May 20th 2016

What Would George Washington Do?

by Jeff Schweitzer

Jeff Schweitzer is a scientist and former White House Senior Policy Analyst; Ph.D. in marine biology/neurophysiology

What we observe today with Donald Trump as a nominee, and Mitch McConnell obstructing our Constitution by blocking Obama’s candidate for the Supreme Court, is an echo of past times in which our country has seen the ugly side of ideological extremism. We can hark back to the earliest days of our republic to see deep rifts between political factions that formalized into parties battling for our future. Tribalism has always been with us.

In his 1796 farewell address, George Washington warned that the rise of Party politics that he was witnessing:

“... serves always to distract the Public Councils and enfeeble the Public administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one party against another, foments occasional riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions...”

Warring Factions

Our Founding Fathers, who wished to create “not a system of party government under a constitution but rather a constitutional government that would check and control parties”, would be appalled at what modern American politics has become. Their greatest fears have become reality as a reality TV star is taken seriously as a presidential candidate.

Washington’s specific concern was the increasingly hostile polarization between the Federalists and the Democrat-Republicans (no relationship at all to today’s parties). The parallel to current events is enlightening for its similarities and differences.

At stake then were two vastly different views of how America’s future would unfold. Federalists, embodied in Alexander Hamilton, advocated for a strong central government capable of building a nation still in the vulnerable stage of infancy and protecting America’s growing business interests at home and abroad. Federalists wanted to strengthen ties to Britain. The Democrat-Republicans (anti-Federalists) championed by Thomas Jefferson, feared that a strong central government would return the new country to monarchy. The anti-Federalists pined more for an agrarian society than an industrial one, and wished to align the United States more with revolutionary France than with Britain.

Jefferson claimed the Federalists were for the “opulent” classes while he and his supporters were for “the mass of the people.”

This deep divide was one of Washington’s primary worries upon leaving office. In that same address of 1796, he further warned that political parties could:

“...become potent engines by which . . . unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.”

Parallels and Differences

Can anybody read that warning from Washington about unprincipled men usurping the reins of government and not think of Donald Trump? Can anybody read those words from Jefferson about the “opulent class” and “mass of the people” and not think of the modern versions of the GOP and Democrats? But the parallels are not perfect by any means; and those differences are telling.

The biggest divergence between then and now is how the two sides view the role of central government. With the glaring exception of a large military, the party of big business today disdains big government. The GOP in simple terms supports the wealthy, with the idea that by doing so all sectors of society benefit. This is the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats. Low taxes, less regulation, small government, unfettered capitalism and laws favoring Wall Street over Main Street are all central to the modern Republican Party. This GOP is an offspring of Federalist Party (benefitting the “opulent class”), which ironically began as a means of promoting a strong central government, the antithesis of the GOP.

Democrats, the descendent of the anti-Federalists, again in simple terms, advocate for higher taxes on the rich, more regulation, social programs benefiting the poor, and an emphasis on social justice. With equal irony, the anti-Federalists today in the form of Democrats (“mass of the people”) advocate for a strong central government, the precise opposite of what Thomas Jefferson wanted for the country.

So, while the two sides have flip-flopped on the fundamental nature of states’ rights and role of the federal government, they have been consistent on the other foundational ideologies that can be simplified down to liberal and conservative. In the past, conservatives promoted a strong federal government and liberals advocated for dispersed federal power. The opposite is now true, but what attributes otherwise define liberal and conservative remain fairly constant.

This divide between left and right contains within it a deep irony. American liberalism is centered on the idea of social justice, free speech, freedom of religion, celebration of diversity, and an individual’s fundamental right to free expression, without fear of reprisal or being ostracized. As I have written elsewhere this ideal is subverted by the rise of political correctness, particularly on college campuses. But as an ideology, liberalism is consistent with the promotion of LGBT rights, keeping religion out of politics, and advocating for the poor.

American conservativism on the other hand is founded on three basic principles that contrast sharply with leftist philosophy: liberty and freedom from restrictions of arbitrary force; tradition and order, and belief in god. As with liberals, these ideals are often undermined in practice. A fourth tenet is often cited here, the rule of law, but in reality both sides claim that, and both liberals and conservatives seem to apply this principle only when convenient to their cause.

But in looking at these opposing ideologies, we come to the deep irony referenced earlier. The left wants a big central government, but a small military and a government that stays out of our personal lives, bedrooms and doctors’ offices. The right wants a small government, but promotes a big military and seeks government influence to regulate reproductive choice, sex acts in our bedroom (12 states still have anti-sodomy statutes in force), what bathrooms we can use, and religion in politics to promote a Christian agenda (a majority of conservatives believe the United States is or should be a Christian nation).

