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America Becomes What Its Founders Feared

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Louis René Beres (PhD, Princeton, 1971) is the author of many books and articles on international relations and international law. His twelfth book, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel's Nuclear Strategy, was recently published by Rowman & Littlefield. Dr. Beres is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue University.

Alexander Hamilton once remarked, “The People, sir, are a great beast.” During American presidential campaigns, it is obligatory to celebrate "the American people." In all such conspicuous tributes, whether the candidate is a Democrat or Republican is largely irrelevant. What really matters here is that banality pays. To be sure, each visceral tribute can yield the contender a predictably useful electoral mantra.

Still, there exists a residual problem with these seemingly benign references. Most importantly, their ritualized appeal to an entirely mythical "American people" reflects an invented or contrived history of the United States. It may indeed offer presidential candidates an expedient and apparently risk-free premise for success at the polls, but it is also patently false.

Upon even the most cursory examination, our foundational political history will reveal an utterly stark contempt for popular rule.

It is correct, of course, that the white, propertied men (no women) who drew up the Constitution in Philadelphia, during the summer of 1787, created a document that was stirringly republican. Nonetheless, they did not believe in democracy, not for a moment. Rather, imbued with the cynical philosophy of Hobbes, and the relentlessly severe religion of Calvin, they had eagerly expressed very strongly anti-popular sentiments.

There is more. Such fully understandable attitudes reflected not only the founders' most basic political ethos, but also the corollary precepts of their subsequent public policies. ...

Read entire article at The National Interest


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