Interesting article by Stephen Foster that once again demonstrates the limitations of the left/right model of the political spectrum. Hat tip to Chris Donnellan.
Today is the Fourth of July, a time when we as Americans celebrate our nations independence. Conservatives across the country are pretending to be patriotic. Liberals on the other hand are celebrating the biggest achievement that appears on their resume’: the founding of America and its government. You see, the Founding Fathers were, and always will be, liberals. And here are seven reasons why.
1. Although Thomas Jefferson didn’t know it at the time, when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, he created the document that would be used as the basis for universal human rights, which liberals wholeheartedly support. Today’s conservatives are more interested in stripping away human rights, and have fought relentlessly to repeal rights from women, religious groups, and minorities. I understand that the Founding Fathers owned slaves, but I never said they were perfect either. The Founders, however, did believe that slavery had to end at some point and they knew that progress could not happen all at once, especially when they were just trying to keep the new nation afloat, but they intended us to progress. It would take another liberal to end slavery almost 100 years later, and yet another liberal would grant women the vote in the early 20th century.
2. Conservatives always claim that liberals are the supporters of big government. Well, the Founding Fathers also supported big government. Oh sure, they tried small government at one point but The Articles of Confederation didn’t cut it. The Federal Government under that document was useless and powerless. General chaos reigned among the states. Revenue couldn’t be raised. Laws conflicted between the states. Small government had failed. So, the Founders had an idea. They met in secret in 1787 and wrote the Constitution which created a bigger, stronger central government. Conservatives would call that growing the government.
3. Within the Constitution, the Founders gave power to the Congress to levy taxes as necessary. The Founding Fathers never had an issue with taxes. On the contrary, the founding generation waged the American Revolution because they felt that they were not properly represented in the British Parliament. The legislative branch established in the Constitution, however, properly represents every American. We vote for who represents us. Therefore when Congress raises taxes, they are doing the job we voted for them to do. Conservatives today consistently associate tax hikes with liberal policies. So, according to Republicans, the Founders are liberals. James Monroe, our fifth President, once said, “To impose taxes when the public exigencies require them is an obligation of the most sacred character, especially with a free people.” It most certainly applies today.
4. The Founding Fathers made it possible for us to change the Constitution when necessary. That is the beauty of the document. But Republicans are only lobbying to change the Constitution so that only the original document applies. They would repeal most of the amendments and many of the rights. Liberals on the other hand are all about change for the better and seek to perfect the Constitution which is what the Founders intended.
5. Republicans have claimed time and time again that health care mandates and government run health care is unconstitutional. They have also consistently slammed liberals for being the ones that introduce such programs and laws. What they fail to recognize is that health care mandates and government run health care dates all the way back to the Founding Fathers. In 1798, John Adams signed the very first health care mandate into law. The law required sailors to pay a tax to the United States government which in turn would provide medical care to them. The next President, Thomas Jefferson, apparently approved of this program as well, since he never challenged it, nor did he ever try to repeal it. According to Republican logic, Adams and Jefferson are a couple big government liberals.
6. Republicans are currently owned by corporations. They have not only defended corporations but have worked tirelessly to push corporate sponsored legislation through Congress. The Founding Fathers feared this kind of relationship and viewed corporations with suspicion and largely kept them at arms length. In fact, one reason the founding generation went to war with Britain is because of the influence that the East India Trading Company had on the British Parliament. A corporation even once governed Massachusetts on behalf of England. The Revolutionary War ended this practice. After the nation’s founding, corporations were granted charters by the state as they are today. Unlike today, however, corporations were only permitted to exist 20 or 30 years and could only deal in one commodity, could not hold stock in other companies, and their property holdings were limited to what they needed to accomplish their business goals. And perhaps the most important facet of all this is that most states in the early days of the nation had laws on the books that made any political contribution by corporations a criminal offense. When you think about it, the regulations imposed on corporations in the early days of America were far harsher than they are now. Still not convinced? Here is some advice from Thomas Jefferson that all Americans should take to heart.
“I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
7. Separation of church and state is not just a liberal concept, the Founding Fathers made it part of America’s sacred foundation. Freedom of Religion was not included in the Constitution just to protect Christianity. Freedom of Religion protects ALL religions, even if you do not practice any religion at all. The idea that a wall between church and state doesn’t exist is absurd and the idea that the Founders meant America to be a Christian state is equally absurd. Nowhere in the Constitution can you find God, Jesus, or any mention of a specific religion whatsoever. The only mention of religion is that we all have the freedom to practice whatever religion we want and that government cannot make any law that puts one religion over the other, even Christianity.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
~First Amendment, Bill of Rights of the Constitution
Even our Founding Fathers interpreted Freedom of Religion as being the wall between church and state. Take these quotes for instance.
“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.”
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”
~Thomas Jefferson, as President, in a letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802
In the present day, Republicans are heavily allied with Christian right wing extremists that would require Bible studies in every school across the country. Considering how diverse America is today, even the Founders would reject that. Christianity is a dying religion and the extremists have only themselves to blame for that. Their hard line stance is disgusting and un-American. It goes against everything the framers of the Constitution envisioned when they wrote the first amendment. If these fundamentalist Christians want to teach the Bible in private schools, let them. But stay out of public schools. People do not pay school taxes so that their child can be indoctrinated into barbaric and outdated religions. Religion is not what our children need to be learning. Our country needs more men and women of science, mathematics, and history. Not Bible thumpers.
Each of these seven items represent precedents set by the Founders. Their vision has carried us forward and we owe it to them to not let that vision die.
The Founding Fathers were not conservatives as Republicans would have us believe. Not even Republicans began as conservatives. Early Republicans believed that they were doing what the Founders would have done. That is precisely why they fought against slavery and fought for women’s rights. In the ever continuing quest to perfect the American experiment, the liberal Republicans of the 1850′s and 1860′s took over the torch that the Founders lit and carried it forward to brighten the future. Liberals have carried the torch forward ever since and now are under the Democratic Party banner. If the Founders had been conservatives, that torch would have remained unlit and we would still be under British rule. So as you celebrate America’s independence, remember that it was a bunch of liberals that gave us freedom and the ability to change and perfect our nation. The very word “liberal” means favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, especially as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties. Conservatives certainly have no interest in concepts of maximum freedom. They only seek to strip freedom and rights away. Liberals have not changed much since the founding era. Liberals still believe in the power of government to help and care for its people. They still strive to increase civil rights and still believe in bringing the American Dream to every man, woman, and child living in this country. Liberalism is the embodiment of what makes America great and is something we should all celebrate and cherish with our lives today.