Let’s be clear then: both liberals and conservatives want a strong or big government when suited to their causes and a weak or small government when government interference is counter to those causes. They simply want big and small government for opposing purposes. Neither side can claim ideological purity here; which brings me back to Federalists and anti-Federalists. Given the obvious hypocrisy on both left and right on the role of the central government, we see more clearly the genealogy of today’s Parties, with the GOP-aligned cleanly with Federalists and Democrats clearly the progeny of the anti-Federalists. We need not worry ourselves about the reversal in opinions about central government because both sides really claim both sides of this issue.

Room for Hope

This now-obvious parallel between the growing animosity between right and left today and with the Federalists and anti-Federalists in the late 1700s actually gives us some measure of hope. We’ve been here before, right at the beginning, and we’re still standing today.

We seem to cycle through periods of extreme polarization. In the decade following 1830, we had extreme partisanship between the Jacksonians and Whigs. The source of animosity was the same as always (with the added bonus of slavery thrown in): Jacksonian Democrats favored states’ rights and resented any Federal government intrusion into social and economic affairs. Jacksonians represented the “common man” and the poor “living off the land.” In contrast, Whigs were typically wealthy industrialists and nationalists who advocated for a strong central government. The sides fought about religious freedom. Sound familiar?

As a historic aside, we should mention that the Whigs eventually died on the issue of slavery, with the northern contingent opposed to that institution and the southern faction in favor of slavery. This split in the Whigs is what led to the formation of the Republican Party, with Abraham Lincoln as the first presidential candidate of the new Party.

The Jackson-Whig battle is the echo sound of history repeating itself, a replay of the fight between Federalists and anti-Federalists. And the fight never ended, with extreme partisanship rearing its ugly head again in the Civil War, Vietnam War, the McCarthy era, and the civil rights movement. Each time feels like the worst, like the country is being pulled apart, that the end is near. That is precisely why historic perspective is important. The basic issues remain the same as we cycle through periods of greater or lesser tolerance and extremism. We will certainly cycle through this latest period of angst.

We are clearly in a time of ascending intolerance. The likes of Sarah Palin, Mitch McConnell, George W. Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump represent the right’s radical embrace of extreme partisanship. But as bad as this feels, as close to the Apocalypse as this seems, take solace in knowing that we’ve experienced this radicalism previously and survived. Supporters of Jefferson and Hamilton hated each other passionately. Those behind Andrew Jackson and supporters of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were violent enemies. These opposing forces were every bit as far apart or more than what we see in the vast abyss separating Clinton and Trump. And yet here we are.

Seen from the high perch of history, the future is not as bleak as the present would indicate. In fact, there may be room for actual optimism. It could well be that if Trump loses, and loses badly, we could be witnessing the nadir of this latest cycle of extremism, which could die along with Trump’s megalomaniac dreams. Trump is the natural consequence of the GOP embrace of ignorance as a virtue mixing with obstructionism as a form of patriotism; like a mushroom is a natural consequence of darkness and dung. He does not represent a movement; he is nothing but the product of decay, a process that could well be reaching its end. Few people outside the world of historians remember Henry Clay; fewer will remember Trump. He will be a footnoted curiosity marking the beginning of the end of right-wing ascendancy in American politics. There is room for hope.





Dr. Jeff Schweitzer
 is a marine biologist, consultant and internationally recognized authority in ethics, conservation and development. He is the author of five books including Calorie Wars: Fat, Fact and Fiction (July 2011), and A New Moral Code (2010). Dr. Schweitzer has spoken at numerous international conferences in Asia, Russia, Europe and the United States.Dr. Schweitzer's work is based on his desire to introduce a stronger set of ethics into American efforts to improve the human condition worldwide. He has been instrumental in designing programs that demonstrate how third world development and protecting our resources are compatible goals. His vision is to inspire a framework that ensures that humans can grow and prosper indefinitely in a healthy environment.Formerly, Dr. Schweitzer served as an Assistant Director for International Affairs in the Office of Science and Technology Policy under former President Clinton. Prior to that, Dr. Schweitzer served as the Chief Environmental Officer at the State Department's Agency for International Development. In that role, he founded the multi-agency International Cooperative Biodiversity Group Program, a U.S. Government that promoted conservation through rational economic use of natural resources.Dr. Schweitzer began his scientific career in the field of marine biology. He earned his Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. He expanded his research at the Center for Learning and Memory at the University of California, Irvine. While at U.C. Irvine he was awarded the Science, Engineering and Diplomacy Fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.Dr. Schweitzer is a pilot and he founded and edited the Malibu Mirage, an aviation magazine dedicated to pilots flying these single-engine airplanes. He and his wife Sally are avid SCUBA divers and they travel widely to see new wildlife, never far from their roots as marine scientists..To learn more about Dr Schweitzer, visit his website at http://www.JeffSchweitzer.com
.

