Attention Conservatives: Stop Selectively Quoting The Founding Fathers.
“We have to get back to the principles America was founded on.”
“THIS isn’t what the founding fathers had in mind.”
How many times have we heard statements like this from Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and their followers? They can’t go five minutes without invoking the founding fathers– usually in opposition to a Democratic politician’s attempt to address a real-world problem. Libertarians use this argument as well, albeit in a much less obnoxious, less hypocritical manner than Hannity and friends. But they’re still wrong.
Many Conservatives don’t seem to understand that the world has fundamentally changed in the last 200 years. It’s not heresy to suggest that some of the ideas of the founding fathers are outdated. You get nowhere trying to explain that capitalism can’t ran rampant, or that the expansion of our agribusiness necessitates federal oversight to keep us healthy, so let’s use buzzwords that even Sean Hannity can understand:
National defense. The military.
Guess what, Hannity? The founders of this great nation were adamantly opposed to the concept of a standing army.
Thomas Jefferson had the following thoughts on standing armies:
“Standing armies are inconsistent with [a people's] freedom and subversive of their quiet.”
“The spirit of this country is totally adverse to a large military force.”
“There shall be no standing army but in time of actual war.”
“The Greeks and Romans had no standing armies, yet they defended themselves. The Greeks by their laws, and the Romans by the spirit of their people, took care to put into the hands of their rulers no such engine of oppression as a standing army. Their system was to make every man a soldier and oblige him to repair to the standard of his country whenever that was reared. This made them invincible; and the same remedy will make us so.”
Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: “What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty.” (August 17, 1789).
James Madison: “As the greatest danger to liberty is from large standing armies, it is best to prevent them by an effectual provision for a good militia.” (1787 Federal Convention).
You get the point.
Our nation’s founders adamantly opposed the use of a standing army except in times of actual war.
This tells us two things right off the bat.
First, it tells us that Sean Hannity and his type are total fucking hypocrites. They talk glowingly of America’s military might and our influence in the world and in the same breath curse liberals for “straying” from our founding principles. You can’t have it both ways. Either shut the hell up about the founding fathers or start calling for the armed forces to be disbanded.
Secondly, it tells us that technology has made the world a whole lot smaller and a whole lot more dangerous than was the case in 1776. We need a standing army. The world has changed.
By the same token, we need a stronger government than we did 233 years ago. In 1776, the concept of a stock market crash didn’t exist. 153 years later, it nearly destroyed our nation. And 80 years after that it happened again. Our economy needs intelligent regulation. It just does.
233 years ago, nobody imagined factory farms. Nobody imagined injecting poultry and livestock with hormones to fatten them up. We didn’t need the government to inspect farms and food products to keep us safe. We do now.
233 years ago, nobody imagined the technology that would enable corporations to span countries and continents. Nobody imagined that tycoons would be more powerful than presidents– capable of virtually enslaving millions of low-wage workers across the globe. No minumum wage was neccesary, nor was any sort of welfare. It is now.
And 233 years ago, nobody imagined nuclear warfare. Nobody imagined supersonic fighter jets. It was possible for a country to defend itself without highly trained, professional armed forces. It’s not possible today.
It’s time for conservatives to stop dwelling in the past. Conservative ideals do not need to be abandoned– after all, hard work, determination, and ingenuity are what makes this country great. But we need to find a way to safeguard life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in today’s world. And that process starts with the realization that it’s not 1776 any more.