Tuesday, May 19, 2015

On Three Principles of American Government

I’m reading Alistar Cooke’s America (Knopf, 1974). Cooke (1908-1984) was an English journalist who became an American citizen. He tells the story of America dating from the Spanish conquistadors, to the French fur traders, to the English founding fathers.

In setting up our government’s structure, Cooke says the founding fathers focused on 3 basic principles – Compromise, Compromise, Compromise.

These 3 principles manifested themselves as checks and balances, the 3 branches of government , the Articles of Confederation, the Bill of Rights, and offsets between federal and state governments and between individuals and centralized government.

The 3 principles are useful to reflect upon as we bear witness to the ObamaCare related standoffs between states and Washington –sponsored Medicaid programs, state and federal health exchanges, the role of the Supreme Court, and other ObamaCare-related issues.

Compromise is not President Obama’s strength. He prefers to go his own way and to live and act in his own ideological bubble. Obama’s 3 principles seem to be to Personalize, Demonize, andMarginalize his political opponents, many of whom are his fellow Democrats, and those in the Supreme Court, who disagree with him. He does this through mandates and executive actions which may skirt the Constitution.

If one views politics as partisan warfare, these tactics make sense and may even work. If one sees politics as the art of compromise to achieve bipartisan goals, these tactics may backfire.

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