To follow Jeff Schweizer on Twitter, please click here.

For Jeff Schweitzer web site, please click here.

Below link to Amazon for Jeff Schweitzer's latest book.


TO FOLLOW WHAT'S NEW ON FACTS & ARTS, PLEASE CLICK HERE!




 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Essays

Feb 15th 2019
Only 9% of the overall population in the UK are privately educated, but they occupy an especially high proportion when it comes to positions of public influence: a third of MPs and top business executives, half of cabinet members and newspaper editors, three-quarters of judges....
Feb 12th 2019
There is a fascinating chapter toward the end of Alexis de Toqueville’s Democracy in America titled “What Kind of Despotism Do Democratic Nations Have to Fear?” in which the author attempted something truly extraordinary – to describe a social condition which humankind had never before encountered. We find him trying to put his finger on something which does not yet exist, but which – in his extraordinary political imagination – he was able to foresee with startling clarity.............. we must recognize that Facebook, Google, and Amazon are the new leviathans. In serving users only those posts with which they will agree,  
Feb 8th 2019
Few modern cities can boast that a herd of Longhorn cattle has been driven along its main streets. But San Antonio can: each February, in a tribute to the past, the city plays host to a cattle drive.
Feb 5th 2019
Extract: "Most drugs are made to target “bulk” cancer cells, but not the root cause: the cancer stem cell. Cancer stem cells, also known as “tumour-initiating cells”, are the only cells in the tumour that can make a new tumour. New therapies that specifically target and eradicate these cancer stem cells are needed to prevent tumours growing and spreading, but for that there needs to be more clarity around the target. Our new research may have discovered such a target. We have identified and isolated cells within different cancerous growths which we call the “cell of origin”. Our experiments on cancer cells derived from a human breast tumour found that stem cells – representing 0.2% of the cancer cell population – have special characteristics."
Jan 31st 2019
For most people, teeth cleaning may just be a normal part of your daily routine. But what if the way you clean your teeth today, might affect your chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease in years to come? There is an increasing body of evidence to indicate that gum (periodontal) disease could be a plausible risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Some studies even suggest your risk doubles when gum disease persists for ten or more years. Indeed, a new US study published in Science Advances details how a type of bacteria called Porphyromonas gingivalis – or P. gingivalis – which is associated with gum disease, has been found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Tests on mice also showed how the bug spread from their mouth to brain where it destroyed nerve cells.
Jan 28th 2019
Piano design has become so “radically standardized” since the middle of the 20th century that players and audiences are robbed of any choice today, claims a new book the piano’s past, present and future.  This book fearlessly confronts the big questions: Should we even call today’s top-selling acoustic models the “modern piano”, considering that they are all based on a 140- year-old design? Will the 21st century mark a turning point in piano building?
Jan 10th 2019
Extracts from the article: "Last November, Michael Bloomberg made what may well be the largest private donation to higher education in modern times: $1.8 billion to enable his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, to provide scholarships for eligible students unable to afford the school’s tuition. Bloomberg is grateful to Johns Hopkins, he explains, because the opportunity to study there, on a scholarship, “opened up doors that otherwise would have been closed, and allowed me to live the American dream.” In the year after he graduated, he donated $5 to the school, all he could afford. Thanks to the success of Bloomberg L.P., the international financial-information company he founded in 1981, he has now given a total of $3.3 billion......And yet I cannot applaud Bloomberg’s donation to a university that already had an endowment of $3.8 billion and charges undergraduate students $53,740 per year to attend. My preference is for Hank Rowan, who back in 1992 gave $100 million to Glassboro State College, a public university in New Jersey that at the time had an endowment of $787,000 and annual fees of about $9,000. Rowan himself was a graduate of MIT, one of the world’s finest universities, but gratitude was not his motivation for donating. He wanted to make the biggest difference he could, and believed that one makes a bigger difference by strengthening the weak links in the higher education system than by giving even more to those who already have a lot."
Jan 9th 2019
Marcel Proust was the master of artistic time travel, as he spent the final decades of his life exploring the nature of memory, in a quest to understand the relationship between past and present. In today’s troubled present of economic malaise and political agitation, the art world of Paris is currently engaged in a Proustian exercise of reexamining, and celebrating, a lost golden age of splendor and creativity.
Dec 10th 2018
The current exhibition of Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art – the first of its kind to be mounted in North America – is indeed an extraordinary revelation. Delacroix was one of the great creative minds of the nineteenth century: an artist who embodied the spirit of Romanticism, a dramatist and virtuoso of coloration who never ceased to experiment, to take inspiration from the old masters – from Veronese and Rubens, Rembrandt and Caravaggio – whose works he would often copy at the Louvre, “that book from which we learn to read,” as Cézanne put it.
Dec 6th 2018
Your body has two metabolically different states: fasted (without food) and post-fed. The absorptive post-fed state is a metabolically active time for your body. But is also a time of immune system activity. When we eat, we do not just take in nutrients – we also trigger our immune system to produce a transient inflammatory response. Inflammation is a normal response of the body to infection and injury, which provides protection against stressors. This means that just the act of eating each meal imparts a degree of physiological stress on the immune system. And so for people snacking around the clock, their bodies can often end up in a near constant inflammatory state.
Dec 5th 2018
Researchers have developed a test that could be used to diagnose all cancers. It is based on a unique DNA signature that appears to be common across cancer types. The test has yet to be conducted on humans, and clinical trials are needed before we know for sure if it can be used in the clinic.
Dec 4th 2018
The late great Russian-born novelist Vladimir Nabokov (pictured below by Michael Johnson) amassed a range of critical comments during his 78 years, more than enough to qualify him as a literary giant and keep his books in print. But most of the assessments have an edge – he was irascible, independent-minded, contradictory, arbitrary, arrogant, tongue-tied, obscene. For such a tumultuous life, he died in opposite conditions: quietly in Montreux, Switzerland, having spent his last 16 years with few friends and almost no family around him. Making sense of this unique talent has been a hobby of mine since the 1960s, enjoying his quirky prose style, his trilingual puns and his forays into forbidden territory, particularly with Bend Sinister, Lolita, Pnin, Pale Fire and Ada. Have I ever made sense of him?
Nov 26th 2018
There is now good evidence that the risks versus benefits of alcohol are strongly influenced by the type of alcohol and the way it is drunk.
Nov 14th 2018
Jean Gabin - pictured below by the author of this book review Michael Johnson - lives on vibrantly through international film festivals, art houses and television reruns although he died in Paris 42 years ago. Just last week in prime time I watched one of his classic films, “Pépé le Moko”, a story of considerable depth that pops up regularly on television. American author Joseph Harriss rightly calls it “Casablanca for grownups”. Other classics abound – “La Grande Illusion”, “Le Quai des Brumes” “Touchez pas au grisbi”, for example. 
Nov 13th 2018
Over the last ten years, research has demonstrated the importance of creative practice in the arts and humanities. They can help maintain health, provide ways of breaking down social barriers and expressing and understanding experiences and emotions, and assist in developing trust, identities, shared understanding and more compassionate communities. So, hopefully, this sidelining of the arts in health terms is changing.
Nov 13th 2018
I am here to sing Will Kemp’s [in the picture below] praises and review this new e-book because I have been studying with Will since January 2016, long distance but close in heart—Will lives in Britain and I live in the States.
Nov 13th 2018

