Gunpowder Treason, Guy Fawkes, Patriot Act, Bill of Rights and V for Vendetta

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 13th, 2013

Politics 101

Robert Catesby, Guy Fawkes and other Catholic Conspirators conspired to Blow up Parliament

King Henry VIII had a problem with Rome.  He didn’t like that the Pope wouldn’t annul his marriage to Catherine.  And he did not like the Pope interfering with his absolute rule of England.  So he told the Pope to mind his own beeswax.  The Pope then excommunicated Henry from the Catholic Church.  Henry said fine.  And established himself as the head of the Church of England.  And turned England Protestant around the 1530s.  Causing all English men and women to live happily ever after.

Well, not quite.  There were a lot of people who wanted to remain Catholic.  And they were pretty adamant.  Just as the Protestants were pretty adamant about remaining Protestant.  Which led them to, of course, hate each other.  A white-hot hatred at that.  For they wanted to kill each other.  And often did.  The Catholics were cautiously optimistic about King James VI of Scotland moving south to sit on the English throne as King James I of England.  Who promised to relax the anti-Catholic laws.  But, alas, he did not.  The brutal Catholic persecution continued.  So some Catholics got together to do something about that in 1605.  And the rest is, as they say, history.

“Remember, remember the fifth of November.
The Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.
I see no reason why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.”

Robert Catesby and some fellow Catholic conspirators conspired to blow up Parliament.  To teach those Protestants a lesson by killing them.  The lesson being that it was wrong to kill Catholics.  Well, the plan was so long in the making it gave the conspirators time to think.  And some began to think that what they were going to do might be bad.  So someone feeling overly anxious about what they were about to do leaked information of the plot.  And they caught poor old Guy Fawkes in the cellar with all of the gunpowder they were going to use to blow up Parliament.  Long story short the gunpowder treason and plot failed.  And most of the conspirators were killed resisting arrest.  Or executed.  But the conspirators were on to something.  As England would be consumed by civil war from 1642 to 1651.  To settle the question whether England would be Catholic.  Or Protestant.  The Protestants won.  But some time later some Protestants, the Calvinists, thought they weren’t Protestant enough.  And for speaking up they were persecuted.  So they hopped a boat and ultimately came to a place we call the United States today.

George W. Bush was the Brilliant Mastermind behind the Treason and Plot to Transform the U.S. into a Dictatorship

Ah, the United States.  The land of the free.  And the home of the brave.  After winning our independence from Great Britain the United States became that shining city on a hill.  Where people came to escape persecution.  Where Catholic and Protestant can live harmoniously together.  And where there is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.  Enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.  And the Bill of Rights.  Which provided strong safeguards to our liberty.  Protecting ourselves from a tyrannical government.  Like that we just won our independence from.  So we can have our freedom of religion.  Even for the Catholics.  A free press.  The right to peacefully assemble.  The right to speak our minds without fear of governmental retribution.  And protection from unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause and a warrant narrowly specifying the place to be searched and the persons and things to be seized.

But then came along George W. Bush.  And his Patriot Act.  A conservative Christian.  And the next thing we knew they were warrantless wiretaps on international calls to terrorists.  There was rendition.  Secret CIA prisons in foreign countries to hold and interrogate terrorists.  Guantanamo Bay.  Where we held enemy combatants captured on the field of battle.  Who fought under no national flag.  And who were not signatory to the Geneva Convention.  The United States held these international outlaws in Guantanamo Bay outside the American legal justice system.  And we even water-boarded three terrorists.  The Bush administration even went so far as to use drones to kill terrorists in foreign countries without due process.

According to those on the left George W. Bush tore up the Bill of Rights.  The brilliant mastermind behind the treason and plot to transform the United States into a dictatorship.  This same man they belittled relentlessly for being an idiot and a fool.  This was the guy that was so shrewd and conniving that he was going to become the next Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler or Adam Sutler.  This devout Christian who lived by the Golden Rule.  Who used the powers of the Constitution to protect the people of the United States from further terrorist attacks.  Which he did.  The American homeland did not suffer another terrorist attack following 9/11 during his 8 years in office.

Despite winning the War on Terror President Obama increased the Domestic Spying of U.S. Citizens

But the left hated him.  They attacked him relentlessly.  On television.  And in the movies.  Even making movies on how to kill him.  The political opposition tried to shut him down.  And basically did when the Democrats won both houses of Congress in the 2006 midterm election.  Taking obstructionism to new heights.  And the mainstream media didn’t even hide their liberal bias.  Because the assault on our civil rights was so great.  They saw parallels between the Orwellian future of Adam Sutler’s England in the movie V for Vendetta and the Bush presidency.  Helped along with a lot of imagery of the Bush presidency nuanced throughout the movie.  V’s speech to London was not only an indictment of the Sutler chancellorship.  It was an indictment of the Bush presidency.

