Paul David Miller: Let’s Resurrect The Federalist Party

Avatar

Dennis Sanders

Dennis Sanders is the Associate Pastor at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Minneapolis, MN.  You can follow Dennis through his blogs, The Clockwork Pastor and Big Tent Revue and on Twitter.  Feel free to contact him at dennis.sanders(at)gmail(dot)com.

Related Post Roulette

49 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Progressives’ willingness to use legal force to reengineer American culture endangers basic principles of self-government, civil liberties, and American democracy.

    Interested to hear a rebuttal to this which doesn’t begin with, “Oh yeah? Well you guys…!”Report

    • Avatar pillsy says:

      I think I accidentally deleted a reply I was trying to edit.

      I think the statement is too vague to rebut. The issue isn’t that “you guys” do it too, it’s that it’s all to easy to see ways to make the criticism fit almost anything you guys do.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        That’s the right reply. “Reengineer American culture” is vague enough to mean whatever one doesn’t like the government doing. Legalizing gay marriage? That’s reengineering American culture. Making abortion illegal? That’s reengineering American culture. Raising the tax rate? Lowering the tax rate? Legalizing drugs? Fighting the War on Drugs? All reengineering American culture, if I want them to be.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

      How does one push back against half an argument?

      The article itself is nothing more than “the government is too large” which is the “too many notes” theory of government. As if all portions of government are identically enlarged, and can be identically shrunk as has been pointed out here before, that the government is s simple slide that can be moved left or right.
      So the Pentagon and meat packing inspectors can be slashed by the same amount, or something.

      He envisions reducing the power of the federal government and empowering states, apparently.
      Or does he? If California enacted strict environmental controls whole Texas didn’t, is that what he has in mind? And um, isn’t that kind of what is going on right now?

      Or is he just saying that government, at all levels, should be reduced? And by reduced, does he mean the power to protect property, such as intellectual property rights and patents? Does he mean weaker contract enforcement?

      My experience is that this is rarely the case with self described “small government” advocates.
      The most common meaning of “small government” is just “cut stuff I don’t like or benefit from” and honestly, it almost all the time means “cut SNAP and TANF and leave everything else”.

      Sorry, maybe I am unfairly assigning this guy views, but I am hard pressed to think of any other meaning to the perennial federalist rant.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      What does reengineer American culture even mean? The Federalist Party (and later the Whigs) were all for doing things that the Democratic Party wants to do. Mainly massive infrastructure spending. The Federalists were the ones who built the Erie Canal among other things.

      Social engineering is a very weird claim. The left has a vision of the role and purpose of government. So does the right. The right-wing is engaged in just as much social engineering when they rail against urban liberalism. Neither the left nor the right like each other’s visions. What the Federalist seems to be doing (like all other right-wingers) is claim a monopoly on what it means to be American and what the Constitution says. They are trying to maintain a constant monopoly on being the true heirs to the Founders. They are not.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

        +1

        The Federalists were the party of Alexander Hamilton.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        The Federalists were the ones who built the Erie Canal among other things.

        In one sense, the historical Federalist Party was not federalist in the modern sense. They were the party pushing for a stronger federal government, whereas the Democratic-Republican party was the one pushing for limits on federal power.

        In another sense, it was, provided “federalism” is taken to mean a specific balance of power between Federal and state governments rather than unconditional support for decentralization. In the early years of the country, when the Federal government had less power than the federalist ideal, the Federalists pushed for more. Today, when it has much more, federalists push for less.

        Regardless, the Federal government today wields power far in excess of anything advocated by the historical Federalists—and they were, again, the pro-centralization party at the time.

        What the Federalist seems to be doing (like all other right-wingers) is claim a monopoly on what it means to be American and what the Constitution says.

        If only there were some way to find out what the Constitution says. Perhaps we might gain a reasonably close understanding by examining the text of the document and contemporary commentator by the designers and signers.

        But that doesn’t give us the answer you want, so obviously it’s invalid. Clearly the true interpretation is the one “discovered” more than a hundred years after the fact, when political winds blew the scales from our eyes.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        The Federalists were the ones who built the Erie Canal among other things.