This address is in part about the musician who has studied as a concert pianist, but does not pursue the narrow and precise field for which he has been trained, yet does not quit; but does not often play solo recitals nor concerts, nor chamber music, nor strict lieder activities

Nov 2nd 2018
Writing is such hard work that those of us who dabble in prose often dread looking at the “white bull” – Hemingway’s term for a blank sheet of paper waiting to be filled up with our words. Will we defeat the bull today? It’s always a tossup. The stress and strain of writing perhaps explains why so many writers seek an outlet in the visual arts, particularly painting and sculpture. Visual output satisfies the hunger to create, and, as a bonus, the art form is more free and spontaneous. Great writers have produced great paintings. Look at Victor Hugo, Guillaume Apollinaire, Rudyard Kipling, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Even more interesting to me is the somewhat lesser phenomenon of pianists who paint. They are seeking the same release, the same soulagement, the same need to liberate themselves. 
Nov 1st 2018
Modern life does have many benefits, but when it persuades us to use transport, sit in a chair at work, or watch TV for extended periods, we increasingly have to turn to medicine for solutions because these habits are killing hundreds of millions of us each year. With 70% of people in the US on prescription drugs (50% in the UK), it seems that as lifespan inches upwards, disease is skyrocketing. The irony is that many advances in modern medicine are firefighting those very problems that modern life itself has created.
Oct 30th 2018
It’s important to note that all studies, including our own, only show an association between the herpes virus and Alzheimer’s – they don’t prove that the virus is an actual cause. Probably the only way to prove that a microbe is a cause of a disease is to show that an occurrence of the disease is greatly reduced either by targeting the microbe with a specific anti-microbial agent or by specific vaccination against the microbe. Excitingly, successful prevention of Alzheimer’s disease by use of specific anti-herpes agents has now been demonstrated in a large-scale population study in Taiwan. Hopefully, information in other countries, if available, will yield similar results.