Harry Truman once opined that anyone who wanted to be seriously involved in political governance should be well versed in history. President Truman said that given the same or similar circumstances, no matter what the timing, people, including those holding office, would react in pretty much the same manner. A review of history indicates Truman very likely was right.
Though George Washington was unanimously selected and revered as the wisest of presidents and the logical choice to lead a fledgling nation, in his farewell address he warned against a partisan spirit that could divide the nation.
Early in our country’s history, Thomas Jefferson was beset with partisan divisiveness in Congress. Jefferson was moved to say, “You and I have formerly seen warm debates and high political passions, but gentlemen of different politics would then speak to each other... It is not now so. Men who have been intimate all their lives cross the street to avoid meeting and turn their heads another way lest they be obliged to touch their hats.” (Letter, Thomas Jefferson to Edward Rutledge; Philadelphia, June 24, 1797).
Alexander Hamilton, then one of the leaders of the Federalist Party, believed too much democracy would weaken a nation to the point it could not survive in the then world of governments. On the other hand, the Republican Party, led by Thomas Jefferson and others, was convinced the Federalists had secret plans to try to turn the United States into a monarchy. Some even suggested that, rather than retiring as president, George Washington should be named the first king of the United States. Given those differences, it seems history has a longstanding tendency toward division.
Even in Texas divisive politics is not new to modern-day elections or governance. In reading the history of Sam Houston’s political career, one will discover not only was there free-wheeling debate on real issues but also, on at least one occasion, in a public debate, participants even drew their weapons and threatened a duel on stage. Sam Houston, departing from discussion of serious political issues during a campaign, once accused his opponent of having robbed a bank and dropping the safe from the bank into the river!
Fortunately for America, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, bitter enemies at one point, eventually managed to enter into what apparently is abhorred by our current leaders in Washington–compromise. Jefferson and several leaders of the Federalist movement put aside their differences and managed to move forward with provisions which enabled a young American nation to ward off threats by France, England and hostile Indians to wield and mold America into the world power of its time.
The ingredient missing in Jefferson’s time which appears to be a serious impediment to compromise and the adoption of common-sense measures to move this country forward is money-- money-wielding influence through highly-paid, highly-skilled, well-connected lobbyists. In Jefferson’s time I daresay members of Congress outnumbered those attempting to influence legislation and the will of Congress. Sadly, the same is not true today. Congress is out numbered probably at least five or six to one by well-paid lobbyists who, since a Supreme Court’spronouncement that corporations are people, may spend unlimited amounts of money to influence government.
If any Texan doubts the power of money in politics, that person should go check the list of campaign contributions to our current governor and compare them to appointments to important and strategic boards or administrative positions. I will say without fear of contradiction that any careful investigation or comparison of campaign contributions to appointments would reveal that more appointees to boards of regents, administrative bodies and judge-ships will be found to have contributed upwards of $100,000 each to Governor Perry’s election efforts, both as candidate for governor and for president of the United States. Most of the beneficiaries of the over $800,000,000 in “slush” funds have given large contributions to Governor Perry. It is only with an alert, involved and investigative electorate that politicians at all levels will be forced to recognize commonsense measures and return our governing bodies to a sense of cooperative spirit which will be in the best interest of our country.
The future of real republican-style government in the United States depends on what the average citizen is willing to pay in time, study and effort to overcome the greed and avarice of those with unlimited funds. Otherwise we will get what they pay for.