Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Our Founding Fathers-Limited democracy-and It still is!

I was the first Democrat.  Gosh it gets cold in the Blue Ridge Mountains in December.  Congress has gone home; they are  such a group of do nothings.  My slaves keep Monticello warm, but I get lonely.  So, I send a messenger over to Madison's farm  and we meet half way between his farm and Monticello at the Inn.  Dolly gripes about our drinking too much wine, but she fills her time, on her sewing projects.   After a couple of drinks, James and I get talking about if he were too stingy in giving the people the vote.  While we knew for sure that the revolution was not going to produce a new absolute monarchy, too many of the plutocrats were not in the mood for much democracy. We saw to creating a republic,  creating an appointed senate,  supreme court, and electoral college to elect presidents.  That ought to keep the rabble from getting too much control.  Madison would say while a little tipsy that we could never have approved  a constitution if the regular hard working citizens would have an equal say.  The representatives who created the constitution were rich plutocrats  and they were not about to give power to just any person.  As you know I wasn't considered trustworthy since I wanted to write the abolishment of slavery into the Declaration of Independence. I might have been a smooth writer, but my fellow founding fathers were plutocrats and they weren't about to let the profitable ownership of slaves ruin our new republic.  (Secretly, I didn't know how to run Monticello without my slaves as I was always in debt as it was.)
One cold winter Day in December, Dolly went to DC to socialize with friends and James and I stayed over two nights at the Inn. We got into a big argument about just how democratic our republic was.  Madison thought it was sufficient to represent the times. I was furious at him.  Here's the points I made to Madison to understand the state of our democracy
First I made  the point to Madison that only white men could vote and women could not. That eliminated 50% of the vote on the part of women and 18 1/2 percent on the part of slaves. Then I pointed out that in our young nation more than 50% of our citizens were under 21 years of age. That eliminated another 50% of the 32 percent which was left.  I was so tipsy that Madison reminded me that only free, white males who own property could vote.   As all our personal friends (except Sally) are property owners, that did not cross my mind.  We decided that it was likely in an immigrant nations such as ours, that 50% of free white males did not own property.  Wow, now we were down to 16%.  I responded that many of our citizens lived in the wilderness and didn't have access to vote or even know that an election was taking place. We estimated another 5% of those legible would not be able to vote for this reason.  He reminded me that in our FREE nation, we did not require citizen to vote, otherwise we would not be free. I thought that to be some strange logic!  But with only 75% of that 11% wanting to vote, we would be down to about 8% who actual could and would vote.
Madison told me that was a  percentage and qualifications which his plutocrats friends would like.  This was truly a plutocrats type of democracy!  No rabble or nonsense like "one person, one vote" which some centuries later was deemed a reasonable definition for a democracy.  I warned Madison that in the future this model would harm the concept that America was democratic. He thought light of my projections.
I drank too much wine that night.  That night, I dreamed that someday in the future there might be two parties, my party, the Democrats and another party like the Whigs(some would say today's Republicans.)  Sure enough, there was a party which tried to suppress the vote, demanding birth certificates and drivers licenses, and any other documents they could think up, always claiming elections are stolen, wanting to eliminate immigrants no matter how long they are here even if they pay taxes(we founding fathers thought if you were here, you were an American(except for  the Indians), reading tests, long residency requirements, etc.  Anything else too which would suppress the vote!  I was proud to dream that my Democrats were more inclusive, giving each person who makes up this young country have a say in how it is run. 
I woke up late the next morning. Monroe got up early and was gone but  left a note that Dolly would be waiting for him on her return from Washington.   I had another glass of wine sitting by the warm fire and dreamed that America  still had a long way to go before it could  be called a democracy.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Marbury v Madison-Our first big mistake

I was the First Democrat. I took lots of abuse. If you think Glen Beck and the drug addicted, fat boy, Rush Limbaugh  are tough on Obama, you should go back and read what the press said about me. The plutocrats never liked my type who thought democracy was about the people.   In part, I guess it was because I wrote the Declaration of Independence and they preferred the rich and king.  But the personal attacks against me and my relationship with Sally is what hurt most.  I loved her, but they thought I  was just the typical slave owner ravishing their female properties. 

