A republic, if we can keep it.

By Bill Bodden of Redmond, Oregon. Bill describes himself as a "retired merchant mariner and perpetual student of history and human nature."

A recent thread on BlueOregon began with a video clip showing an abysmal lack of knowledge on the part of some Americans. Despite its intention to provoke derision, it fell well short of a legitimate condemnation of the nation as a bunch of ignoramuses. Unfortunately, if we look at our short history we can see a valid case being made that we are in the running for the title of dumbest nation on the planet. Maybe ever.

Aristotle noted that poverty is the parent of crime and revolution. Despite 2,500 years of evidence and an expanding prison industry proving him right, we still adopt policies that ensure the existence of poverty.

Legend has it that Benjamin Franklin was asked after emerging from the Constitutional Convention in 1787, 'What have you wrought.' Franklin allegedly responded, 'A republic, if you can keep it.' Two centuries later there is grave concern about a possible demise of the republic.

Towards the end of the 19th Century, the United States adopted the Pledge of Allegiance with noble concepts to aspire to - a republic, an indivisible nation, and liberty and justice for all. A century later most politicians and the people who support them have rendered this pledge into an act of national hypocrisy.

In 1961 President Eisenhower gave a warning about the rise of the military-industrial complex in his farewell address. Since then two generations with the power to vote people in and out of Congress have failed to heed Eisenhower's alarm and have allowed this nation to stride like a colossus along a path of militarism and empire so that we are now close to Mussolini's definition of fascism.

American leaders and the war industry have managed to engage us in a number of unnecessary wars from the Cold War to the current Wars of Terror. Instead of using the nation's enormous power and wealth for peace and good throughout the world, we have been complicit in massacres committed by dictators around the world making enemies with long memories.

If our republic survives long enough to have elections in November 2008, we can and must elect candidates who will reject past policies and change course for the betterment of this nation and the world and repair our defiled image.

  • (Show?)

    "But empire demands discipline, the coordination of all forces and a deeply felt sense of duty and sacrifice"

    That's from Mussolini. And precisely why we don't have an American "empire." Where's the sense of duty? The sense of sacrifice? We're at war...without even nibbling at the edges of consciousness of March Madness.

    We're not, as Americans, "ignoramuses." Poorly educated, many of us? You bet. Disconnected from politics, geography, and world affairs? Sure. But, y'know, I'll take that any day over the a highly indoctrinated -albeit "knowledgable"-- citizenry that can speak authoritatively with one voice.

    We teach in school now --more so these days, I suspect-- to think, than memorize factoids or learn the ideology of the day. What you think about is more your business, than the State's.

    That doesn't make for a good empire. And sure, we get bs'd too easily by Bush, Reagan, and the whole lot of them...but never for long. Our attention spans are short. Our students don't clamor to serve in Iraq. Or Afganistan. Or Japan, for that matter. Let alone ask why we still have troops in Japan. Or Korea? Aren't those wars over yet?

    American's flirtation with empire is fleeting, and as successful as our propping up heinous regimes in Iran, Chile, the Phillipines, Taiwan...need I go on?

    Have more faith in people. I'd rather have people not knowing where Khazikstan is, then being anxious to invade it.

  • TheEnlightmentEra (unverified)

    Unfortunately, the Founders also presumed that people charged with making electoral decisions in our representative democracy would have a quite different goal than many today.

    In the mid-70's American historians started re-examining the ideologies of the founders. Many came to argue that the real goal of the Revolution was to build a state restored to a foundation on English Common Law and the earlier traditions from which it descends.

    Without rendering a value judgment on that, I think it is fair to say that even coming to a shared understanding what Franklin really meant, when he said "a Republic, if you can keep it", is a big problem today. Building something better is an even bigger challenge. We might be very suprised who does, and who doesn't, have the needed wisdom. One just has to read this blog to appreciate that.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    The abysmal turn out at elections guarantees a dedicated minority rule - and that's a problem. The ideas that my vote doesn't count stacked against all the others and that they're all the same are so corrosive to citizen participation that keeping our republic could be questionable.

