Paging Dr. Madison! Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the 10th Amendment

“The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.”
-James Madison, Speech in the Virginia constitutional convention, Richmond, Virginia, December 2, 1829

Pessimism is popular. Reading Twitter and social media, you would think the Republic is coming to an end. Imagine that – our grand, 250-year experiment in representative democracy, snuffed out by an ambiguous confrontation involving some teenagers at the Lincoln Memorial.

The defining trend of modern politics is the sudden rush to judgment by partisans of all stripes to find, feather, and tar the ideal scapegoat in order to further their agenda. We saw it with the Kavanaugh hearings. We see it with Trump’s demonization of illegal immigrants. And now we are seeing it with the Covington Catholic debacle.

We are all tribalists now. If you haven’t picked a side, we’re told, it’s only a matter of time before the pressure will force you to do so. Of course, the founders of this country saw this coming and built a system in which these factions were supposed to check one another. We need not be defined as a nation by any single faction.

James Madison defined a faction as “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

Behind all of the vitriol on Twitter and the media pretending to be neutral observers, we see a brute fact revealing what politics is really about. Government, Madison reminds us, is power—the ability to force one’s will on another group of human beings. Nathan Phillips and Nick Sandmann are just pawns in a broader power struggle that intensifies as more and more decisions are made in Washington D.C. rather than at the state and local level where they were supposed to be made all along.

When power solidifies in Washington D.C., there is a demonstrative erosion of freedom. When people feel freedom disappearing, they feel powerless.

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