But really, now, which presidency does this speech ring more true?  The Bush presidency?  Or the Obama presidency?  Which presidency has been more active in preventing the political opposition from speaking?  It wasn’t the Bush presidency that used the power of the IRS to shut down free speech.  It was the IRS under the Obama presidency that shut down the free speech of the Tea Party.  Guantanamo Bay is still open.  Though President Obama is not adding more prisoners there.  For he has stepped up drone strikes.  Killing terrorists overseas instead of bringing them back to the U.S. for interrogation.  As well as a few civilians who were unfortunately standing near a terrorist during a drone strike.  Even killing Americans on foreign soil without first reading them their Miranda rights.  Something George W. Bush didn’t do.

And then there’s the collecting of metadata from all our phone calls.  Without a warrant narrowly specifying the place to be searched and the persons and things to be seized.  And project PRISM.  The monitoring and storing of Internet activity.  Some of this domestic spying under the Obama presidency may even exceed the authority of the hated Patriot Act.  President Obama has increased the domestic spying from what the Bush administration did.  Despite President Obama winning the War on Terror with the killing of Osama bin Laden.  Which was a campaign theme of the 2012 election.  The president had delivered a knockout blow to al Qaeda who was now on the ropes and in retreat.  Yet with this victory in the War on Terror President Obama increased the domestic spying the government was doing on its citizens.  Why?  For the same reason the IRS harassed the Tea Party?  To suppress the political opposition?  All of this domestic spying failed to stop the Boston Marathon bombing.  And these guys were all over the Internet.  So if they’ve increased this domestic spying but are not using it to stop terrorists like the Boston Marathon bombers (or the Foot Hood terrorist, the killing of our ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, etc.) what are they using this data for?

So I ask again.  Which presidency does V’s speech ring more true?  The God-fearing George W. Bush who tried to protect the people?  Or the ‘consolidate power by any means necessary’ President Obama?  The president that gave us Obamacare against the will of the people.  A program to be enforced by the hated IRS.  Who have their own armed enforcement officers.  Obamacare also forces Catholics to provide birth control and abortion pills to their employees.  Against their conscience.  Making Obamacare anti-Catholic legislation.  Similar to the kind that inspired the gunpowder treason and plot.  Of which Guy Fawkes participated in.  And who was the inspiration of V.  Giving us the answer to our question.

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Treason, Benjamin Franklin, William Franklin, Reconciliation, Hutchinson Letters, Boston Tea Party, The Cockpit, Patriot and Loyalist

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 10th, 2012

Politics 101

The Hutchinson Letters and the Tea Act put the Americans firmly on the Path to Independence

There’s a fine line between treason and loyalty.  Some people cross that line.  Some people don’t.  Some people wait to see which side of the line their best interests lay.  Some like to straddle the line.  Either unable to commit.  Unwilling to commit.  Or unwilling to give up profiting from both sides of that line.  Such it was during the American Revolutionary War.  A very unique conflict.  That pitted colony against mother country.  New World against Old World.  American against Brit.  Brit against Brit.  And American against American.

The American Revolutionary War was a smorgasbord of antagonism.  What started out as a dispute over taxation escalated into world war.  And into civil war.  To settle old scores.  And to settle new ones.  Upon the signing of the Declaration of Independence the American colonies were in open rebellion against their sovereign.  The ultimate act of treason.  Yet they committed this act of treason to live a more British life.  For Britain’s constitutional monarchy gave unprecedented rights to British subjects.  And the highest standard of living then known to a middle class.  Most knew what the rest of the world was like.  And they wouldn’t trade their British way of life for any other.  So rebellion undoubtedly made a great many nervous.  For many were happy and comfortable living under the British sovereign.  Benjamin Franklin, for one.

