In the early days of our Republic our first constitution (The Articles of Confederation) was a dismal failure. Having been essentially independent from England’s rule for many decades, it was the best that could be agreed upon at the time: a compromise. Under it, the newly formed States maintained their individual sovereignty and power. But that was it’s greatest flaw: a powerless Federal government with the inability to make States do anything, including paying the enormous costs associated with supplying an army. When British troops were thought to be moving near any area, nearby States often refused to send troops to Washington’s Continental Army, keeping them home in case of attack.
But when the Continental Congress was tasked to address its problems after the war had been all but won, rather than fix it, they threw it away and discussed Madison’s Constitution, the bulk of which became our Constitution. There was a problem though. Many people thought it gave far too much power to the new Federal government. People feared they were trading tyranny under Great Britain for tyranny under the new Federal Government. Two groups formed, our first political parties, what Washington referred to as political factions: the Federalists and the Anti-federalists.
The Federalists thought the balance between State and Federal power was about right. They felt that the tricameral system of checks and balances combined with specifically enumerated Federal powers ensured that it would never become a threat to individual liberty. (The Constitution makes it clear that powers not specifically granted to Federal government are not legitimate powers). The Federalists were primarily New Englanders and businessmen.
The Anti-Federalists, on the other hand, made up of primarily farmers and those living in the wilderness, believed that Government always finds a way to grow, and that the powers taken by government are proportionate to the loss of individual liberties. For them, ratification of this new constitution would only be acceptable if it included a Bill of Rights declaring specific “untouchable rights”. They got their Bill of Rights and the Constitution was ratified.
Fast forward to today.
In my opinion, the Democratic and Republican parties are different sides of the same Federalist coin. Both parties regularly advocate increasing the scope and reach of the Federal Government, though they typically disagree on how and in what areas. But members of both parties have proven that their allegiance lies first with themselves. For example, one of the greatest threats to the United States today is our debt, yet neither party has demonstrated any willingness to compromise in order to address it. As of the date of this writing, we are about $20,000,000,000,0000 in debt. (To put twenty trillion dollars in perspective, consider that 1 light year is about 5.88 trillion miles. So with each mile equaling one dollar, a beam of light would have to travel for about 3 years and 5 months to equal this number. Now that’s some distance!)
As the American people took on and defeated the greatest military on the planet at the time, the citizenry later took on most of our Founders, some of the greatest political minds in history. Armed with historical knowledge, reason, passion and fear, our early citizenry correctly identified a very dangerous threat and addressed it. They got their Bill of Rights, for themselves, for their children, for you, and for your children.
I believe that what is needed today is a new Anti-Federalist movement again, based on historical knowledge, reason, passion, and fear. There are many things that Americans from disparate political beliefs can agree upon which neither party will ever address. And that’s because in order to secure liberty, government (and our current Representatives’ power) must yield.
Consider these questions:
• Would you support the idea of limiting Senators’ terms to 2 and Congress members’ to 3? After which these Representatives would need to return to private life for some time and live under the laws they created.
• How about removing the lifetime pay and pensions Representatives receive even after serving only 1 term?
• Would you support a requirement that they must be subject to all laws they create (e.g. the same healthcare packages the rest of are required to use, etc.)?
• Do you believe that when interacting with the public and while performing official duties, government officials should be able to prevent you from recording them?
None of these ideas are either Democratic or Republican, but all have met severe resistance from both parties though they are supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans. Though some will object to some of these ideas and some will insist on some slight changes, these are the kind of ideas we can actually work with and get done, but only if enough of us demand it. After all, it’s been done before.