October 30, 2004


“By Gradual Paces”: As the election approaches, some warnings issued by the Founders leap off the page as never before. (Jim Sleeper, 10.26.04, American Prospect)

If some of us anti-Bush Americans seem on the verge of a nervous breakdown in these final days, it's not necessarily because John Kerry is our heart's desire or even because George W. Bush and Co., under cover of fighting terrorism, are spending the country into crushing debt that will drive the social compact back to the 1890s. Nor are we wrought up because a Republican ticket led by two former draft dodgers (as defined by every conservative Republican since the late 1960s, when both men did their dodging), has savaged war heroes like Max Cleland, John McCain, and Kerry himself.

The republic has survived excesses like that, if barely. What really scares some of us is the foreboding that, this time, it won't outlast the swooning and the eerily disembodied cheering at those Bush revival rallies. Something has happened to enough of the American people to make some warnings by this country's own Founders leap off the page as never before.

As soon as King George III was gone, the Founders took one look at the American people and became obsessed with how a republic ends. History showed them it can happen not with a coup but a smile and a friendly swagger, as soon as the people tire of the burdens of self-government and can be jollied along into servitude -- or scared into it, when they've become soft enough to intimidate.

Alexander Hamilton sketched the stakes when he wrote that history had destined Americans, "by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force."

And Ben Franklin sketched the odds, warning that the Constitution "can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall have become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other."

How might that happen? "History does not more clearly point out any fact than this, that nations which have lapsed from liberty, to a state of slavish subjection, have been brought to this unhappy condition, by gradual paces," wrote Founder Richard Henry Lee.

The Founders were all reading Edward Gibbon's then-new account of how the Roman republic had slipped, degree by self-deluding degree, into an imperial tyranny.

That folks on the Left express such lunatic fears--and seem to welcome the prospect of an assassination if necessary--has indeed made most of doubt their sanity, even if their chosen candidate does have that lean and hungry look.

It hardly seems worth pointing out the reality that in opposing the President's "tyranny", they oppose school choice, individualized social security accounts, Health Savings Accounts, free trade, the liberation of the peoples of the Middle East, etc...

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 30, 2004 5:24 PM

The only choice they want you to have is to abort the unborn.

Posted by: Rick T. at October 30, 2004 5:55 PM

The fact that they "express lunatic fears", actually brings a smile to my face.

Posted by: AllenS at October 30, 2004 6:41 PM

Lunatic fringe
In the twilight's last gleaming
This is open season
But you won't get too far
We know you've got to blame someone
For your own confusion
But we're on guard this time
Against your final solution

Posted by: Mike Morley at October 30, 2004 7:43 PM

One of the key downfalls of the Roman Republic
were the rise of demagogic populist demagogues
like Sulla, Pompey, Catiline & Caesar, who chose
to split the Roman military into factions; and
bring dissension among the lower classes. The
likes of Shinseki (likely to replace Inouye)Zinni,
(whose man on horseback treatise,was authored by
Clancy) Clark; the hero of the Kosovo campaign,;
fit this bill of indictment better than any of
the right's figures

Posted by: narciso at October 30, 2004 7:44 PM

I've spent my entire life under the 68-haters, karma's a bitch.

Posted by: Sandy P at October 30, 2004 8:23 PM

John Q. Adams was accused (in 1822) of going to church barefoot

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 30, 2004 10:36 PM

I know Harry and that's why I have continued to oppose MA politicians.

Posted by: h-man at October 31, 2004 5:23 AM

The only choice they want you to have is to abort the unborn.

That and Total Sexual Freedom (TM).

Posted by: Ken at October 31, 2004 11:37 PM