“Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger; and as, in the latter state, even the stronger individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves; so, in the former state, will the more powerful factions or parties be gradually induced, by a like motive, to wish for a government which will protect all parties, the weaker as well as the more powerful.”
I’ve been feeding y’all a lot of information recently, with long articles that require heightened mental engagement. So, today I’m going to give you (and myself) a slight mental break and simply discuss with you a topic that has been bothering me. It aligns perfectly with this last quote from Federalist 51.
So, a little context. Recently, while perusing Twitter (not a very encouraging thing to do), I was a little dismayed at a trending topic. People were all aghast and upset that Chris Pratt is a “Trump fan”. (Now, I have no earthly clue if Pratt is truly a Trump supporter, but that was the overwhelming rumored consensus on Twitter causing the uproar.)
I commented in response to one such politically wounded individual and said this:
“I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal to find out someone has different political beliefs or supports different candidates than you. That’s how it’s always been! In America, it’s normal, expected and healthy. Called politics. You want political homogeneity?”
I do have some ideas about why people make it such a big deal, but it is truly perplexing why people don’t sit back and realize that we’ve always had differing political beliefs in America… now it seems as if one belief set is, point blank, wrong while another is, point blank, right.
Someone responded to me and said:
“It’s okay to have different beliefs. Nowhere was it said that you can’t have your own beliefs. However if one’s belief system imposes and oppresses others — that’s problematic.”
Now, this individual was diplomatic enough, but his statement underscored the damage that has been done to our citizenry —- by government officials and the media.
Americans now judge each other based off of their own understanding of right and wrong, justice, liberty and oppression, rather than the Constitution’s understanding or even any higher source’s understanding of these topics.
Which begs the question. Who are we to call out someone else for the crime of oppression if we have nothing but our own opinion on the matter to stand upon?
Madison knew and fully expected the American people to work to oppress each other. He said: “In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger.”
In other words, the stronger will work to oppress the weaker and the weaker will rise up to try and oppress the stronger. In Federalist 10, Madison delves even deeper into the consequences of faction and the expectation that the people cannot be trusted.
There’s an ever increasing trend of vilifying one’s political opposition by painting the opposition as morally degraded. This is an incredibly effective tactic because the disagreement is no longer about specific policies or political issues. No, it’s now about the character of the individual, justifying the belief that such individuals shouldn’t be allowed to even hold an opinion about specific policies and political issues. This is a great tactic because, now, those opposing the policies and political issues don’t have to deal with the specific policies and issues anymore, they’ve already invalidated the individual holding those beliefs.
It’s one thing to disagree with someone about politics, it’s another to claim that one’s political opposition is morally compromised and “supports a belief system that imposes and oppresses others”.
Today, if someone is smeared as an oppressor, their opinions, beliefs, and humanity are immediately forfeited. The individual no longer matters. Their liberty no longer matters. Their free speech no longer matters and their humanity no longer matters.
And how does someone accused of such a “crime” defend themselves? Arguing that they are not oppressors is like a criminal accused of a crime claiming they didn’t commit the crime: it just further solidifies for the accusers the guilt of the accused.
Very rarely do the accusers provide any real factual evidence for their accusation. The accusation is based on nothing more than a feeling or opinion. In other words, they don’t use the Constitution to explain how government or the opposition party’s officials are oppressing, they just make the blanket statement that they are and therefore their supporters are as well.
So, when people hear that someone supports a particular party, it’s not the normal—”Ah, they support the party I don’t support”. No. It’s taken as a personal offense and the individual who is now associated with the opposition party is automatically thrown into a pile of “oppressors” based on nothing other than the fact that they support a party that is also being painted as the party of oppression.
People really better take a closer look before blaming someone for oppressing others, or else before you know it, they’ll be cheering the slow eradication of the supposed “oppressors”. Specific individual proof? Worth prosecuting? Worth silencing and oppressing in return?
In case we’ve forgotten history, Hitler did a swell job of painting the Jews as oppressors, with no evidence to support his claims.
It’s one thing to blame individual politicians for oppressing by pointing out specific policies and actions that violate the Constitution and therefore liberty. It’s another to blame politicians for oppression while having no real evidence to support the claim—and having no real evidence to support the claim that their followers are oppressors either.
Americans need to stop vilifying each other and start listening to each other. What if you meet someone who supports Biden? Will you immediately write them off as not worth your time or will you stop to listen to them? The same goes for Biden supporters who run into Trump supporters.