  • JHL (unverified)

    There's a reason that Franklin didn't say "A Democracy, if you can keep it."

    The third of Americans who don't vote and the third of Americans who can't find the USA on a map... I'd wager that those portions have a lot of overlap.

    Every generation bitches and moans about how students are getting stupider and our nation is in a type of democratic peril we've never faced before... But in reality, students are getting smarter and politics has gotten more acessible. And the guy who can't find the USA on a map... still doesn't vote.

    Reminds me of that inane "sunscreen" song sensation of a few years ago:

    "Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you'll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders."

  • Thomas Ware (unverified)

    Things have deteriorated - intellectually, economically, miltarily and politically - to the point where I don't think we can keep it, or want to. Prudence dictates we start thinking about alternatives, what to do the day after it falls apart. G'da would've said something about seeing beyond the windshield, perpetual motion can only impload.

    Ain't nothin' east of The Rockies we need.

  • TheEnlightenmentEra (unverified)

    "Students have gotten smarter"

    By what yardstick?

    "Politics has gotten more accessible"

    What does this even mean?

    It's not too hard to find plenty of reportage about how campaigns are ever more expensive and mass media exposure is about what sells.

    And building on the comment above, most blogs are about puffing up the proprietors' and contributors' egos rather than informed debate.

    Sweeping claims about "reality" frequently don't hold up on closer examination.

  • JHL (unverified)

    For one, literacy rates have risen steadily, and there's this neat study done by Pennsylvania State about rising IQ rates due to curriculum advances and increased access to education. (PDF) NPR's got a little blurb on it here, and here's a simple graphic illustrating the shift.

    For the other, there was this post a while back. Do you seriously think that you would have had more access into the public sphere thirty or fifty years ago? Your very comment contesting the fact has just been published on a blog that's read by every single one of the state's political reporters.

    Yes, mass media is still what sells... but as recently as the 1980s, it was the only thing that sold. Now, for pennies on the dollar, you can talk to all of your elected officials with one mouse click, rally supporters and disseminate a message with a few more clicks.

    If you wanted to make the same complaint in 1950, you'd only be telling your wife and the guys at the bowling alley... if you were a guy. If you were a woman, you might have to be satisfied to express your political dissatisfaction through the culinary arts. Things are a little different today.

  • Walter E Wallis (unverified)

    Ike's comment about the military-indistrial complex was the second dumbest thing Ike ever said [the dumbest was "If I am elected I will go to Korea and end the war."] Without the military-industrial complex the Axis would have won WWII and we would be a colony of Deutschland or the Greater EastAsia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Bill needs to stay away from that pruno.

  • Nate Hale (unverified)

    "Ain't nothin' east of The Rockies we need."

    Coming to you from Camp Fallujah Iraq:

    AND Damn near nothin' west of the Sierras and the Cascades too...

    Telling statement from above "...too easily Bs'd by Bush and Reagan, and the whole lot them..." (NOW just who else would be included in the "whole lot of them" category?) Of course that kind of talk is what one comes to expect from inhabitants of "Blue Oregon" (By the way doesn't anyone here remember when the "progressive" color was red?)

    Interesting term "Republic", and the use thereof. The idea of a republic has been a thorn in the side of those that believe, as Harry Truman alledgedly stated, "that the masses are asses and can't govern themselves."

    To which at this point in time, I am "mystified" by the behavior and speech of those that rant on about government interference and "Not in my name" or "...I have a right to privacy..." or involve themselves in Black Bloc-style activities; and out the otherside of their mouths insist that they are entitled to the largess of the "state" they detest, and continue elect individuals that provide them the latter.

