Saturday, June 9, 2018

Ambition and Greatness: Federalists and Anti-Federalists

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Ambition and Greatness: The Federalists and the Anti-Federalists
P. Schultz

"When your overriding value in life is self-glorification, what you tend to get is the moral cowardice and fecklessness of people like Obama, the Clintons, and, in truth, all centrist politicians.  They’ll do whatever they have to do to rise to power, so they can realize their 'destiny'—of being powerful.  They’ll always try to please 'both sides'—a binary notion that leaves out the genuine left, which is to say the interests of the large majority of people—because that is the safest and surest road to power"

            This quote appeared recently – see the link below – and it reminded me of one of the most significant differences between those who supported the constitution proposed in 1787, the Federalists, and those who opposed it, the Anti-Federalists. This may be summed up briefly as follows: Whereas the Federalists tended to embrace ambition and the ambitious, the Anti-Federalists did not. In fact, the latter group tended to disparage ambition and the ambitious as dangerous to a republican, that is, genuinely representative government.

            I can put this another way. Whereas the Federalists wanted to create a government that appealed to the ambitious, that drew the ambitious to it, creating offices that the most ambitious of men would seek out, the Anti-Federalists wanted a government that would not appeal to the ambitious. The Anti-Federalists feared that the ambitious types and especially the most ambitious would control the government at the expense of the many, the middling people who are not generally characterized by ambition. The Federalists, ala’ Alexander Hamilton, defended the Constitution and especially the presidency because it would appeal to those who “love fame,” which Hamilton took to be “the ruling passion of the noblest minds.” Where Hamilton saw “nobility” the Anti-Federalists saw narcissism or a lust for power that would undermine any republican political order. It is not too much to say that the Anti-Federalists were aware of the tendency of the ambitious to seek “self-glorification.”

            It is this thought that lay behind the Anti-Federalist argument for creating “a simple government,” a government devoid of offices with long tenures or great powers. A simple government would be “simple-minded,” meaning not prone to great projects of social reform, as we might say. Simple government does not seek greatness. Rather, it seeks to protect individual freedom while maintaining the peace and good order of society. Simple government does not seek to remake civil society and it certainly would not seek to remake the world, to create “new world orders.”

            Listen to Patrick Henry in the Virginia ratifying convention: “Shall we imitate the example of those nations who have gone from a simple to a splendid government? Are those nations more worthy of our imitation? What can make an adequate satisfaction to them for the loss they suffered in attaining such a Government – for the loss of their liberty? If we admit this Consolidated Government, it will be because we like a great splendid one. Some way or other we must be a great and mighty empire; we must have an army, and a navy, and number of things: When the American spirit was in its youth, the language of America was different: Liberty, Sir, was then the primary object.”

            As the leading Anti-Federalist scholar summarizes this thought: “Ambitious Federalists, captivated by visions of ‘stately palaces’ and ‘dazzling ideas of glory, wealth, and power,’ wanted us ‘to be like other nations.’ That is just what we should not be.” [What the Anti-Federalists Were For, Herbert J. Storing, p. 31]

            Embrace ambition and the ambitious, seek glory, wealth, and power, seek greatness and lose your liberty. For the Anti-Federalists, that was the choice. Given our current situation, one may easily get the idea that the Anti-Federalists were right, that that is the choice and that we have chosen unwisely.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Trump: In Pursuit of Virility


Trump: In Pursuit of Virility
P. Schultz

            Call me a fool but I think that much of what Donald Trump is about is due to his perceived inadequacy as a man. Think about it. He said that men should “grab a woman’s pussy.” And you will, he said, get away with it. So grab pussy, and, viola, you can prove your manhood; you can prove you are virile.

            And, of course, of late Trump has been attacking NFL footballers, at least those who protest in some way when the national anthem is being played. Now, think about it: Trump’s sport is golf, a sport that no one thinks of as evidence of virility, of machismo. [Note: I am a golfer and love the sport.] The most famous golfers are not identified by their virility. How could they be when what they do is hit a little ball around a course, “driving” the ball, “laying up,” and then seeking to “putt” the ball into a tiny hole? There are no “bombs” in golf, no “blitzes,” so “sacks.” There is no contact between golfers, only contact between a golfer’s club and a little, white ball. So, taking on NFLers, as Trump is doing, is a way of asserting or seeming to assert his virility. Trump’s campaign is not about the anthem; it’s about his alleged manhood, his alleged virility.

            Moreover, Trump’s endorsement of torture is also evidence that he is seeking to assert his virility. Torture is perceived as “masculine,” proof of one’s “toughness,” one’s ability to smack around, to string up, to drown, to intimidate those evil terrorists and to do so without batting an eye. No one perceives torturers as women and this despite the movie Zero Dark Thirty. Of course, at the end of that movie, the woman who vigorously supports torture and the assassination of bin Laden breaks down in tears. No man would do that, at least not openly.

            Of course, it is little wonder that Trump needs to prove, even to himself, his virility, as he never served in the nation’s military as he was deferred more than once during the Vietnam War. And so far as I know, Trump never played a contact sport where he would have to test his mettle against other male bodies. His entire life, it seems, has been spent avoiding physical contact with other male bodies and dissing or abusing the bodies of women.

            Perhaps Trump’s insecurities regarding his manhood explain his obvious dislike and disrespect of John McCain, who did serve his country in Nam and proved his virility, his manhood during his long incarceration in the “Hanoi Hilton.” McCain reminds Trump of everything he isn’t. Let us hope that Trump’s inadequacies as a man don’t lead him and us into more wars than we already have.