        The Federalist Party had largely dissipated by the time construction of the Erie Canal began. Gov. Clinton spent the bulk of his career among the (Jeffersonian) Republicans.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Easy peasy Mike. Using legal force can also be called upholding constitutional rights. People, in the best case of course, use legal force to defend their rights or get laws changed when their rights are being trampled. In fact civil liberties have often been guaranteed by using the law; see the Civil Rights Acts. Democracy or self-government don’t’ in any way mean legal force isn’t’ used. Those ideas exist as part of and in conjunction and sometimes antagonism with the law. None can be all powerful. Democracy is limited by the law to prevent mob rule. The law can be changed , to a degree, by democracy so people can make the world they want. None is or should be all powerful, so the law and democracy dance, occasionally stepping on toes but moving back and forth together.

      FWIW, federal level government is self-government, just at the fed level. And oh boy i can’t get enough of hearing about my coercive propagation of eviiilll liberal ideasReport

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        I think when they talk about ‘social engineering’ they are as much talking about raising the minimum wage or Affirmative Action programs as they are about gay marriage.

        I should say that I am not anti-government. I think the power of the government can be harnessed to do some amazing things. But I also think that liberals push for judicial or legislative change when hey don’t have the patience for social change at a natural pace.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          Natural pace is a sort of meaningless term. One persons natural is anothers “OMG you are shoving this down my throat.” There is not natural really. There is a pace; to fast for some, to slow for others. For some problems judicial change is the right remedy for others it isn’t. There just isn’t one answer.

          Social engineering is the right wing catchphrase to demonize things form the left they don’t like. It doesn’t have any objective meaning.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

          Aside from strict libertarians, I have yet to hear anyone on the right point to crosses on hills, crèches in City Halls, or laws against sodomy as “social engineering”.

          Edited to add:
          This isn’t a “hypocrite” argument. It is to point out how invisible and deeply embedded social engineering is, and how its only visible when it upends previous efforts at social engineering.Report

          • Avatar Art Deco says:

            Crosses on hills and creches on city hall are conventional expressions of local sentiment. They bother no one but the fraudulent public interest bar and their minions in the judiciary, who are in the business of replacing conventional sentiment with the denuded culture of the professional-managerial bourgeoisie.

            As for laws on consensual sodomy, those are also antique and conventional and reflections of received understandings decent behavior. If you want to get rid of them, persuade the legislature to repeal them.Report

            • Avatar El Muneco says:

              “Things that don’t exclude me, personally, are not exclusionary.”Report

            • Avatar Francis says:

              Local sentiment also favored the Sedition Acts, opposition to the Civil Rights Acts, any number of attempts to establish religion, and any number of attempts to deny certain disfavored minorities equal protection.

              people have been bitching about the judiciary usurping the legislature in both state and federal contexts since Marbury. If you don’t want the judiciary to have that power, go start by amending your state constitution.Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

              I think it’s interesting that a cross dipped in urine is an outrageous insult to deeply held beliefs but a cross on a hill is mere sentiment, containing no meaning whatsoever.

              Again, I don’t believe this a cunning hypocrisy, it’s just that for us Christians, our cultural dominance is invisibly assumed to be a naturally occurring artifact.Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          But I also think that liberals push for judicial or legislative change when hey don’t have the patience for social change at a natural pace.

          Certainly, but again I don’t think this is a particularly meaningful charge, because it describes such a wide variety of policies, left, right and center, and, for that matter, good, bad and indifferent.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

          “I should say that I am not anti-government. I think the power of the government can be harnessed to do some amazing things. But I also think that liberals push for judicial or legislative change when hey don’t have the patience for social change at a natural pace.”

          I have a couple of responses to this.

          The first, on the purely debate-issue side, is that it’s a little hard to drop that in there with the caveat above that one is not allowed to point out that the other side does the same thing. It’s like pointing out corruption in the GOP and asking why someone won’t vote Dem, but adding that they’re not allowed to bring up corruption in the DNC in their response.

          To the actual question, part of the issue is that there is no clear line between when a society is ready to all move together and when a society needs to use the rule of law to promote needed change. The civil rights movement from the 20s-60s is the most obvious example of this. It’s hard to tell a group of people they can’t vote, own property even where they can afford it, or buy or sell goods or services yet because there are still too many people who are uncomfortable with the thought of them doing so. Were we to have waited until no laws or enforcement of laws were needed, I personally doubt that there would be no longer be places in the US where blacks were not allowed all of we now believe (but didn’t then) to be their basic Constitutional rights.