    Ironic isn't it, that we are referencing (and comparing)empire and Mussolini's fasicism and don't take into consideration why Mussolnin came along, and what actually came of Italy post-Mussolini. The crowd that brought Mussolini to power are essentially the same crowd, multi-generaionally speaking of course, that has NOT been able to sustain a long term government other than perhaps Berlasconi's since the end of WWII. Thus leaving an unelected, and virtually unaccountable bureaucray to run the place; of course providing to the Italians the largess they desire. They certainly have their health care, and 30 hour work weeks, and their "voice" through labour unions, everything that has been the desirous goals of "Blue" inhabitants. Good little Sheep, and probably as ignorant as we accuses ourselves of being, and infact more so ignorant because of their continued holding to the notion that "old Europe" STILL has primacy. Oh yes, and by the way, the Italians are not the only Euro-nationals that holds to that notion.

    Why is that important? Bottom line "Blue" folks, be intellectually honest and don't couch your philosphies on a foundation that we other Americans are unenlightened. It reduces any sensible debate to nothing more than playground-like arguments that have no end but division into "cliques".(Not sure I see that as a viable alternative to our republic.) It used to be that ability to have thoguhtful and adult like discussion is what set we "Yankees" apart from the rest of the pack.

    If you will excuse me, I have to return to attempting to win a war.

  • (Show?)

    Considering that the military-industrial complex didn't really come into being until the 60's and 70's and didn't really get a stronghold until the 80's, I am not so sure about that "Axis would have won WWII and we would be a colony of Deutschland or the Greater EastAsia Co-Prosperity Sphere" comment.

    And the "they certainly have their health care, and 30 hour work weeks, and their "voice" through labour unions" isn't really pointing out to me where the Italians are at all unintelligent or uneducated,but maybe that may just be me.

  • JMG (unverified)

    The notion that the "military-industrial complex" won WWII is so ahistorical as to be laughable. There WAS no such complex when Roosevelt realized the threat posed by Germany and Japan and began strenuous efforts to expand the army and navy--over GOP objections.

    After Pearl Harbor was attacked, the entire country began an unprecedented mobilization, and war profiteers were exposed and busted (Truman Commission, anyone?). DuPont agreed to become the Manhattan Project lead contractor for $1. Labor unions agreed to wage freezes, there was a tremendous surge in enlistments and massive numbers of ag workers and women took the factory jobs needed to produce the arms. The "sleeping giant" (to use Yamamoto's phrase) that won the war was the collective might of US workers, black and white, male and female, working together for perhaps the first time. (There was still discrimination, but the effort resulted in great advances for both blacks and women.)

    The M-I complex Ike warned of arose AFTER the demobilization, when the now-huge military divisions companies and the suddenly huge post-service-unification DoD learned to work together as part of an Iron Triangle (Military-Contractors-Congress), each one scratching the others' backs in return for the same. That's what the prescient Ike observed and warned us about. Alas, no one knew what to make of it at the time, and it helped very little.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    American's flirtation with empire is fleeting,...

    Chalmers Johnson, one of our more enlightened authors and commentators, has a different opinion in his highly acclaimed book, "Sorrows of Empire." Neither would Robert Fantina, whose article,"U.S. Imperialism in Action" makes similar points. After taking possession of Hawaii and virtual possession of other Pacific Islands, the American empire has taken a different form in its expansion by use of compliant dictators and the installation of bases around the world serving the interests of the corporatocracy that is displacing what's left of our republic.

    Ike's comment about the military-indistrial complex was the second dumbest thing Ike ever said...

    Ike's comment wasn't about the military-industrial complex. It was about the rise of of the military-industrial complex. The military-industrial complex did serve a good role in World War II, but like many other entities it can have its Jekyll and Hyde aspects. And, the M-I complex in this century does have alarming dimensions. Again, "Sorrows of Empire" is recommended for a thorough appreciation of this problem.

  • Oregonian49X (unverified)

    "And the "they certainly have their health care, and 30 hour work weeks, and their "voice" through labour unions" isn't really pointing out to me where the Italians are at all unintelligent or uneducated,but maybe that may just be me."

    SO, in the context of what you read in Nate Hale's contribution, you're inferring that having health care, 30 hour work weeks, and union voices under the thumb of unelected and unaccountable government officials makes for an intelligent and educated society?

    Hmmmmm is it really just you>

  • (Show?)

