Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Party politics? That’s so 1787.

October 7, 2010 by Dr. Steve Frank


On Tuesday Publius 2.0 promised to offer twice weekly excerpts from the Federalist for your consideration. Today’s observation is from Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Number 1:

“To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives.”

Publius 2.0 likes knowing that the founders, who professed to hate political parties, eagerly joined them anyway. And no sooner had they done so than they began shouting at one other as loudly as any cable pundit today. Knowing that politics has always been a contact sport is oddly comforting. It makes Publius 2.0 think that all is not lost today, and that partisan rancor has its uses: It grabs the public by the elbow and puts opposing views in their face.

At times it has even been a force for social progress. Publius 2.0, for one, is grateful for the “bitter invectives” of those who opposed the Constitution. Their loud dissent led eventually to adoption of the Bill of Rights, which Hamilton and Madison, in the heat of the ratification contest, agreed to add to the Constitution to win support for its adoption.

What about the political shouting today? Pundits disagree whether Tea Party dissent will lead to constructive change. Larry Kudlow of the National Review foresees a free-market revolution powered by the Tea Party that will restore American greatness. Thomas Friedman of The New York Times doesn’t think so. He says the Tea Party is all steam and rhetoric, with no specific plans. What do you think? Will Tea Party dissent create a better future for America?


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