Franklin was a Loyalist.  At first.  He knew how to work the system.  And did.  Even achieving the post of American postmaster.  And he made it profitable.  Very profitable.  Even his son, William Franklin, was governor general in New Jersey.  So he was very connected to the British Empire.  And saw it as the best system of government ever developed.  Which is why he sought reconciliation.  He was in England when tensions were increasing between the colonies and the mother country.  He then came into the possession of some private correspondence that he passed along to his contacts in Massachusetts.  The Hutchinson letters.  As in governor general of Massachusetts Thomas Hutchinson.  Which basically said that the way to subdue the unrest over recent Parliament actions (i.e., taxation without representation) was to deprive the colonists of some of their English liberties.  Franklin asked that they not publish these letters.  His intent was to calm the more radical in America.  Proving that these misguided policies were the result of some bad advice from a few people.  There was no general animosity towards the American colonies in Great Britain.  And that reconciliation was possible.  Which is what Franklin wanted.  But they published the Hutchinson letters.  And the Americans were not pleased.  Then one thing led to another.  After Parliament passed the Tea Act Franklin was anxious of the American response.  Hoping for calm.  But the response was anything but calm.  And did nothing to aid reconciliation. 

The Humiliation in the Cockpit helped Push Franklin from Reconciliation to Independence

When the first tea arrived following the Tea Act the Patriots threw it in Boston Harbor.  Forever known thereafter as the Boston Tea Party (1763).  This destruction of private property shocked Franklin.  For this was not an act against Parliament.  But an act against a private company.  The East India Company.  This did not go over well in England.  Which was pretty agitated over the publication of those private Hutchinson letters.  People accused each other of being the source of the leak.  It got so bad that two men dueled in Hyde Park.  Each blaming the other for the dishonorable act of leaking those private letters.  Not being a very good duel both men survived.  When they were going to have at it again Franklin publically stated that he was the leak.  Explaining his intentions. 

Though Franklin sought reconciliation he had his enemies in England.  Who thought he was more of rabble rouser on the other side of the pond.  And pounced on this opportunity to disgrace him.   They summoned him to appear before the Privy Council.  On the pretense to hear testimony on the petition from the Massachusetts Assembly to remove Hutchinson as governor general.  But when Franklin arrived in the ‘Cockpit’ he found that he was on trial.  For leaking the Hutchinson letters.  News of the Boston Tea Party had by then reached England.  And the newspapers attacked Franklin without mercy.  All of England was turning against the man who wanted reconciliation more than any American.  It even looked like Franklin could end up in an English jail. 

It was an all out assault on Franklin in the Cockpit.  Where his enemies packed the room.  While few of his friends sat in.  Such as Edmund Burke.  Lord Le Despencer.  And Joseph Priestly.  One after another his enemies took their turn lambasting Franklin.  Blaming him for the agitation in the American colonies against British rule.  They attacked him personally.  And besmirched his honor.  Humiliated him.  During it all Franklin stood silent.  Refusing to partake in this farce.  When Wedderburn called Franklin as a witness his counsel stated that his client declined to subject himself to examination.  In the end they rejected the Massachusetts petition.  And his friend Lord Le Despencer had no choice but to relieve Franklin from his post as American postmaster.  He wrote his son William and urged him to quit his post as governor general of New Jersey in order to pursue more honorable work.  He would not, though.  And thus began the breach between father and son.

Franklin and William were no longer Father and Son but Patriot and Loyalist

William would stay loyal to the crown.  While Franklin was moving closer to the side of the Patriots.  In response to the Boston Tea Party Britain planned a blockade of Boston Harbor.  In response the colonies united behind Boston and formed the First Continental Congress.  Which William said was a mistake.  And that Boston should make good on the tea they destroyed.  Which would be the best way to calm the situation.  And reopen Boston Harbor.  Exactly what Franklin had earlier suggested.  But after the Cockpit and the loss of his post as postmaster Franklin was losing his love for the British Empire.  But he still tried while he remained in England with no official duties.  He even played chess with Caroline Howe.  Sister of Admiral Richard Howe and General William Howe.  Who would later command the British naval and military forces in the opening of the Revolutionary War.  But at the time they were both sympathetic to the American cause.  Despite of his shameful treatment in the Cockpit she and other friends urged him to put pen to paper.  And try to mediate a peaceful solution to the breach between the American colonies and Great Britain.  He tried. 

But all efforts came to naught.  He worked on a bill with Lord Chatham.  Which Lord Sandwich attacked with a fury when introduced into the House of Lords.  And they publicly attacked Franklin again.  They rejected the bill.  And Franklin booked passage home.  He met with Edmund Burke before leaving.  Discussed with him one last plea for reconciliation.  He spent his last day in London with his friend Joseph Priestly.  And discussed the future.  The coming war.  Reading the papers.  Priestly later wrote that the thought of that dismal future brought Franklin to tears.  After Franklin was on a ship sailing west Burke rose in Parliament and gave his famous speech On Conciliation with America. Where he said, “A great empire and little minds go ill together.”