    Doesn't really infer intelligence one way or the other. I just don't see the jump from those things to non-intelligence.

  • lefty (unverified)

    $124 billion worth of empire, continuous war, state terror and corporatism from Democrats to Bush argues against the likelihood of our having a republic, a democracy or a shotgun shack. And maybe it's for the best.

  • TheEnlightenmentEra (unverified)

    "For one, literacy rates have risen steadily"

    I think you fundamentally misunderstand what "literacy" actually means. It has nothing to do with reasoning ability, it is only about language comprehension at a functional level.

    "this neat study done by Pennsylvania State about rising IQ rates due to curriculum advances and increased access to education."

    Your reference to the study by Blair, Gamson, Thorne, and Baker in an attempt to back your claim provides an unavoidable example of what literacy is and isn't. Did you even read and understand the report? I had previously, and knew this research actually raises troubling questions about your very claim about the state of the intellect, as stated in the key summary conclusion on the top of page 104:

    "Importantly, and in alignment with Flynn (1999, in press), we suggest that increasing mean IQ represents an increase in aspects of mental ability that correlate with performance on measures of IQ. Functional implications of these gains for real world competence, however, remain unclear, particularly given the paradoxical finding that increasing fluid cognitive demand of early elementary math education has not led to substantial increased math achievement over time."

    Finally, in response to this comment:

    "Do you seriously think that you would have had more access into the public sphere thirty or fifty years ago?"

    Regrettably, your history and political science education seems to be historically myopic and provincial. You appear to be unaware of the vigorous pamphleteering during the Enlightenment era in Europe and America. Successors to that tradition have continued to exist since then. My own personal experiences in major urban centers in the latter part of the very time frame you cite and since then (but pre-blogs) was one of robust political activity, with much interaction between interested citizens and their elected representatives.

    My comment about the fundamentally self-obsessed character of the blogosphere specifically had these facts in mind. It is not too much of a stretch to say decision makers keep tabs on much of the blogosphere mainly want to gauge what they can put over on an entire segment of the population that is self-obsessed, but far less politically astute than it believes.

  • MCT (unverified)

    I was born in England, immigrated as a small girl to the US. Though we were raised with pride in our British heritage, and very much trained to manners by British sensibilities, we were also taught never to lose sight of the gratitude Britain owed Americans. During the Blitz, my parents, as children, could see the glow of London burning, from Oxford, some 60 miles away.

    There is occasionally a time and reason for military might. Of course now is not the time, and the and Iraq's eternal inability to establish a fair and stable government is not the reason.

    I am now a naturalized citizen of the US...actually I hold a dual citizenship. There have been times in the past six and a half years where I have seriously considered moving back to the UK or Canada. Then I think about the fact that the UK has had cameras on the streets watching its population for many years now. (shudder) They suffer the same social & economic problems we do. Education, or the lack of, is their bane too. Immigration is a very hot button there. And whatever remnants of 60 year old gratitude they felt kept them in debt to the US....they made war in Iraq too.

    To the author, well done. I fear the only way to make the masses sit up and take notice of the horrible direction this nation is headed is to turn off their TV's and cell phones. Madison Ave. is the optiate of the people?

  • heals (unverified)

    Great comments. What I see missing in this thread is as brilliant and renaissance as our Founding Fathers were we tend to 'over-romanticize' them. We must recognize the fact that they didn't trust the vote to 'everyday' people, to women, to people of color, to workmen; but rather to the wealthy, to the large estate owners. They were visionaries for sure giving us such things as 'freedom of expression', etc. and I'm not minimizing it of course, but they sure as Hell didn't trust the vote to the 'people' regardless of what that wonderful 'document' said. Read McCullough's 'John Adams' or Chernow's 'Alexander Hamilton' or Caro's 'Master of the Senate'...

  • TheEnlightenmentEra (unverified)

    People keep throwing around the word "fascism" (or whistling past the graveyard like Frank Dufay) seemingly without knowing what the word actually means.

