Sep 22, 2023
Sep 22, 2023
When the Federalist Papers, Constitution and Bill of Rights were written or approved there was neither a pecuniary nor logistic benefit to being a member of the Congress. Remuneration was nothing to write home about and the personal inconvenience of being separated from home and loved ones made serving in the capital a terrible inconvenience and burden. There was no need of large sums of money to run for office and no speechwriters, spinners or pundits to metamorphose idiots into candidates. One's own knowledge, intelligence, reputation and ability to speak and write and thus popularity were determining factors together with supporting factions. Thus Madison could be partially excused for not seeing how television could corrupt the process. He who was so focused on the differential talent of human beings to acquire property and had seen the effect of media (newspapers) in his masterly use of the Federalist Papers in obtaining the ratification of the constitution should have been prescient enough to understand the corruptibility of the Republican form of government just as well as Mark Twain who pithily remarked that there was no single native criminal class in America with the single exception of the Congress.
All that was necessary to bring us to the present mess was the equating of money to freedom of speech by the Supreme Court. The dumb electorate was already a given and the taming, corrupting and restricting of the media took place within slightly over a decade of 1787 during the Adams presidency and the second contest between Jefferson and Adams. I quote choice passages from Madison to make my point. The first is about the tyranny of the majority or its perceived interest. "By what means is this object attainable? Evidently by one of two only. Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time, must be prevented; or the majority, having such co-existent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression. If the impulse and the opportunity be suffered to coincide, we well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control."
His mistaken hope that persons of character and integrity, desirous of public and national good would filter and sublimate the passions of the common people is shattered. Present politicians opinions and positions follow rather than guide public polls and sentiments. His opinion of the electorate made him choose a republican form of government and excluded non-property holders from the vote. The then prevalent attitudes saw women as mere reflections incapable of being reflective and blacks as subhuman as they were excluded from the high sounding balderdash that all men are created equal.
"The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose. On the other hand, the effect may be inverted. Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people."
In all fairness to him he realized the power and corruptibility of the Executive office and thus entrusted the Congress with the power of declaring war. This was his greatest faulty hope and misplaced faith. His words are prescient and issue a dire warning.
"War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In a war a physical force is created, and it is the executive will to direct it. In war the public treasures are to be unlocked and it is the executive hand that is to dispense them. In war the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed. It is in war finally that laurels are to be gathered, and it is the executive brow they are to encircle. The strongest passions and the most dangerous weakness of the human breast, ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venial love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace." After reading the above all one needs for confirmation is to go to the website of The Center for Public Integrity and read the Windfalls of War.
The last straw that broke the back of the Republic is the total capitulation of the media to the powerful to preserve their financial interest by suppressing the truth or being mouthpieces of partisan propaganda, and abrogating their responsibility to inform, analyze and educate the public. They cave in by not airing programs that can offend those who control their purse strings and airing documentary fables which glorify lies, while concealing the truth.
More by : Gaurang Bhatt, MD