The move to independence accelerated after arriving home.  Thomas Paine, who Franklin helped to bring to America, wrote Common Sense.  Which Franklin read before it was published.  Even offered a few revisions.  As he would offer later to Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.  Then the Continental Congress scheduled a vote for independence.  General Washington was preparing to fight General William Howe on Long Island.  Supported by his brother Admiral Lord Richard Howe.  Who made one last attempt at conciliation with Franklin.  But things had already progressed too far.  Franklin had crossed that fine line.  The time for peace had passed.  On June 15, 1776, the new American provincial government in New Jersey ordered the arrest of William Franklin.  On the day of his trial Benjamin Franklin wrote General Washington.  He did not mention William.  Nor did he say anything when the Continental Congress voted to imprison him in Connecticut.  The breach between father and son was complete.  No longer father and son.  But Patriot and Loyalist.  As families throughout the colonies similarly tore asunder.  Setting the stage for the civil war within the world war that was the American Revolution.

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Charles I, Duke of Buckingham, Earl of Strafford, Ulster, William Laud, Grand Remonstrance, English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell & Charles II

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 2nd, 2012

Politics 101

Like Father Like Son, Charles I Dissolves Parliament after not Getting the Money he wanted for his Misadventures

At the start of the 17th century England was a lot like other monarchies in Europe.  Powerful.  And used to getting their way.  Sure, sometimes they had to give a little to Parliament.  That body of the people.  But that was more of an irritant than a force to be reckoned with.  By the end of the century that irritant would become the most powerful restraint on a monarch’s power the word had ever seen.

When the Scottish King James VI became King James I of England the Scottish king changed his Scottish name from ‘Stewart’ to the English ‘Stuart’.  Being the king of Scotland was all well and nice but the money and the power was in England.  And for the first time an English king ruled over Scotland (being Scottish to begin with, of course, helped).  And Wales.  And Ireland.  These were heady times to be king.  But, alas, his subjects didn’t much care for him.  Especially that body of the people.  Parliament.  Which refused to fund his errant ways.  Which took all the fun out of being king. 

Eventually James I did what all kings do.  Died.  And the crown went to Charles I.  Who annoyed his subjects even more than his dad did.  Because, like Dad, he believed in the Divine Right of Kings.  And he dissolved Parliament, too.  Just like Dad.  After Parliament was complaining about his spending habits.  And all those military misadventures.  Headed by a guy Parliament hated.  George Villiers.  The Duke of Buckingham.  Who tried to liberate Protestant Netherlands from Catholic Spain.  And failed.  Who tried to capture the Spanish treasure fleet ala Sir Francis Drake.  And failed.  Who tried to liberate Huguenot (Protestant) France.  And failed.  Buckingham was so hated that someone eventually assassinated him.

The Scottish Commit Treason to Save the Kirk from Catholicism, Charles calls Parliament to Raise an Army

Charles and the Duke were burning through a lot of Parliament’s money.  And had nothing to show for it.  In the process the king was walking all over English Common Law.  Worse, he was meddling with the Church of England.  Making the Protestant church look more and more Catholic.  It was all too much.  To borrow a lyric from the late George Harrison.  So Parliament hit the king where it hurt.  Sir John Eliot led Parliament in restricting customs duties to pay for Charles’ errant ways.  Infuriated, Charles sent his messenger, Black Rod, to dissolve Parliament.  He did.  But not before they passed Three Resolutions.  Calling Charles’ actions treason.  A bit strong for some in Parliament.  Including one ‘Black Tom’ Wentworth.  Who switched sides.  Charles made him the Earl of Strafford.  His muscle.  And sent him to Ireland.