Well,  before I forget my train of thought, I am shocked by Justice Marshall and his court for "undoing the revolution."  These nine guys(no women allowed to sit or even vote), in Marbury v Madison,  just undid the delicately balanced  democracy we carefully put together.  Madison thought that the Supreme court would be the weakest branch of government, so we wrote teeth into the constitution  to bolster the  judicial branch.   Never in our imagination would we have thought that these nine unelected court members would declare  unconstitutional  laws passed by the peoples' elected body of the House, unelected and appointed  Senate(our own House of Lords), and signed by the president.   How dare that they declare that they are the sole arbiter of what the constitution means.

In retrospect even in 1803, I recognized our mistake, but didn't know how to undo it.  We didn't mean to create a branch with the absolute power of kings.   Structurally, the US Supreme court closely resembles the model of  absolute dictatorships.  Once in power, they stay for life and there is no recourse to their rulings on the constitutionality of laws passed by the people.  We didn't build in checks or balances  on their power as we did for the other branches, because it never occurred to us that they would rule that they were the sole arbitrators of the constitution. We thought that each branch of government had equal rights in interpreting the constitution, but the Supreme court stole the show(the Grinches that stole democracy) , such a pity and only 16 years after we established this new experiment called  democracy.   The other thing we did not anticipate was that these nine unelected old  men would  in the future live into their  80's and 90's. We thought a life appointment would be equivalent to a 10 year appointment since our life expectancy in 1800 was so much lower than 200+ years later.  If we had known that the life expectancy in the future was going to increase so much, we would have written a limited term for the supreme court members. We would have never  allowed anyone to serve 30-40 years in such an unelected position which is longer than most kings serve.   We founding fathers sure made errors which killed our own attempt at the experiment of democracy.  Our errors were not deliberate; we were just simple men living in a slow changing , seemingly static world, not anticipating rapid change.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why I was a Democrat?

I was the first Democrat. I trusted in the people. Alexander Hamilton thought the people were rabble.  From my grave I give you my insight of the day.   Here's my thoughts on the Republicans of 2010.  These Republicans are worst than the Whigs. They love America but hate Americans. I have a problem with this as our new constitution of 1787 starts with a government of the people, by the people and for the people. How can they love American and hate Americans?  Hamilton seemed to like a government patterned on the King's model.  They were the plutocrats.  Is it possible that today's Republicans are the plutocrats? In fact, from my grave, they seem to not really care whether Obama passes the Bush tax cuts or a Republican president passes them, just so they pass.  It's the money.  Get it!   The Republicans don't care who is in charge of Congress and the White House since both  cater to the plutocrats. Why not a Plutocrat Party?  Why? One can spell it Democratic or one could spell it Republican?  It so simple with these two choices.   It's the money.  I, Tom Jefferson, call it the Reverse  Robin Hood effect.  Transfer the money from the poor to the rich.  The rich then will then be able to use this borrowed federal money to create new jobs in China and India.  We didn't have many corporations in 1787, especially ones with the personal right guaranteed  under the Bill Of Rights.  Marshall would have never agreed, he understood the Bill Of Rights.   Why vote when the Plutocrats can manipulate votes through advertising and buy representatives and senators.  I think these newly bought  politicians are called Republicans.  I'm the First Democrat and I hope there is not a time machine which will bring me into 2010.  This is too wearisome, maybe I can bring up from my cellar a good bottle of French red wine, have a glass or two, and take a nap.

I'm so proud that my personal library which you see behind my blog writings became the new Library of Congress after the Brits burnt the first one down.   It was one of my finest contributions to America. Oh, I forget the Republicans must hate it as I don't believe they like to read history or even read in general.