FT157: “Now that the anti-establishment types are running government we are no longer to question authority but embrace it.” —Old Pithy
The History of Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army and the English Civil War were not that Distant
Benjamin Franklin said the first responsibility of every citizen is to question authority. That was kind of America’s thing. Giving the finger to the governing authority. Figuratively. And sometimes literally. Starting with King George III. One of our earliest flags said, “Don’t tread on me.” This flag had a coiled rattle snake on it. Franklin thought the rattle snake was a good symbol of the American people. If the British left us alone this snake would cause no harm. If you get too close this snake will warn you to back off by shaking its rattle. If you don’t heed this warning and threaten this snake it will strike you with lethal force.
This problem with authority almost lost the Revolutionary War for us. At first American soldiers didn’t like following orders. For if they could rebel against their king they could just as easily rebel against a commanding officer. George Washington stopped that. But this mistrust of authority was systemic. The state governments did not trust the Continental Congress. That distant central power. Anymore than they trusted that other distant central power. The British monarchy.
So the Continental Congress was woefully underfunded throughout the Revolutionary War. Finding it very difficult to supply the Continental Army. Or pay her soldiers. Something else the states didn’t trust. A standing army. For the history of Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army and the English Civil War were not that distant. Or the peace that followed. Where that army helped keep the new government in power. And unleashed great woe and suffering to the Catholics in Ireland and Scotland.
Kings don’t suffer Personal Attacks in the Newspapers like an Elected President Does
So the Americans stood up to that distant power. And to her ministers in the American colonies. Not afraid to speak truth to power. To speak out about the abuses of King George in the colonies. Which Thomas Jefferson summarized in the Declaration of Independence. They spoke contemptuously of the ruling British authorities. When they won their independence they transferred this contempt to the new federal government. The states trusted the new central authority in the United States little more than they trusted the one on the far side of the Atlantic. And many fought as passionately against it as they fought against King George.
Even those in the new central government didn’t trust each other. Political parties formed. Alexander Hamilton led the Federalists. Who wanted a strong central government. And Thomas Jefferson led the Republicans. Who wanted a weak central government. Keeping the power in the states. Hamilton and Jefferson hated each other. Despised each other. Believed that the other was everything that was wrong in the new nation. And they attacked each other viciously in the newspapers through their surrogates. Which were extensions of these political parties. So if you wanted fair and balanced news all you had to do was read at least two newspapers. Weigh the vitriol and lies in each to arrive at the truth. Which was somewhere in between.
And these papers were pretty nasty. Even attacking the most beloved man in the country. George Washington. Calling him old and senile. Secretly British. A mere puppet controlled by that evil puppet master Alexander Hamilton. George Washington could have been king with the blessings of the American people. Instead he chose to keep the United States a republic. And suffered horribly for it. For kings don’t suffer the personal attacks in the newspapers like an elected president does. This was representative government. Where the people are sovereign. And the president is a servant of the people. Not the other way around. Like in a monarchy.
You can call LBJ and George W. Bush Murderers but you can’t ask President Obama Questions he doesn’t want to Answer
People marveled at how George Washington stepped down from power after his second term as president. Even King George said that if he did that he would be the greatest man in the world. And he did. Proving the American system. But while others marveled about how he could give up power after so short a time in office Washington more likely marveled about how long he was able to stay in office. For he hated the politics. And the newspaper attacks. He was anxious to step down. He was giddy during the transfer of power. Happy to be going home. While poor John Adams had to deal with all the politics. The newspaper attacks. And the lies.
Contrast this to President Obama. Who gets treated by the media with kid gloves. Who don’t question him at all. Or his administration. It being more like a monarchy than a republic. After 4 Americans died in Benghazi the president offered no explanation. And the media did not pressure him for one. When Congress finally got to question the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, they asked her who was responsible for the failure to provide for the security for our diplomats in Benghazi? Who was responsible for not coming to their aid while they were under attack? And who was responsible for the lie about it being a spontaneous uprising in response to a YouTube video? She only yelled “what difference does it make?” And that was that. The media reported that the Republicans were mean to her. And never pressed her for answers. Or President Obama.
Even the people aren’t demanding answers. Which is sad. For once upon a time the people chanted, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” Making the political pressure of the Vietnam War so unbearable that he refused to run for a second term. But where is this outrage over President Obama’s use of drones to kill terrorists as well as the innocent civilians and children around them? Or the targeting of American citizens without any due process? We hear nothing from the people. Or the media. The same people and media who wanted to try the 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in a U.S. court not far from Ground Zero during the Bush Administration.
Why the double standard? Why was it okay to question authority in the Sixties and Seventies? No matter who was in power. But after that it was only permissible to question authority when Republicans were in power? Why is it you can call LBJ and George W. Bush murderers but you can’t ask President Obama questions he doesn’t want to answer? When Dr. Benjamin Carson spoke truth to power at the National Prayer Breakfast criticizing Obamacare and the president’s economic policies the Left attacked him for not showing deference to the president. How dare he exercise free speech in a public setting they asked? A far cry from “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” No. This president we’re supposed to show deference to. As if he was a king. Why? Apparently now that the anti-establishment types are running government we are no longer to question authority but embrace it. So they can do whatever they want to do. And change the country however they want to change it. While that whole questioning authority thing was okay when they were on the outside looking in. But now that they are on the inside looking out we need to question less and obey more.
Tags: Alexander Hamilton, anti-establishment, Benghazi, Benjamin Franklin, central authority, central government, central power, Continental Congress, English Civil War, federal government, Federalists, George W. Bush, George Washington, Jefferson, King George III, LBJ, media, monarchy, New Model Army, newspaper, Oliver Cromwell, President Obama, problem with authority, question authority, Republicans, Revolutionary War, speak truth to power, Thomas Jefferson