The English may have conquered Ireland but Ireland never fully accepted being conquered.  There were many uprisings against English rule.  The problem was that Ireland was Catholic.  So not only were the English subjugating them they were attacking their religion.  Elizabeth I tried to solve this.  By having Protestant Scots settle in Ireland.  In Ulster.  In Northern Ireland.  James I followed suit.  And then annexed this land.  So there wasn’t a whole lotta love between the Irish and the English.  To borrow a lyric from Robert Plant.  And the Earl of Strafford did nothing to improve that.  He went there for money.  And got it.  More taxes.  And protection money.  Which made the Irish hate the English even more.  As if that was even possible.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, there was more trouble.  The guy making the English Church Catholic, William Laud, was doing the same thing to the Kirk.  The Scottish church.  Which was Presbyterian.  Very Protestant.  And very un-Catholic.  The Presbyterians were already not happy that their Parliament made Charles’ dad head of their church.  For kings weren’t supposed to head Presbyterian churches.  And now this.  This foul wind of Catholicism.  Well, they didn’t just sit there and take it.  They drew up a National Covenant telling Charles to stop.  Or else.  This was, of course, treason.  You just didn’t tell kings what to do.  Especially if said king believed in the Divine Right of Kings.  So Charles wanted to thump them good.  These Covenanters.  But Charles had a bit of a problem.  To raise an army for a good thumping you needed money.  Which wasn’t easy to come by when you’ve dissolved Parliament.  But he sent up a small army anyway in what we call the first Bishops’ War.  Too small to do anything they turned around and went home without fighting a battle.  Charles called for his Muscle.  Strafford.  Who told him to call Parliament.  He did.  A decade or so had passed since he dissolved the previous one.  So there shouldn’t be any harsh feelings, right?

Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army ultimately defeated Charles I in the English Civil War 

But there were.  John Pym was the new head of the royal opposition.  And the people weren’t happy.  In England, Scotland or Ireland.  They hated Laud.  Strafford.  Paying ship money (taxes raised from coastal cities to build navies to protect coastal towns which somehow ended up helping Catholics fight Protestants in the Netherlands).  And they especially hated the court set up to encourage those reluctant to pay forced loans and extralegal taxes loan their money and pay their taxes.  So Charles was not greeted warmly.  Didn’t get the money he wanted.  So he dissolved Parliament after three weeks of this nonsense (thereafter known as the Short Parliament) and told Strafford to raise an army and teach the Scottish who their king was.  He did.  With a small army.  And fought the second Bishops’ War.  Which ended worse for Charles than the first Bishops’ War.  He lost a chunk of northern England this time.  He needed an army.  And to get an army he needed money.  Which left him no choice.  He had to call Parliament again.

This Parliament, the Long Parliament, wasn’t any more helpful.  Instead of giving Charles money they gave him a list of demands.  Arrest Laud and Strafford.  And abolish ship money and those courts.  He signed the order to execute Strafford.  “Put not your trust in Princes,” indeed.  And sent Laud to the Tower of London.  To die of age.  Meanwhile, over in Ireland, the Catholics were rising up in Ulster.  Killing Protestants wherever they found them.  Charles needed money to raise an army and fast.  But Parliament was still reluctant.  As they feared he could turn that army on Parliament.  Pym and another Member of Parliament, Hampden, passed a bill transferring power from king to Parliament.  The Grand Remonstrance.  Which led to civil war.  War between Parliament and the king.

Civil wars are the cruelest of wars.  There were no standing armies then.  So both sides assembled volunteers from their communities.  So those killing each other often knew each other.  Old friends.  Neighbors.  And family.  They tore families and communities apart.  When one of your own kills your friends and family it tends to draw some violent and cruel acts of revenge.  This was the English Civil War.  Bloody.  And cruel.  Parliament lost some early battles.  Thanks to Charles’ cousin.  A professional cavalry officer.  Who knew a thing or two about winning battles.  He so impressed Oliver Cromwell that he raised a professional cavalry force like his to fight for Parliament.  He, too, was very successful.  Soon Parliament organized their whole army along the same lines.  It was the birth of a professional, standing army.  The New Model Army.  Under Cromwell.  And Sir Thomas Fairfax.  It was the New Model Army that ultimately defeated Charles. 

Their British Descendants built the New World with a Full Knowledge of their Past

Parliament won.  Thanks to the army.  But there was little unity in Parliament.  Or the army.  They had Charles.  But they couldn’t agree on what to do with him.  Charles wrote to the Scots and asked them to save their king.  The Scots came down and started fighting.  Leading to a second civil war.  That Cromwell won in short order.  And decided that they had to try Charles for treason.  They found him guilty.  Executed him.  Made England a republic.  And ended hereditary rule.  The Scots, meanwhile, where none too pleased that they executed their king.  So they crowned Charles’ son king.  So Cromwell came north and thumped the Scottish.  Parliament made Cromwell Lord Protector.  He wasn’t a king.  But he sure looked like he was.  Then he went to Ireland and thumped them for their past sins in Ulster. 