Here’s the thing. With liberty comes disagreement and discord. That’s a simple fact. If we all suddenly agreed on everything, that would be the first indication that we’ve lost liberty (complete agreement only exists if it’s forced). So, it’s normal and healthy for American to disagree with each other; however, hopefully we can all agree on the desire to prevent an arbitrary unconfined government.
So, what if, instead of being known as supporters of this party or that party, we’re simply known as Constitution and liberty supporters?
We need to run from using any character smears against our opponents, giving us an out when it comes to dealing with actual policies and issues and we need to reject the character smears those opposed to us use on us by demanding they deal with real issues and policies.
Hey, who knows… maybe one day you’ll find that the strength of the content of what you said changed someone’s mind.
And in today’s environment, that might just save America.
The Liberty Belle
6 thoughts on “Federalist 51: If We’re Going to Debate, Let’s Debate Over Things That Are Real”
I just happened to stumble upon your site and I have to say I enjoy it immensely. While not totally agreeing with all your views you write with a calm intelligence that lays out your argument in a manner that isn’t the usual divisiveness you find on the internet. I look forward to reading more on your thoughts and occasionally putting in my two sense. All the best……………….Bob
Bob, thank you for the comment! My goal is to avoid the divisiveness that is so prevalent today, so I appreciate you mentioning that. Always encouraging to hear. I look forward to your comments!
Re-reading this one year later I can say I still enjoy your column immensely. I’ve learnt much over that time and was permitted to add my two sense for what it’s worth along the way. I’ve become especially fascinated by your method of taking a step back to attempt to grasp how issues and ideas are looked at and putting them in the context of Constitutionality. This along with your keen interpretation of human nature adds an invaluable resource to understanding the issues before us. As always …………….All the best Bob
This all sounds good but was a different time. Today we have actual communists doing everything in their power to destroy America at this very moment. Evil has completely taken over most govt agencies especially the Justice department and the White House. It was a coup The Bible says that in the last days good will be called evil and evil will be called good. It looks like we are there. These evil people ignore anything about the Constitution and are working hard to destroy it. It is like O’Bozzo said . He could do a lot if it wasn’t for the Constitution being in the way. He did irreputabual damage but these evil people occupying the White House now are going for broke . They have every intention of bringing in a totalitarian World Govt. And that aint the half of what they have planned. We will see how far they get.
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This is interesting thoughts and to me hits at the root of one of the United States problems. In the beginning of the federalist paper 51 i read his (Madison) description of 2 methods
” It is of great importance in a republic, not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers; but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure. There are but two methods of providing against this evil: The one by creating a will in the community independent of the majority, that is, of the society itself; the other by comprehending in the society so many separate descriptions of citizens, as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole, very improbable, if not impracticable. The first method prevails in all governments possessing an hereditary or self appointed authority. This at best is but a precarious security; because a power independent of the society may as well espouse the unjust views of the major, as the rightful interests, of the minor party, and may possibly be turned against both parties. The second method will be exemplified in the federal republic of the United States.”
It is unclear to me if any of those who supported the republican form of government had anticipated other parties forming that didn’t agree with a republican form of government.
I say this because it as you suggest that the debates don’t seem to be about actual policy but instead attack the integrity of an individual’s character. We now see news about which party has power over which branch as if they are enemies to one another.
What is considered to be debates of today, i think may have been much different back in the 17th century.
I don’t know maybe they still slandered one another but i highly doubt this because duels were legal in protecting ones integrity (code of Honour). It seems to me that personal accountability has been taken away from false accusations. There is no discussion of ideas of compromise in debates. Nothing of any specific value just vague/general descriptive words. The parties do not seem to seem to come together. They to some degree do similar things but to them to the point that only their part is recognized for the effort for future elections. As described in madison words the second method was to avoid the evils but seems to be doing the complete opposite. Thought i may understand his words wrong when he says “the other by comprehending in the society so many separate descriptions of citizens, as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole, very improbable, if not impracticable”. It is not clear to me how the second was expected to prevent the evils James madison was discussing. We still have some family members gaining some type of a hereditary government position of power (all though small). How does one campaign against the financially powerful and win based on Constitutional principles and the application of those principles? Just about every presidential candidate has had some government experience.
I am probable just jabbering due to my frustration of this very subject that seems to get very little attention. It seems the reason is because they deem it ok as long as “their” party wins.