    One of the disturbing trends with the blogosphere, and the breakdown of our education system, is that people seem to think words are things they get to assign any meaning to they want, if using the cultural associations with a word helps them score points.

    Here's a historically-rooted definition of fascism from the American Heritage Dictionary:

    "A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism."

    We may not be there in historical terms, but a now widely accepted contemporary definition of fascism by Laurence W. Britt goes like this:


    "1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism." "2. Disdain for the importance of human rights." "3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause." "4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism." "5. Rampant sexism." "6. A controlled mass media." "7. Obsession with national security." "8. Religion and ruling elite tied together." "9. Power of corporations protected." "10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated." "11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts." "12. Obsession with crime and punishment." "13. Rampant cronyism and corruption." "14. Fraudulent elections."

    Finally, Chris Hedges recently articulated an interesting observation about the intellectual character of those who embrace fascistic thinking, which I think will gain traction in his recent book "American Fascists":


    "The movement seeks the imprint of law and science. It must discredit the rational disciplines that are the pillars of the Enlightenment to abolish the liberal polity of the Enlightenment. This corruption of science and law is vital in promoting the doctrine."

    He cites an interesting comment by Hannah Arendt in her book "Origins of Totalitarianism":

    "What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system which they are presumably part. Repetition, somewhat overrated in importance because of the common belief in the 'masses' inferior capacity to grasp and remember, is important because it convinces them of consistency in time."

    Reading that, I am struck by the eery feeling how well this resistance to facts which undermine group-reinforced beliefs describes the thinking of a lot of folks across the political spectrum in this state, and right on this blog.

  • TheEnlightmentEra (unverified)

    In the wake of my last comment, "heels" demonstrates a popular, politically useful misrepresentation of the facts by too many "progressives" when it comes to the founders.

    "What I see missing in this thread is as brilliant and renaissance as our Founding Fathers were we tend to 'over-romanticize' them. We must recognize the fact that they didn't trust the vote to 'everyday' people, to women, to people of color, to workmen; but rather to the wealthy, to the large estate owners."

    While no doubt well-meaning, this argument risks being of a piece with what Hannah Arendt means when she criticizes the masses for being convinced by the "consistency of the system which they are presumably part", rather than the facts. First, "heels' overstates the case just a bit when it comes to "everyday" people, at least when it comes to males, who post here and consider themselves "everyday" people today: Are you say a homeowner, a small-business person such like a blog-operator, or a land-owning organic farmer? Many of you would have had the vote.

    Furthermore, it is not over-romanticizing the founders to speak highly of them for their articulated wisdom that keeping and defending a fair and just representative democracy requires voters who are well-informed. Indeed, it requires voters who are far more well-informed than many of the posters here --- well accepted primarily because they hew to an un-examined, false "progressive" orthodoxy --- demonstrate that they actually are (re-read Arendt's quote).

    The founders failure, for which they should not be excused, is that they could not accept that being well-informed has absolutely nothing to do with any of the socially disadvantaging factors "heels" cites. Or recognize that being well-informed does not necessarily require an extensive formal education.

  • Hawthorne (unverified)

    "If our republic survives long enough to have elections in November 2008."

    Wow. Is there something we don't know?

    Overblown rhetoric and exaggeration from the left is as dangerous and unhelpful as that from the right.

  • MCT (unverified)

    Wow Enlightenment.... please lighten up. No need for name calling or insults here. You tax my British sensibilities. Although "equal treatment" as a concept is mentioned in the Ammendments to the Constitution, it has not yet been fully realized...shall we kindly say it is a work in progress, subject to sporadic regression, and frequent misinterpretation? Heals made a point worthy of civil discussion. Why do you suppose we have an electoral vote and not a popular vote? Why has it been less than 100 years of our history in which women were allowed the vote? Why not sooner? Jefferson owned slaves and the founding fathers, for all their wonderfully grand ideals, were somewhat blind to the plight of the uneducated masses. Other than their desirability as settlers needed to expand into the Wilderness of a new country. They were not seen as worthy of deciding or effecting government policy, and they still aren't.