Cromwell would die in office.  In 1658.  And much like a monarchy, which England wasn’t, Cromwell’s son inherited his office of Lord Protector.  For a while, at least.  He wasn’t like the old man.  He was weak.  And couldn’t control the army.  Charles II, in exile in the Netherlands, offered the English a deal.  Let him be king and he would give them pardons and promises galore.  Even said he would pay the army.  Long story short, England got a king again.  One that would work with Parliament.  He never trusted them.  For they did kill his dad.  But he tolerated them.  And made a deal with French King Louis XIV.  The Sun King.  Who also believed in the Divine Right of Kings.  Charles II married a Catholic.  And his brother was Catholic.  So he had some mutual interests with the French king.  A reason not to attack Catholics.  Which the French were.  Helping to maintain the peace between the two super powers.  And brought some French funds into the Crown.  Which was a lot easier than begging Parliament for it.

Charles granted complete religious freedom for everyone.  Even Catholics.  In the Declaration of Indulgence.  But Parliament was still Protestant.  So if you wanted to serve in the army, serve in Parliament or go to college you had to be a member of the Protestant Church of England.  So the century ended as it started.  With a king.  Only a king with limited powers.  But it had something new.  Religious freedom.  At least, some religious freedom.  Within a century these things would take on even greater meaning on the other side of the Atlantic.  In the New World.  Where their British descendants would build the new with full knowledge of their past.

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Primary and General Elections

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 15th, 2011

Politics 101

The Founding Fathers pledged to each other their Lives, their Fortunes and their Sacred Honor

People have protested and died fighting for the right to vote throughout history.  The American Revolutionary War was over taxation without representation.  Meaning that the American colonies wanted representation in British Parliament.  Something the British government did not allow.  Worse, they started taxing the Americans.  Who had no representation in Parliament.  And this did not go over well with the American colonists.  They had had enough.  They wanted a say in their government.

So the Founding Fathers committed treason.  They signed the Declaration of Independence.  And fought 8 years to have that say in their government.  It took awhile.  And a lot of the signers of the Declaration of Independence suffered for their treason.  They lost their property.  Their wealth.  And even their families.  Who suffered all sorts of brutality at the hands of the British.  These traitors.  Who defied their king.  But the cause persevered.  And the Americans won their independence.  As well as their right to self-government.

Back then people cared.  Enough to pledge to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.  But today?  People have other priorities in life.  Where reality television is more important in their lives than having that say in their government.  For they have no idea what the Founding Fathers paid to give us this cushy life of plenty.  And just assume the good times will continue to roll.  Especially if they keep voting for whoever promises to give them more free stuff.

Candidates move to the Center after Winning their Party’s Nomination and become someone Completely Different

In the country that struggled for 8 years to get the right to vote.  In the country that inspired people all around the world to follow them in the pursuit of happiness.  In the very bastion of liberty and self-government.  In America.  Guess how many people vote today in a typical presidential election.  Little more than half of eligible voters.  And that’s in the general election.  It’s far worse in the primary election.  Where we see maybe half of that turnout.  Which is rather sad.  Considering that these are the people who actually pay attention to politics.  For this is where a political party chooses their candidate for the general election.  You see, each party has a platform.  A set of political ideas.  Their core philosophy.  And the people choose who they think will best advance their party platform in the primary election.

So during the primary election candidates try to be that candidate.  The one who will best advance the party platform.  Typically the conservative moves as far right as possible to show his or her conservative bona fides.  And the liberal moves as far left as possible to show his or her liberal bona fides.  Here they’re trying to appeal to the party base.  The hardcore.  Those who are as far away from the political center as is possible.  Those who don’t give a whit about compromise or bipartisanship.  They want a purebred candidate that will take the country where they feel it should be.  They don’t want someone who will reach across the aisle and compromise away their most cherished principles.

The population roughly breaks down to 40% conservative, 20% liberal and 40% moderate/independent.  Which is all fine and dandy during the primary election.  But it’s a bit of a problem during the general election.  For that 40% moderate/independent forms the political center.  That area the candidates run away from during the primary election.  So they must scramble back to it after winning their party’s nomination.  And hope that most of those in the center didn’t pay attention during the primary.  To make the lying easier.  To no longer be who they said they were during the primary.  But to be someone completely different.  Someone who can reach across the aisle.  Someone who can compromise away their base’s most cherished principles.  Someone who believes politics should be bipartisan.  Or, better still, nonpartisan.  In other words, the last person their base would want.

