The Crisis in American Politics

What the 18th century Framers of our government feared, abuse of power and corrupt politicians taking control of our system of government, has apparently come to pass, if this election season and those who are our choices for President, are any indication.

The Framers—people such as Washington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Jay, Hamilton, Dickinson—feared that Democracy would result in demagoguery, as it did in ancient Athens, and Republicanism, if not checked and balanced, would result in unbridled power, especially in the hands of the Executive.

The Framers were particularly influenced by the ancient Roman Republic, which was a very successful government for a time. The success of Rome was because of the checks and balances on executive power: two consuls were elected annually, could not be re-elected, and had the veto over the other; the Senate, the membership of which was comprised of former magistrates, also had a check on the power of the consuls, who were charged with enforcing laws and commanding the military—as does the President of the United States.

The Romans also had a worldview based on moral principles that seemed appropriate for Republican government. They believed in pietas: piety–respect for elders, respect for ancestors, following the ways of tradition; gravitas: gravity–seriousness, commanding respect, and stolidity; and virtus: virtue—prompt and effective action in the face of problems, tasks, and enemies.

Some of our Presidents have had these characteristics: Washington had gravitas; Roosevelt had virtus; Lincoln had pietas.

I wonder: what quality does our current President have that sets him apart from others? What quality does Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump have that would fit pietas, gravitas, and virtus? Clearly, it is difficult to answer these questions, in part because the highest office has increasing succumbed to arrogance, vanity, hubris, callousness, corruption, and demagoguery. The President of the United States is far too powerful a person to elect anyone who cannot show humility, restraint, wisdom, piety, dignity, strength of character, honesty, and foresight.

Based on our choices and who we have had for the past eight years, I would say that the American people have their work cut out for them, to find a solution to the demagoguery, corruption, political correctness, and subordination to special interests, that dominate our politics, and have effectively made the President and the Executive Branch a tool of ideologues and their political interests.

About theamericanplutarch

Writer, thinker, historian.
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