  • Hawthorne (unverified)


    In the wake of your last post it is clear that you are a victim of the breakdown of the education system. Consequently, you seem to be unaware that a Cliff's Notes version of Arendt's "The Origins of Totalitarism" is available. I suggest that you read it closely and quote from it liberally before posting in the future. Then you will be able to compete with our well informed and plain wrong friend.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Look, the US doesn't have proportional representation and you can't bring a criminal complaint. Talking about how to make that system progressive is just a bridge too far. The system doesn't foster real democracy.

    Have you ever run for anything? If it's 1 more vote, winner take all, it's shocking what you will find yourself doing/promising for that last bit. 2-5% of the country consistently votes libertarian or consumer interest. If Ralph Nader ran for Congress and only had to pull that 5% to have 10 seats in the House, there's no chance they would ever deviate from his campaign promises, and he would have been in the House near 50 years by now. Narrow interests have a place in government, but can never get there if they have to repackage themselves as a majority opinion.

    On the second point, with the exception of some boat trailer violations and trash dumping ordinances, you cannot bring a criminal complaint. Period. If a mugger confronts you and your SO at gunpoint and pistol whips you bloody, you have to make a statement to a peace officer that brings the complaint. You cannot. That's where plea bargains come from. You don't realize the profound difference between this system and one where anyone can allege a violation of statute, until you see a real world example. You read a lot about the problem of honor/revenge killings in some countries, but the point that's never discussed is the difficulty the government has in those prosecutions since the victims don't bring charges. May be backward thinking to us, but they are living in a more free society, despite our protestations to the contrary. The State cannot act as proxy for the victim.

    Resolved: progressive government in the US requires systemic change. It cannot be accomplished within the existing framework. We talk about progressive government being empowering, accountable and not reactive. Since the Norman conquest, we have a language and philosophy of governance that assumes that the common person's interest either does not coincide with the States, or that they are incapable of exercising personal sovereignty responsibly. Ultimately the assumption is that government exists to perpetuate the State. That's the point about not being able to bring criminal prosecution. Originally, "murder" was defined as having killed an individual that could not be proved to be non-Norman. The Saxon insurgents were killing Norman knights and leaving their bodies in the roadside ditches. "Murder" statutes were established to allow prosecutions in cases were a body was found and was suspected to be Norman. The burden of proof was on the Saxon to show it wasn't Norman. Murder wasn't about protecting life and having a civilized society- they liked insurgents killing each other as much as the US does. It was an act of treason, and only of interest because it offended the State. The State brings the prosecution, which is still the case. The next time you see the result of a court case and think, "how is that justice?", remember that justice isn't the point.

    Of course, beyond all that is the fact that humans refuse to go beyond their hard-wired, primate assumptions about the world. Ultimately the State is just a surrogate for the "dominant male" of the troupe. When I say "progressive", I mean taking up all these issues, without assumptions, biologic or ideologic, in a rational way.

    Jefferson said the only real tragedy in human affairs is when communication ceases. If this is what progressive means, then I think we have a real national tragedy in our total inability to discuss this with the "support our troupe in the Gulf" folks. Or even many "progressive" Dems.

  • TheEnlightenmentEra (unverified)

    Hawthorne's ability to comment seems limited to juvenile comments resenting those who actually can state and defend an argument, and never to make original substantive contributions his/herself. This level of vacuous sniping, of course, is the real problem with the blogosphere and Blue Oregon. It also is what distinguishes many bloggers and commentors from the previously cited traditions of popularized political communication. Do you have a point to make and defend Hawthorne? Or are you just such a snarkly little soul that you can't do anything but vent your resentment that you can't develop a thesis?

    Zarathustra makes factually accurate arguments and a serious argument for rational analysis that, to all indications, would have found a hearing in the political debate during the founding of the country. I'm not sure what specific contours his/her image of "progressive" takes. I suggest that is the kind of thing we should want to hear. I am puzzled a bit by the pseudonym, though, given the associations Nietzsche attached to it, after misappropriating and reinterpreting Zoroastrian though for his own philosophical purposes.