When the Choice is between two Moderates, Democrats will always Choose the Democrat Moderate

Liberals have to run to the center.  For their base only amounts to about 20% of the electorate.  But it’s not quite the same for conservatives.  At 40% of the electorate they don’t have to run the center.  They only need another 10% or so of the vote to win.  So running to the center actually hurts them.  Because a lot of that political center is Democrat.  And if the vote comes down to 2 moderates they’re going to vote for the Democrat moderate over the Republican moderate every time.  Because all things being equal, a Democrat will vote for a Democrat.

When the Republicans ran a moderate who campaigned as someone who would reach across the aisle and compromise away his base’s most cherished principles, John McCain didn’t get the moderate vote.  They voted for the Democrat.  Who lied during the general election and ran as a moderate.  Sometimes he even talked like a conservative.  Even though Barack Obama was as liberal as they came.  At least based on his voting record in public office.

When Republican Ronald Reagan won his party nomination he didn’t run to the center.  He remained a conservative.  And he won.  Because a lot of Democrats voted for him.  The Reagan Democrats.  Because there was a real difference between him and Jimmy Carter.  There was a conservative and a liberal.  And the Reagan Democrats decided to vote for the conservative because they liked the conservative message better than the liberal message.  But when the choice is between two moderates who promise to reach across the aisle more than the other there’s no real difference between the candidates.  And no reason to vote for the other guy when he or she is no different than the one from your own party.

Ignoring the Primary Elections ignores the Philosophical Debate and turns the General Election into a Populist Contest

It is a shame the level of voter apathy in the country that stands for self-government.  Almost half of the eligible voters ignore politics 3 years out of 4.  And only vote in the presidential general election.  It’s a shame because we have a 2-party system.  Like it or not.  There are only two core political philosophies to choose from.  For those in the middle don’t have a philosophy.  A party.  A party platform.  A primary election.  Or a political convention.  They only get involved once every 4 years at the general election.  And ultimately end up voting for a Democrat or a Republican.  Even though they refuse to identify themselves with either party.

But ignoring the primary elections ignores the party platforms.  The meat and potatoes of the philosophical debate.  And turns the general election into nothing but a populist contest.  True democracy.  Mob rule.  With the winner often being the one who promises the most to the least politically informed.

Politics has come a long way since the Founding Fathers pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.  It’s probably a good thing they’re not here to see what has become of their self-government.  They wouldn’t like what they would see.  Especially the voter apathy.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUITH #17: “The raison d’être of federalism is to keep big government small.” -Old Pithy.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 8th, 2010

BONJOUR.  A LITTLE French there.  To go with the use of the French expression ‘raison d’être’.  Which means reason for being.  Sounds better in French, n’est-ce pas?

I like Canada.  Both parts.  The French and the English parts.  I’ve met and become friends with people in Toronto, Montreal, Fredericton and Corner Brook.  And elsewhere.  I like to talk to my Francophone friends about that day on the Plains of Abraham.  And I like to speak French to my Anglophone friends.  And they both like to point out to me what they believe to be America’s lack of tolerance and compassion.

The Canadians may be a tolerant and friendly people.  Everyone says that about them.  That they’re nice.  And they are.  But they have to work at it at times.  For there ain’t a whole lot of love between the French and English.  Not now.  Or then.  When French Canada became British.

Like it or not, that animosity has been at the van of Western Civilization.  And it would compete in the New World.  Colonize it.  Fight in it.  And give birth to a new nation.  One that would break from the ways of the past.

“WHO’S THAT, THEN?” one filthy peasant asked another.

“I don’t know.  Must be a king. ”

“Why?”

“He hasn’t got shit all over him.”

(From Monty Python and the Holy Grail – 1975.)

What is a king?  Besides someone who “hasn’t got shit all over him.”  A king is where sovereignty lies.  And sovereignty?  In a word, supremacy.  Supreme authority. 

The Sun King, Louis XIV of France, was an absolute monarch and his word was the absolute law of the land.  And he could do pretty much whatever the hell he wanted.  He built his gorgeous palace at Versailles.  Because he could.  Over in England, the king was sovereign, too, but Parliament checked his power.  So the British king wasn’t an absolute monarchy.  In England, the king could do whatever he wanted as long as Parliament agreed to pay for it.  For Parliament controlled the purse strings.  There would be no Versailles in England.

Now France and England were always at war.  Their fighting even spilled over into the New World.  The 7 Years War (as the Europeans called this world war) went by a different name in North America.  The French and Indian War.  The British won.  France lost Canada and other colonial possessions.  Their loss, though, was America’s gain.  The French and Indian attacks on the American Colonists ended, leaving them with peace and prosperity.  But it was costly.  As wars are wont to be.

