Friday, June 30, 2017

America is hacking away at its own democratic limb - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

Michael Gerson, Washington Post

Image from article, with caption: "George Washington speaks at the Constitutional Convention in 1787."

There is an element of America’s founding that anticipates, even welcomes, ... a clash of factions.[JB emphasis] James Madison sometimes sounded as if our constitutional structure is a finely tuned machine, counteracting ambition with ambition without need for the democratic virtues.
In fact, civility and a spirit of compromise were required, again and again, to prevent the Constitutional Convention itself from breaking apart in anger and recrimination. The structure resulted from the virtues. The heroes of the founding were not those who held the strongest views. It was those who held strong views and still found a basis for agreement — frustrating, disappointing, glorious agreement.
A constitutional convention held in 2017 would likely fail. It is sobering to think that the U.S. political system, at this point in history, would probably be too divided to reproduce itself. Who would want to face primary voters after being identified with a “great compromise”?
As most of the founders envisioned it, the constitutional order flies with two wings. The first is the system of separated and balanced powers. The second is a set of public virtues — such as civility, compromise and moderation — that turn the mob (which they feared) into citizens.
Our democratic structure is stressed but basically sound. The values, however, come in for routine, ideologically diverse abuse as weakness and surrender. Revive the Founders and they would see a country hacking away at its own democratic limb. ...

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