dumped the tea into boston harbor because…well, wait. they weren’t protesting taxation. they were protesting, as i recall, taxation without representation. (and that’s not fair.)
it inspired me to crack a history book or two. (and not one forcefed to schoolchildren in texas.)
yes, back when our nation was still in kneepants, the venerable thomas jefferson (now apparently no longer making appearances in texas history books, natch) and james madison created a little thing called the democratic-republican party, a crew that ultimately split into…wait for it… the two parties we know today as democrats and republicans. among other things, this wacky crew was into state rights. they opposed another funky bunch, led by alexander hamilton, called the federalists. federalists were into a strong central government, a military, a central bank, among other things. people like john adams were federalists…and george washington, though an independent all his life, was known to be on the federalist side of things.
(yes, that george washington. you know, father of our country? dude who slept here and there and everywhere? a federal government isn’t always a bad thing, and george knew it.)
If colonial America did not put faith in the success of a powerful and central government, we would not be a united country today enjoying the wealth and success that we have come to assume to be the antithesis of governance. On a side note, it was the same mentality of eschewing central government which persisted to protect “States’ rights” as a means of preserving slavery. This famously led to the Civil War; in which the progressivism and stern governance of Lincoln saved the unity of this country.
obviously, anyone who stayed awake during high school history (and i did, mr. heffernan, wherever you are!) knows how the constitution came about and how both federalists and democratic-republicans both got their ya-yas out, getting bits that afforded a centralized federal government but with plenty of states rights concerns thrown in for good measure.
but the federalists eventually faded out of view. the author continues on to theorize how somehow, we went from founding fathers who were into a strong, centralized government to people being branded nazis and socialists if they appreciate a certain level of a federal entity. you know, like the tea baggers do?
The true history of the Federalist Party and early United States needs to be better represented in the social and political spheres of American life today. I think the real silent majority of today acknowledges the benefits of central government, but remains silent because of the stigmas America places on left-wing thought (see:pinko). Perhaps the American left also needs a nationwide, progressive, grassroots organization – like the Tea Party Movement.
interesting. i couldn’t agree more.