Response to Those Who Would Despair of the Present State of the Union
Why are you guys so sad??? Yes there are scandals and overreaches and abuses of power and failures to act… but these are flaws inherent to the human condition, natural to the political assembly, and moreover familiar to every great American statesmen- ESPECIALLY the founding fathers! There is not a single issue discussed today that was not, in its fundamentals, discussed in Philadelphia, and later dealt with in the national capitals. And moreover, those founding fathers who first discussed those issues were later the ones directly involved with those same issues- bear in mind we can thank Hamilton for the unconstitutional expansion of federal powers, Jefferson for the divisive two-party system, and Adams for annoying rambling as a political institution.
The Good Old Days
Perhaps it is true, that the intellectual capacity of our leaders today is somewhat below that of those of the 18th and 19th centuries. (I would argue that the expansion of democracy is partly responsible for this, and thus it is both a good thing and a bad thing.) But however different the system is today, and however changed our political situation is today, there are two great strengths created at Philadelphia that preserve for us a perpetually grand opportunity. First, it is hard for change in the national system to come quickly. Factions are balanced and a ridiculously slow legislative process impedes the sort of change one might expect from a dictatorial revolutionary regime. The cases when change came most quickly were the cases of the greatest extremes- namely, the end of the Civil War and the dissolution of the South as a power base, and the onset of the Great Depression and the dramatic expansion of the federal government. Other, less severe cases can be observed throughout history. Second, regardless of how divided the American people are- ideologically, culturally, politically, demographically, economically, etc- they have, since 1776, possessed a common set of ideals which the grand majority of them generally subscribe to. And thus, though Republicans slash Democrats and vice-versa, they all do so in the name of Liberty, Equality, and Justice; and they all wave the flag and hail the Eagle.
These two great strengths, combined with a tradition of rule of law, a geography blessed with oceanic isolation and rich natural resources, and a coincidental point in the history of the modern age, have ensured for this union a raucous perpetuity not afforded to most nations of this Earth.
I, therefore, am of the opinion that we have nothing to worry about in the big picture. Many decades have resembled this one- the 1970s, the 1920s, the 1890s, etc- and we came out of each of those stronger and more prepared to meet with future challenges, and grand adventures and dramas followed each. So long as nothing directly threatens the core interests of our nation, and no threat, internal or external, proves able to bite a chunk of our territory or population, or bring down our institutions, I foresee that we will continue the great national story we have experienced since those gold miners came ashore in Virginia, and those pilgrims came ashore in Massachusetts. Of course it will not be pretty- the stuff of history never is. But it will make for one hell of a good story.
And, we may well be surprised. Perhaps after a decade or so of their memory being nothing but embarrassment and ridicule, Bush or Obama or McCain will go down as a Calhoun or a Jackson or a Webster or a Polk- perhaps more, or less. But regardless, the men of our day will only decide their actions. History will decide their destiny, and our posterity will decide their memory.