Biography on Madison and the Future of America

My current car book (popping in the CDs, very old school) is a biography of James Madison. It’s good, and I’ll maybe do a review of it later, but I want to talk about a comment I heard this morning that the biographer makes as he is describing how Madison and Jefferson first conceived of the Republican (now Democrat) party.

I’m paraphrasing, but what it boils down to is: these two founding fathers, pretty quickly, starting thinking about what was best for their party, their country was a secondary consideration. Moreover, Republicanism very quickly became a sort of religion where those who didn’t strictly adhere to its tenets were publicly flogged, their characters assassinated, their motivations called evil. This anti-republicanism they despised was best embodied in two men: Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, and they tore into them with all the fervor of religious zealots.

Both Jefferson and Madison were francophiles and fans of the bloody French Revolution. They joined many early Americans in seeing potential unity between the two Republics, and distrusted the British and anything that smacked of a noble class passing down power, or a monarchy.

I bring all of this up because it struck me how party loyalty has metasticized. The character assassination and religious zealotry are still rife. What has made things worse is the zealots are less well read, and can’t pepper their speech with Latin phrases. But I couldn’t help but think, as I listened to this quick switch of loyalty from country to party, about how even the most well educated of men walk down terrible paths.

Madison shouldn’t be judged too harshly, but his tendency to think that “rational” man can rule effectively blinded him to the real threat unchangeable human nature presents. He was very attuned to the popular sentiment, and helped construct a Republic that is only beginning to tatter in the last twenty years. But tatter it is doing. Rational man can’t stop entropy or human nature from taking its toll. Being tied to your party religiously and winning elections has contributed to the mess. We laud these men, the founding fathers, and deservedly so, but they only constructed a framework that could keep a country organized without knowing what would hold a nation together.

Ask yourself this question – which country is most likely to be around in 300 years – the US, China or Russia? In my mind, the US is a distant third to the other two. The uncomfortable question is: why?

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