          You and I will likely disagree, but I think the same thing can be said for gays and lesbians. Telling them they can’t sue for the right to marry until there is near-universal acceptance for them is essentially telling them they can’t ever marry. As with the Civil Rights movement, the use of law to force issues isn’t something that is separate from changing hearts and minds, it’s actually part of a larger process. What you call “social engineering,” others call getting to have their day in court.

          That isn’t to say that you can’t move in any direction too quickly, or that you shouldn’t try to protect society from doing so. There is a need for a society to have a conservative political party that pushes hard on that end of things. However, you and I will likely disagree about which party is the conservative one right now. If change that is too radical that happens too quickly is your bugaboo, I would argue you’re going after the wrong party — or I would, if you had not made the caveat up top that that point is not allowed in this thread.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            The first, on the purely debate-issue side, is that it’s a little hard to drop that in there with the caveat above that one is not allowed to point out that the other side does the same thing. It’s like pointing out corruption in the GOP and asking why someone won’t vote Dem, but adding that they’re not allowed to bring up corruption in the DNC in their response.

            Two wrongs don’t make a right. I just don’t see arguing the other side is more bad as moving the ball forward much. Arguing why an opinion about your side is non accurate, and pointing out why, IS productive.That’s how a gross generalization becomes a nuanced disagreement.Report

        • Avatar Zac says:

          I was going to respond to that final line as well, but clearly Our Tod has knocked it so far out of the park that there’s nothing for me to add.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      I’m really curious about what the right means when they say self-government. To me, the only think that self-government means is that the laws and policies that govern society are determined through elected officials chosen in free and fair elections. Rightists seem to have a different idea and anything policy choice made by an elected body that goes against a rightist policy choice is by definition not self-government even if it is popular.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      I will also add that I have no idea about what the right-wing is talking about when they use the words freedom, liberty, and complaining about the left erroding civil liberties. Democratic appointees to the bench seem more likely to uphold and expand the 4th Amendment and its protections. They are also for legislation that allows minorities to full participate in civil life.Report

  2. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    “is he just saying that government, at all levels, should be reduced? And by reduced, does he mean the power to protect property, such as intellectual property rights and patents? Does he mean weaker contract enforcement?”

    And maybe he should just move to Somalia if he hates government so much, right?

    Maybe he isn’t bringing anything new, but neither are you. It’s the usual “well, I guess we gotta take the bad with the good” argument in favor of powerful centralized government. As though we just sort of have to accept that we’ll have asset forfeiture abuse, or regulatory capture, because otherwise we couldn’t justify having the government provide law enforcement or sewer lines.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

      If you want to make an argument against civil asset forfeiture, you may be surprised to find how many liberals are in agreement with you.

      In fact, we all might be surprised how bipartisan and popular this sort of change would be.

      It would be a much better argument than “There are too many notes- take some out”.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        “If you want to make an argument against civil asset forfeiture, you may be surprised to find how many liberals are in agreement with you. ”

        I’m actually not arguing against civil asset forfeiture. I’m arguing against a government that thinks it has the power to do it without a trial or a even a warrant.Report

  3. I’ve yet to see a “federalist” deal with these facts:

    * The states have traditionally been far more oppressive than the central government (slavery and Jim Crow being the obvious examples)
    * The federal government is and has been the only power that can guarantee minority rights against the states
    * When the states are freed from federal oversight, e.g. by the Shelby County decision, they immediately use their new-found power to resume oppressionReport

    • Avatar El Muneco says:

      Oh, come now – haven’t you seen the legion of Federalists standing shoulder to shoulder with the state governments of Washington and Colorado for promoting the interests of their citizens against the might of the oppressive junta in DC?Report

  4. Avatar trizzlor says:

    Is it clear how this proposed party differs from the libertarian movement? Is there actually any desire from the public for the solutions this party proposes?Report

  5. Avatar Joe Sal says:

    Resurrect the Federalist Party?

