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Why America’s Elitists reject the Founding commitment to constitutional self-government

[Note to readers: This article is one of those pieces that comes from the place where thoughtful commentary and “journalism” diverge.  Sound reasoning requires that you lay the foundation before you build a house on it.  A journalistic approach leads with the conclusion and treats the foundation for understanding it as background or afterthought.  My aim in this blog is to help or even provoke people to think things through.  The resulting presentations often require greater patience from the reader, but can also bear more substantial fruit.  So, as the Doctor might say, please be patient with me.]

Readers who follow what I post on this blog and who read my weekly column at WND cannot help but notice my firm refusal to accept the partisan political paradigm (Democrat v. Republican) that dominates every aspect of political discussion among the “nattering nabobs” of the elitist faction’s media claque.  This refusal is partly because I have, all my adult life, been a student of America’s founders.  They generally relied on a view of the fundamental political divide that transcends the partisan vehicles of the moment.  It focuses on the more permanent historic divide between society’s elite and the people-at-large.  The divisions involved have gone by different names in different times and places: the Elders vs. their children, the Senators v. the plebeians, the nobles v. the common folk, the aristocrats v. the commoners, the gentlefolk v. the vulgar, the landholders v. the peasants or serfs, the wealthy v. the poor, and so on.

For a variety of reasons, (all of them having to do with the consequential decision in favor of democratic constitutional self-government made by America’s founding generation) this trans-historical understanding of the fundamental political divide has been obscured by the usual overlay of America’s political process. (I discuss this in the articles readers can access under the heading “America’s Real Party System” in the navigation bar.)  America’s founders sought to establish political institutions that would encourage continual co-operation across this fundamental divide (as readers will easily see, for example, in Federalist #36, Hamilton’s discussion of how of society’s diverse classes will be represented in the legislature when it comes to issues of taxation.)  Their efforts in this regard, as in respect to Federalism and the separation of power among the different branches of government, had much to do with their sincere interest in the success of democratic self-government.  They meant, by the various political, governmental and social checks and balances they institutionalized, to channel or forestall the ambitions and enmities that had characteristically doomed pure democracies.  They had taken a lesson from the experience of humanity; Pure democracies failed either because they utterly frustrated the ambition of society’s elite, or else, when that ambition became oppressive, they unleashed the pent-up envy or righteous resentment of the people-at-large.

This is, by the way, the pattern now observable in the so-called “Arab Spring” which, for their own reasons, America’s contemporary elitists insist on discussing as if it has something to do with America’s vision of constitutional self-government.  The failure to see and respect what distinguishes the American vision from what is going on in the Arab world isn’t just about the elitist faction’s stubborn unwillingness to speak honestly about the violent extremism among some practitioners of the Muslim religion.  It’s also about the studious rejection of the trans-historic political paradigm of America’s founders. In light of that paradigm, Islamic fundamentalism appears to be the lens through which the people-at-large are brought together in a way that focuses and intensifies their envy or righteous resentment against an abusive elite.  In this regard it is not unlike the stern fundamentalism that united England’s King beheading Roundheads behind the leadership of Oliver Cromwell.  America’s prevalent founders precisely abhorred and  rejected the violent excesses they associated with that source of democratic energy, as it appeared both in England and on the continent in 17th and 18th century Europe.

Why do America’s contemporary elites avoid an analysis that would associate them with this rejection of democratic extremism?  Why do they encourage the un-American notion that the street mobs of the so-called “Arab Spring” or of “Occupy Wall Street” are normative signs of democracy at work? In my next post, we’ll look into some possible answers.

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