    "Wow Enlightenment.... please lighten up. No need for name calling or insults here. You tax my British sensibilities"

    MCT, of course besotted British sensibilities were what led to 1776, so you'll forgive me if I think it my duty to relentlessly tax and offend them. And if you are going to throw out accusations about insults for popular effect, have the courtesy of citing what you purport to be insults.

    After making your comment, you go on to express popular, but overly simplistic, sentiments about American political history in apparent obliviousness to what I actually wrote in the comment to which you respond. I'll repeat it:

    "The founders failure, for which they should not be excused, is that they could not accept that being well-informed has absolutely nothing to do with any of the socially disadvantaging factors "heals" cites. Or recognize that being well-informed does not necessarily require an extensive formal education."

    While undoubtedly being well-meaning, the problem is that "heals" didn't actually make a point. He/she just repeated a dominant pseudo-progressive orthodoxy here. An uninformed, childish orthodoxy that actually eschews accurate, critical analyses based on facts that challenge it (hence the Arendt quote), while being wholly supportive of true progressive/liberal change. The authors he cites are not historians by education or in practice, they are writers of popularized biographies designed to find a market. There are plenty of genuine historians out there working since the 1960's who have simultaneously criticized the founders for their views on who should have the franchise, and yet noted how that is quite separate (and inconsistent) with those same founders most-well known views on what it takes to build and keep a just government.

    The argument about who should have the franchise was a far more complex one than people here want to acknowledge, or apparently have any awareness. It is of no political advantage to them in advancing their juvenile version of true progressive politics to actually grapple with the truth as it is. (And I would have argued for universal education and universal franchise on precisely the same anti-authoritarian principles of the founders). The franchise that was not quite as limited to the extreme upperclass, and the argument was not at all a settled one, in the way "heals" implies for effect. From the day the revolution ended, expanding the franchise was a constant theme in American political life. And, given his/her comment, many of those "heals" presumably would accuse of wanting to hoard the franchise provided arguments for expanding it early on.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    "If our republic survives long enough to have elections in November 2008."

    Wow. Is there something we don't know?

    Overblown rhetoric and exaggeration from the left is as dangerous and unhelpful as that from the right.

    This is not as far-fetched an idea as Hawthorne appears inclined to believe. In April of 2006 Harper's magazine published a transcript of a forum on an American Coup D'Etat - Thinking the unthinkable with leading thinkers on military affairs on the panel. That they would sit down and discuss such a proposition suggested that they considered it plausible and not some hare-brained idea.

    Very few people would have believed that Bush had regime change in Iraq on his mind when he assumed his presidency, but Paul O'Neill revealed in "The Price of Loyalty" that in a cabinet meeting ten days after inaguration day Bush indicated that he already had Iraq in his sights. Since then we have seen his administration chip away at the Constitution and civil and human rights while he and Cheney and their accomplices have done all they can to add more power to the White House and make a mostly spineless Congress more impotent. Connect these and other dots and consider where they could lead.

    A crisis will be needed to claim it is too dangerous to national security to risk a change of administration to get the 75% of gullible people who supported the war on Iraq back in line, but a war on Iran might work. Perhaps, more ominously, if President Musharraf is overthrown by people associated with the Taliban and they get their hands on Pakistan's nuclear weapons, that ought to scare the hell out of the world - never mind the American sheep.

  • JHL (unverified)

    Oh my god...

    Talk about being in love with the sound of one's own voice. (err... or typing.)

    Just remember, kids -- every time you say the words "provincial" and "pamphleteering," a sociology professor gets his tenure. (Don't worry -- I'm sure all the other kids in the dorm are impressed with your newfound tweed-jacket-esque discussion capabilities. I am!)

    Wanda says it best.

    Prescription: 1. Go to NW Portland. 2. Find a bar and procure a beer. 3. Take a chill pill. 4. Wash it down with the beer. 5. Enjoy.