    “Well sometimes I have the feeling I can do crystal meth, but then I think, mmm… better not.”Report

  6. Avatar Francis says:

    “Let’s Resurrect The Federalist Party”

    go right ahead. There’s nothing stopping you. (I belive rtod is considered the expert on minority parties around here. But the very little I’ve read suggests that a 50-state strategy takes a lot of work, both building a party apparatus that can survive the initial wave of interest and gathering signatures.)Report

  7. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I’m hearing more an more of this 3rd party stuff lately, and I find it interesting. The way this shows up on my radar is as another symptom of how I have seen the party consistently react to national losses these past 10 years. Especially in the Obama years, the emphasis in the GOP has been on trying to come up with a complicated, Rube-Goldberg-esque, Wiley Coyote-like schemes to victory, rather than simply working to craft a message and put together policies that win at the ballot box.

    This idea I see shooting up everywhere to abandon the GOP and form a third party seems to me to be the exact same formula, implemented within their own party.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      It’s Wile E. Coyote. Somethings are to important not to be pedantic about.Report

    • I find it a hopeful sign that the party of Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Pat Buchanan, and Dick Cheney is now horrified by thuggery. Or would if I believed a word of it.Report

      • Avatar Art Deco says:

        Since when did any of these men engage in ‘thuggery’?

        Buchanan and his brothers liked to mix it up when they were adolescents, but after and incident with a couple of police officers in 1959 (which led to criminal charges), PJB elected to hang up his gloves.

        As for McCarthy, he was an uncrupulous opportunistic drunk. He did injure some people employed by the U.S. Information Agency, the State Department, and in the chain of command of one Irving Peress. He was mostly a headline grabber and only peculiarly prominent from 1950 to 1954.

        As for Nixon, well, he took an unmerited tax deduction. He employed (through intermediaries) a number of shady characters and apparatchiks who hatched various schemes which never came to fruition. One thing they did do was burgle the office of a psychiatrist named Lewis Fielding, looking for dirt on a douchenozzle named Daniel Ellsburg. They also tapped the phone of another douchenozzle named Morton Halperin and burgled the offices of Lawrence O’Brien, tapping his phone. What’s notable about that is the quaint embarrassment of Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee and in the Republican caucus leadership when this was all out on the table. We really have not seen its like since.

        As for Cheney, well, this is a letter from a region in your mind.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      The Republican Party is facing one of those challenges that will beset any party in a democracy sooner or latter. Its core policy preferences are no longer popular with the electorate at large but are still very popular with its core supporters or base as they call them. Labour was like this during the Thatcher years. Most of the British electorate was no longer interested in the hard left policy solutions advocated by the Labour Party but the Labour base still wanted it. A similar dynamic is happening with the Republicans right now. Americans really aren’t that interested in the combination of capitalism, social conservatism, and national security that the GOP still thinks as correct policy choices. The Republican base at least wants some of these things even if they don’t want the entire package. The Republican Party can choose to either change its policies or be faithful to it’s message but it can’t do both.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      They won’t do it my Todd and I’ll tell you why:
      -If the GOP elite spin off a third party run then everyone everywhere will get to see very empirically just how popular elite conservative policy is with the electoral masses. Ain’t no way the GOP elite would willingly hang their asses out in the wind like that for reality to kick.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        We might be getting overly cynical about politics. I actually think that the Republican Party doesn’t offer new policies because they are sincere in believing that their existing policies are a good thing. They really can’t understand why people disagree with them besides malice.Report

  8. Avatar Art Deco says:

    The difficulty with this is that it draws on a somewhat antiquarian strand of thought that is only abroad among a certain sort of starboard intellectual. It isn’t grounded in contemporary social conflicts and takes only oblique notice of them.

    That and third parties are almost always losing propositions. He might have an argument if we were to change the electoral system and make use of ordinal balloting, but a feature of this sort of tricorn-hat thinking is that it never under its own steam gives the slightest thought to and is viscerally resistant to suggestions of any sort of formal institutional adjustment.Report

    • Avatar PD Shaw says:

      I’m not sure its even grounded much on antiquarian thought at all to the extent it is claiming the mantle left by an historic party:

      the “Federalists” became the name for America’s first organized political movement and the republic’s most prominent architects. The Federalist Party was the party of George Washington, and the first party secretary was Alexander Hamilton.

      I don’t think those Federalists would agree with this conception of themselves as a political movement at all, and the role ascribed to Hamilton suggests that the author’s real sympathies lie with the Democratic-Republicans, and those names have been taken.Report

  9. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Wasn’t there someone around here, or over at positive liberty, that advocated for a Red Tory party in the USA?Report