Posted by Brad @ 2:16 pm on July 23rd 2012

Rorshack Alert

“If you read about how the federal constitution came about, one thing is crystal clear: it was devised by people who wanted to create a strong federal government and saw the states as obstacles to doing so. The people who believed in states rights and an anemic federal government — the ancestors of today’s Tea Party — were the Anti-Federalists. And they lost.”

Josh Marshall

Oh don’t get me wrong, this is true in a very fundamental fashion – the people who devised the constitution were doing so to form a government, making literally any attempt at fashioning a nation “Federalist” by definition.

But in most every other sense, to draw a line between what that meant then and what advocating a “strong federal government” now entails is so blinkered as to be nearly insane. The entire constitution and all political thought surrounding it is overwhelmingly preoccupied with the RESTRICTIONS of federal government – which makes sense, as, even before concerning itself with states, it was concerning itself with, you know, not being a monarchy.

By Josh’s read, incidentally, those advocating a “strong federal government” did so with the express, explicit intent that it be wholly restricted to its enumerated powers (list here) and be WHOLLY AND TOTALLY PREVENTED FROM LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE, with a huge bulk of the political thought being focused on how to retard it from being “strong” in Josh’s presumed definition of the term. The entire concept and structure of our federal government beyond the fact of its existence were designed to prevent it from being too strong (its three branches and checks and balances, its enumerated powers, its bill of rights which was required to even pass the damn thing), which the founders of nearly all stripes hammer home again and again and again as being the most vital component of it.

He lumps in Hamilton (who as basically a monarchist, incidentally), Madison, Washington, and Franklin. I’d replace Franklin with Adams maybe (hard to put either in either category), and take out Madison altogether, but of course that’s balanced out by Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, James Madison, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, etc. etc.

Of course, Madison’s immediate purpose was to strengthen the Articles of Confederation, so again in a sense Josh is technically right (it was certainly devised to STRENGTHEN the federal government, although again, by definition), but that’s far, far different from saying it was devised to create a “strong” federal government in the same galaxy of how liberals like Josh understand that word. In fact, I think the fairest way to put this is the constitution was devised by people who wanted a STRONG ENOUGH BUT NOT A HAIR STRONGER federal government – which, incidentally, I think constitutionalists of today completely agree with (I find very few people in the Tea Party set who believe individual states should be able to naturalize its own citizens, coin its own money, and raise its own arms to fight its own wars, etc., and the example he cites, which I can even quibble with him over, is still literally the only place I’ve ever seen that advocated). But of course, the idea of a strong enough but not a hair stronger federal government – the notion of federalism as understood (and articulated!) by its advocates, is a political philosophy baseline which liberals such as Josh view as objectively insane and reactionary and evidence of frightening radicalism. Honestly, today’s liberalism is not even on the spectrum of political thought being debated at this country’s founding – at least when you’re talking about the Americans.

1 Comment »

  1. I am disappointed by this post beyond measure. I kept waiting and reading, but alas no Watchmen reference at all.

    Comment by Jack — 7/25/2012 @ 8:15 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.