So, first comedienne Kathy Griffin holds up a bloody effigy of President Trump’s head and is largely scorned by the general public for having taken her dislike for the nation’s chief executive too far.
Next a gunman shoots up a Republican baseball practice, critically wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and a couple of police officers before being killed.
Then, movie actor Johnny Depp makes what he called a joke, claiming that he wouldn’t be the first actor to kill a president — John Wilkes Booth was the first. This, mind you, came after the ball field shoot-‘em-up.
Does anyone see a pattern here? Apparently not liberals nor the politically correct crowd, which are usually one and the same. They have been telling us for years that it’s wrong to bully others and to threaten violence. Then they themselves bully and set the climate for the deranged to do what they dare not do themselves.
As the nation prepares to celebration the 241st anniversary of its experiment in democracy, perhaps it is worthwhile to go back and look at what the Founding Fathers were trying to accomplish.
First, they understood how people were likely to be misgoverned, if all power were placed in one person. Call that person king, queen or dictator, the Founding Fathers believed more wisdom was to be found in the masses than in a single person or single family.
Second, they understood human nature. As James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, “But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
The Founding Fathers created a government that recognized that men are acquisitive not only of money and worldly goods, but also of power and influence. However, they would not have opted for self-government if human beings were inherently evil. Instead, they recognized that evil existed, and that constraints were needed to protect everyone from those seeking excessive control over the lives of others, and also to encourage virtue and the public interest. Madison wrote: “As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.”
That’s why they created a government in which the executive (the president) is relatively weak. The president cannot do what he likes. He cannot spend public money or run up debt without approval by Congress. He can’t appoint judges and ambassadors without approval by Congress.
Over time, this has worked relatively well, with the exception that many members of Congress are timid souls, willing to let the president usurp power if it is more or less used toward ends with which the member of Congress agrees. They are far better at complaining about presidential actions than they are about accepting the responsibilities granted to them through the Constitution.
Third, the Founding Fathers understood that not every citizen has the time or inclination to rule on every issue. They chose to create a republic, not a direct democracy, giving the people the opportunity to choose who should represent them in the halls of government. At the state and local level, we see efforts made to take issues directly to the people based on referendum. The Founding Fathers thought the wiser course was to allow the masses through voting to entrust with the power to represent them those people who had shown sufficient interest, wisdom and integrity. Again, Madison wrote, “In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever character composed, passion never fails to wrest the scepter from reason. Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.”
It took 150 years before most adults had the right to vote, and 190 years before most adults, in practice, had the right. Those who choose not to vote fail to recognize the rarity and privilege it is in the history of humankind to have a small bit of influence over how one is governed. It is still better than handing pitchforks to a mob or using violence to transfer power.
The fact is, we all assign our hopes and dreams to those for whom we vote, and assign our hates and fears to those whom are elected against our better judgment. We tend to forget that our issue should not be so much with the people who have been elected, as with our fellow citizens who disagree with us. For our democratic republic to continue, the battle has to be over the ideas and outlook of those who cast votes for those elected, not simply the frailty of current office holders.
Those who denigrate the Constitution, our system of government and the results of our elections, joking or not, demean all of us. Further, they encourage actions that no civilized person should find acceptable. The Johnny Depps and Kathy Griffins of this world need to get out of their echo chambers, take a civics class and stick to the issues.