In Search Of Better Angels

“It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” – excerpts from Federalist 51.

I can say with absolute clarity there are no angels in Washington, D.C., neither in the charter of a celestial being, nor devoted public servants in human form concerned about the people they were meant to serve. If these past two years have revealed anything, it is that the reflection we see staring back at us is disheartening at best, and perilous at worst.

I know it is frustrating for many when I point out this is a failure shared by both Democrats and Republicans. However, please do not be confused. I’m not standing on the middle ground, but on higher ground. Not only by choice, but by circumstance. Nor do I believe I am alone in my position. I believe there are many people as disgusted as I am by all the events in our nation’s capital.

We rolled our eyes when we saw Republican members of Congress “storm” a closed meeting this past week, just as much as we did when the Democrats “staged” a sit-in on the House floor a few years ago. Political theatrics or childish temper tantrums? How about both.

Some proclaimed righteous indignation while screaming “racist” when President Trump used the word “lynching” to describe the current impeachment inquiry, yet several Democrats attacking Trump on the use of the word used the same word to describe the Clinton impeachment (Reps. Davis of Illinois, Meeks, Nadler and Rangel of New York, then-Sen. Biden and retired Rep. McDermott). McDermott also described the Clinton impeachment process as a “witch hunt,” another term Trump is criticized for using. Political theatrics or hypocrisy? How about both.

The schizophrenic behavior both parties project onto the FBI and Justice Department is a spectacle of warped gymnastics. Depending on the day or the political damage, both Republicans and Democrats have in one breath attacked the FBI because the information did not favor them, then feigned outrage and came to the defense of FBI/Justice Department when the other party is doing the attacking. Political theatrics or defective behavior? How about both.

Then there is Syria. Both parties are all over the place on this one. In 2013, when Obama retreated from the “Red Line” policy, Republicans and anti-Obamamites attacked him. However, generally speaking, the Democrats and mainstream media were silent or supportive for the most part. Yet, Trump’s retreat from Syria was criticized by the media and Democrats, but only a handful of Republicans publicly expressed concern. Both decisions were wrong, ill-advised, and innocent people suffered. However, Trump’s decision was a monumental blunder, and deserving of far more outrage by Republicans, and Trump supporters. Political theatrics or selective blindness? How about both.

Speaking of Syria, once again, depending on the political winds of the day, both parties and their respective supporters, cried for, dismissed or remained silent on the fate of our Kurdish allies. Yet, all we have to do is look back in our recent history and how we abandoned our native Vietnam allies, the Montagnards, to understand political alliances are more important than supporting and protecting trusted allies. The Democratic actions that led to the U.S. walking away from the Montagnards is just as unforgiving as Trump (and his supporters) so callously ignoring our abandonment of the Kurds. Shameful doesn’t begin to describe the shared fate of the Kurds and Montagnards due to our nation’s behavior.

All these examples, and countless others, are not the actions of angels, nor are they representative of the checks and balances our Founding Fathers intended for our country. However, our Founding Fathers envisioned days such as this. James Madison explained and defended the checks and balances system embedded in our Constitution when he wrote Federalist 51. The Constitution grants each branch of our government “checks” over the power of the other two branches. But what recourse do we have when politics has polluted the checks and balances system rooted in our Constitution?

The remedy can be found in the line “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” Simply put, each branch of government is dependent on the people, who are the source of any “legitimate authority” for every governmental body within the United States. “We the People” is the ultimate element of a government in need of checks and balances.

But what happens when the people are just as incapable as those appointed to represent us in government? Dysfunction is the nicest word I can offer, but it’s quite possible this is where America finds itself today.

We should not expect perfection in our government, but nor should we be witness to the self-imposed ineptitude that is our federal government today. If this country were to ever be in need of better angels, now would be such a moment. Sadly, human nature has wreaked havoc to our checks and balance system assigned to each branch of government, and we find ourselves in a perpetual conflict where political victories matter more than functional governance. We are left to wonder if “We the People” possess the ability to separate the politics from the facts or admit the reflection staring back at us is one of our own creation.

Link to Federalist 51:

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