  • MCT (unverified)

    Hawthorne: Excuse me? I quoted no one in my post. Were you meaning to insult the intelligence and degree of formal education of someone else posting here? And Why?

    I'm not competing with anyone. In my opinion the rabidly foaming diatribe in this particular thread is indicative of why so many Americans have trouble communicating with other cultures, and are often viewed as bullies and buffoons. Can't we discuss issues without raising the big-words, I'm-so-smart-and-you're-not cave-man clubs?

    Enlightenment: you want me to identify your hubris-ridden insults for you before objecting to them? If you truly don't know how your words insulted not just me.....well I feel that is hard to believe. I know some folks have fallen victim to the breakdown of common courtesy. Must have been so wrapped up in getting that elite higher education and reading Arendt (the final word), that they missed basic socialization. Now THAT's an insult. I'll give you some more if you still have trouble identifying them.

    I have as much right to post/speak as anyone else, and have read nowhere in the blueoregon rules that I have to read any particular treatise prior to having an opinion on the initial post or ensuing comments.

    I am, however, done here. I'm going to go join the other not-so-blissfully ignorant & unwashed masses and talk about how we can eliminate the bourgeoisie once and for all. (Enlightenment: That is dry humour....in case you have trouble recognizing it, too, and there is also an insult tucked in there too. Might be too complicated for a beginner.)

    My apologies to the rest of you thoughtful and well-spoken posters, the web-host....and particualarly to the author, with whom I agree by and large.

  • TheEnlightenmentEra (unverified)

    " know some folks have fallen victim to the breakdown of common courtesy."

    What a lot of folks like MCT have fallen victim to, is the mistaken belief that they have right to have their opinions, now matter how ignorant, respected, simply because they hold them. Fact is, that level of childishness is exactly the problem. You have no right to have your opinions respected, and the only right you have is to defend your opinion, if you can.

    " Must have been so wrapped up in getting that elite higher education and reading Arendt (the final word), that they missed basic socialization."

    I think the best comment here is to be careful about casting aspersions on facts you don't have.

    I think the biggest failure of socialization in our schools, and particularly the NW, is the failure to teach that just because you think you are special, it doesn't mean you are. And is the height of rudeness and poor socialization, not to mention extremely unsuccessful politics, to take base your argument strategy on taking offense when your opinions are shown to be poorly founded.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    "Furthermore, it is not over-romanticizing the founders to speak highly of them for their articulated wisdom that keeping and defending a fair and just representative democracy requires voters who are well-informed"

    I think this is "over-romanticizing" the founders. Or rather it is the result of an academic community selecting the wisdom that inflates the importance of both education and their role as educators.

    The reality is that a "fair and just representative democracy" requires voters who are committed to "a fair and just representative democracy". Its not at all clear that the better educated portions of the American population are committed to fair, just or representative government. They are committed to a government that protects their interests and their privileged status both in the country and in the world at large.

  • (Show?)

    Welp Bill,

    That Harper's article just cost me about 45 minutes. Excellent read, and I was pretty much pleasantly shocked by Luttwak in particular.

    I think that your original post was spot on as the Brits like to say.


    I hate to agree with "Enlightenment Era" on the facts, but there it is.

    The ability to acquire information and shape it into (more or less) elegant theories, has nothing at all to do with the ability to think critically. The sheer numbers of PhDs and other Big Domes (both Left and Right) who are as dogmatic and myopic as the most hayseed Limbaugh dittohead, continues to boggle the mind........

  • Chris (unverified)

    Ah c'mon the evidence is everywhere. The problem is that dumb people usually don't realize they are dumb. Here's a fact: A SIGNIFICANT % OF AMERICANS ARE STUPID

  • Chris (unverified)

    To expand on that, there are going to be many voters in any given election who have taken little to no time to educate themselves on the issues they are voting on. How do you have a productive nation when people will cast a vote on something they know nothing about?

    <h2>I frequently talk with people who have strong opinions on the Iraq war yet the have no idea who al-Mailiki or al-Sadr are. How do you deal with that? How do you have a logical argument with something like that?</h2>
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