Over in England, Parliament had to pay that cost.  But taxes were already pretty high at the time in England.  If they raised them further, it could cause trouble.  So what to do?  Well, there were some who pointed out that the American colonists really came out the clear winner in this latest contest.  They got peace and prosperity without really paying anything to get it.  Shouldn’t they pick up part of the tab?  I mean, fair is fair, right?

And they probably would have gladly contributed as good English subjects.  However, and this is a big however, they felt they weren’t treated as good English subjects.  In fact, they felt more like Parliament’s bitch than English subjects.  And to add insult to injury, they had no vote in Parliament.

Parliament passed a series of acts that the Americans would call the Intolerable Acts.  Both sides missed opportunities for compromise and peace.  Instead, tempers festered.  Parliament would bitch-slap the colonists.  And the colonists would bitch-slap Parliament.  Eventually throwing some British East Indian tea into the water.

Now Britain’s king, King George, had a bit of a problem on his hands.  The Americans were challenging his sovereign rule.  There was a name for this.  Kings call it treason.  And they kill people for it.  King George was the supreme authority.  Anyone challenging his authority was challenging his right to rule.  That’s why acts of treason are typically punishable by death.  You don’t stand up to kings.  You grovel.  And these uppity Americans surely weren’t groveling.

And just how does a king get this authority?  Well, you don’t vote for them.  They either inherit power.  Or they kill for it.  It’s a story as old as time.  Patricide.  Matricide.  Fratricide.  And sometimes the killing was by someone outside the family.  But that’s how sovereign power changed.  A king or queen died.  Naturally.  Or with a little help.  And when a new sovereign ascended the throne, he or she usually killed all other possible contenders.

If King George didn’t put down the American rebellion, it could spread.  To Canada.  To other English colonies.  Or give someone ideas back at home that the king was weak.  And challenge him for his throne.

These are things kings think about.  Power can be precarious.  Even when it’s absolute.  As King Louis XVI would learn in France.  During the French Revolution, the people, challenging the king’s sovereignty, sent him to the guillotine.  Chopped his head off.  His wife’s, too.  Marie Antoinette.

ENGLAND GAVE BIRTH to modern, representative government.  It was a balance of power between the many (the common people in the House of Commons), the few (the aristocratic rich in the House of Lords) and the one (the sovereign king).  Each provided a check on the others.  The king was the supreme power but he needed money to wage war and build things.  Parliament collected taxes and paid for things they approved of.  And the House of Lords was to keep that spending from getting out of control as they understood money and costs (that’s what rich people are good at).  They were to protect the nation from the evils of pure democracy where the people, once they realize they can, will vote themselves the treasury.

Most of the American colonists were transplanted Englishmen.  Or came from English stock.  They were English subjects (at least in name if not in practice).  They understood representative government.  Their colonial governments were in fact very British.  The Rule of Law was the rule of the land.  The governed consented to taxation.  And the government collected the taxes they consented to. 

You can probably see where this is going.

Taxation without representation was very un-English.  The fact that it was okay in the American colonies chafed the American English subjects.  I mean, it really frosted their shorts.  It wasn’t right.  By English law.  Or by precedent.  Anger at Parliament turned into anger at the king.  Questions of sovereignty arose.  Should the king be sovereign?  Or should the people?  In 1776, the American colonists stated their opinion in a very treasonous document.  The Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….

The U.S. Constitution emphasized the sovereignty of the people in the preamble.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Kings were out.  The Rule of Law was in.  No aristocracy.  No hereditary offices.  In America, it would be different.  After the Battle of Gettysburg some 75 years later, Abraham Lincoln would reiterate this at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…

…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

THE AMERICAN COLONISTS rebelled and broke away from Great Britain because they were through with being her bitch.  In fact, they weren’t going to be anyone’s bitch.  That’s why there was a lot of opposition to the establishment of a strong, central government.  They didn’t want a national government taking up where Great Britain left off.  And they didn’t want an American president to be just another King George.  The people won their liberty.  And they intended to keep it.  So they could pursue that happiness Thomas Jefferson wrote about in the Declaration of Independence.

Federalism was the solution.  The states’ governments would retain most of their powers.  Only those things they could not do well (regulate ‘free-trade’ interstate commerce, negotiate trade agreements with other nations, wage war, etc.) would be done by the new national government.  The people would remain sovereign.  Strong state governments and a ‘weak’ central government would share power.  In effect, the new central government was to be the people’s bitch.  But you’d never know that by looking at things today.

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