Governing by ‘Accident’ or by ‘Force’

“It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, 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.” Federalist Paper Number 1 (essay by Publius: Alexander Hamilton)

On Oct. 27, 1787, the first of 85 essays, which would become known as the Federalist Papers, was printed in the Independent Journal. Federalist No. 1 receives very little attention because it is seen as the prelude to the more “meatier” Federalist Papers that would appear later. However, it is in the line from Federalist No. 1 “whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice,” that makes it more than just a mere introduction to the thousands of words that would follow. Looking at the state of our society today, it would be fair for a reasonable person to question whether our current society is “capable or not’ in the belief of good government.

Good government is not defined on whether we “get along” or “agree with each other.” To have opposing views of those around us does not mean we lack the capability to govern “from reflection.” Now granted, the person who wrote these words (Alexander Hamilton) would eventually die in a duel with a sitting vice president of the United States (Aaron Burr), but still their failure to heed their own advice does not make their words any less important. How we act in opposition to countering views will determine whether we remain standing as a country or fall as a society.

What America and the world witnessed during the Kavanaugh hearings was one of the most appalling spectacles to ever beset Washington, D.C. The Kavanaugh circus was an embarrassment long in the making, and short of “good government.” The dust has somewhat settled, but many of the instigators of this travesty have moved on, like political tornados wreaking havoc, merely governing by “accident” or by “force.” We are a better country than how we behaved during the Kavanaugh hearings, and although this message is directed at both sides, I am particularly referring to those who find themselves entrenched on the political Left.

Put everything aside about what you were told the Kavanaugh confirmation was about, because it was really only about one thing: abortion. Both sides believed this was the prize, the policy Holy Grail that defined what some meant when they used the dog whistle “tipping the balance of the court.” Some see the ascension of Kavanaugh to the highest court of the land as an opportunity to finally overturn a wrong (Roe v. Wade), while others see Kavanaugh, and frankly any President Trump nominee, as a threat to “reproductive rights.” The funny thing about Holy Grails is that history has shown us the illusion of a shiny object may make for fascinating fairytales but does very little to promote proper conduct and provide for good examples for governing from a place of “reflection.”

Although Federalist No. 1 appeared to be only talking about the debate regarding the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, Hamilton never wrote in a one-dimensional thought pattern. When Hamilton wrote the Federalist Papers, he was not just talking about the America he lived in, but the America we would become. Hamilton was not just addressing his generation, but he was talking to all Americans.

When Hamilton wrote (in Federalist No. 1), “A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives,” he was talking about our society. Hamilton was sending a message to people such as Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.

Long before the hearing for Kavanaugh even started, and the unfortunate events that followed (due in large part to Sen. Feinstein’s mishandling of certain information), Booker stated that senators who don’t oppose President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are “complicit in the evil.” Really, Sen. Booker (and those who concur with him), you believe supporters of Kavanaugh to be profoundly immoral and malevolent, morally reprehensible, sinful, wicked (the dictionary definition of evil)? Where can a conversation go from there, but to serve only as “the offspring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty?” Is it any wonder what followed would only serve to further divide our nation?

I will never be able to convince many that what happened during the Kavanaugh hearing was avoidable. Nor will I be able to dissuade people from whatever entrenched position they hold. But maybe we should look less to shiny objects, and look more at our role in governing with “An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government,” avoiding “An over-scrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people, which is more commonly the fault of the head than of the heart” that Hamilton forewarned about.

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