History - then and now
The 2012 Republican Convention is history, and many wonder if the party will soon be as well.
With a DNA traceable to the Confederacy, a stunning distain for facts, and increasingly bizarre conspiracy theories about our President, my former party seems to have been renditioned and water-boarded out of its mind.
They and their strangely quirky nominee emerged from their convention’s baptismal font swaddled in flags, energized by an imagined history and vowing to restore an America that liberals and President Obama have allegedly taken away, an America they claim was cemented in the Constitution by our Founders.
Never mind that America’s Founders and our founding document flatly denied the right to vote to most of those who, if alive today, would look very much like those attending the Republican convention. In 1787, “We The People” who were allowed to vote excluded some 90 percent of the new nation’s population.
There were decent men among our Founders, but forgotten in our annual Fourth of July miasma of booze, parades, barbecue and odes to war, is the fact that many if not most of those who signed the Constitution were the 1 percent-er’s of their day – slaveholders till the day they died, powerful, wealthy, ruthless and shrewdly self-interested, as much toward their own people as toward King George.
Their amazing legacy, however, is the Preamble to our Constitution, describing the sort of government they intended to form. In plain sight, they set out sentiments that many of today’s Republicans would regard as treasonously profligate:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (Italics added)
The Founders may not have foreseen that their Posterity would one day include ordinary 99 percent-er’s and a black President, but their words are an unmistakable blueprint for a productive, peaceful, caring – and socialist – society.
For 225 years, we have followed that blueprint, sometimes haltingly. The strong representative government they designed (not capitalism, entrepreneurs or big business) freed slaves; gave women, minorities and the young the vote; created Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, “Obamneycare,” and Pell grants; subsidized farmers, railroads, housing, parks, national expansion, corporations and oil exploration; underwrote mind-boggling scientific and technical advances, world-class universities and research; welcomed immigrants and waged massive wars in the “common Defense.” The list of our very socialist achievements is unparalleled in history. Looking out after each other, together we have literally reached the stars.
But providing Justice, Tranquility, Welfare and Defense for a growing globalized nation of rich, poor and in between, is expensive. Rational people knew they must share – redistribute, if you prefer – a portion of the great but uneven wealth made possible by the “blessings of Liberty” secured to them under the blueprint. So nearly 100 years ago, we enacted the 16th Amendment, taxing – tithing, if you prefer – our own income.
Republicans now want to tear up the social blueprint, but before they do they should read real history. The Founders’ sentiments did not spring from bleeding-heart liberal altruism.
They understood the chilling reality of human nature (on display now in Syria and elsewhere) that today’s Republicans ignore: If their social experiment in a caring government failed, chaos would ensue and everyone would lose. They – the rich – would lose the most and would most likely lose it violently. For a historic reality check, see: www.iefd.org/articles/constitution_for_the_few.php.
For now, however, and until the next election, wherever our Founders may be they can relax and smile proudly at the success of their Preamble and be amazed at the fantastic accomplishments of their “Posterity,” including this President, in whom they should be well pleased.
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Bob Edwards is an attorney and a resident of Sonoma.