It seems that both parties are in the business of trying to convince the American public that their platform is more in line with what our founding fathers would have wanted. They both ceaselessly praise the founders for their cohesive and enduring vision for our nation.
Despite the fact that the Constitution offers a solid and reliable framework for our nation’s government, to look past the disputes and compromises that led to its creation and ratification is to do ourselves a disservice.
The recent popularity of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton should have made it obvious even to those of us who slept through our high school government courses that the founding fathers often were not united, argued about every issue, and participated in just as much political horse-trading as our politicians do nowadays.
Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson certainly count as founding fathers and they most certainly did not agree. Duels and brawls were commonplace over political disputes, with Congress featuring many limping representatives (it was seen as more proper to shoot a man in his leg than in the chest), the dispute that led to Hamilton’s death was based mostly on a political disagreement between him and Aaron Burr.
While it is true that in recent history (this study examines 1994-2014) American voters have become increasingly polarized, let’s keep things in perspective. Mr. Trump has yet to challenge Mrs. Clinton to a duel. We should take comfort in the fact that our nation has not only endured since 1776, but flourished. By constantly complaining about the polarization in Washington, we only add to the negativity of the narrative. One thing the founding fathers definitely envisioned and hoped for was lively debate between all sides, so instead of moaning about the extreme differences of opinion, we should focus our energy on finding solutions to our nation’s problems.
“We distort the past and discredit the present by inflating the founders’ virtues and denying our own.”