Live Free and Die

Um, sorry, black folk. Apparently in Ron Paul’s America, the right of a state still trumps your right to be considered more than three-fifths human.

Originally published in the January 12th, 2012 edition of the Long Island Press

The highest office in the land is the only job where applicants are rewarded for the level of disdain they express for the position they seek. The greater the antipathy toward government, the better the candidate connects with voters; or so it seems given the tenor of the GOP primary season. 

The image of the self-loathing politician promising to shrink the role of government in our lives is as old as the nation itself and usually appears during woeful economic times such as these. Of course, what someone utters on the campaign trail is almost always a far cry from how he speaks upon ascending to the Oval Office. Watching the current slate of GOP-hopefuls repackage this timeless anti-government dogma while vying for the single most powerful job in government is as ironic as it is ridiculous, but it is not without precedent. 

Many of the Founding Fathers were highly suspicious of government and the competence of the men seeking to run it. To them, government was a necessary evil, which is why so many provisions were enacted during America’s youth to protect its citizens from tyranny. But even the Founding Fathers weren’t immune to the awesome and corrupting power that accompanies the presidency. One early example was John Adams, one of the staunchest proponents of the Bill of Rights and the author of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, which included many of the Constitutional amendments we hold so dear today. It was Adams who cajoled a reluctant James Madison to introduce the Bill of Rights in Congress to protect citizens from encroachments on their liberty. 

Only a few years later, Madison was jolted from retirement to join with Thomas Jefferson against an emboldened President Adams, who had recently signed the Alien and Sedition Acts into law, thus allowing the federal government to detain and arrest any citizen who spoke out against it. Adams was reacting to federalist fears triggered by watching the French Revolution turn ugly, and his paranoia was not without merit. But the totality of federal authority granted under these acts was so abhorrent to many of his contemporaries and fellow American revolutionaries it prompted the passage of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions whereby these respective states unilaterally deemed the Alien and Sedition Acts unconstitutional. 

Now put this conflict into its proper current context. Libertarians such as Ron Paul, the second-place finisher in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, and free-market conservatives (every other GOP candidate including frontrunner Mitt Romney) routinely paint themselves as Jeffersonian state’s rights advocates. Paul, in particular, identifies strongly with the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions in spite of the fact that they were specific to the threat of the Alien and Sedition Acts and later were the primary separatist arguments upon which the Civil War was fought. While the larger field of candidates is likely incapable of discussing these measures in any thoughtful way, Paul has actually made a career arguing that these resolutions are somehow as sacrosanct as the Constitution itself. He has even gone so far as to criticize their demise under President Abraham Lincoln and has called the Civil War a “major setback” due to the “undermining of the principle of sovereign states.” In a statement made on the floor of the House of Representatives in 2004, which was re-circulated by the organization Campaign For Liberty over the summer, Paul lamented this development saying, “The Civil War profoundly changed the balance of power in our federalist system, paving the way for centralized big government.”

Um, sorry, black folk. Apparently in Ron Paul’s America, the right of a state still trumps your right to be considered more than three-fifths human. 

Beyond the unintended consequence of setting the stage for the Civil War, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions did serve to unify the Democratic-Republican Party (later just the Democratic Party) against the Federalists and Adams’ frightful encroachments on individual liberties. But the fight with Adams was cover for the real issue that divided the nascent empire: taxes. 

Most of the Founding Fathers were opposed to Alexander Hamilton’s insistence upon centralizing and maintaining a strong federal treasury. They opposed it, that is, until it was their time to lead the nation as president. America’s ability to purchase land, fight skirmishes at home or wage war on the high seas was impossible without levying taxes upon its citizens: an early example of the evaporating campaign promise. When it comes to dollars and cents, ideology cannot overcome fiscal reality. 

It’s one of the reasons why our economy is struggling so badly today. Believing that war somehow pays for itself and, even more magically, stimulates growth, the Bush administration chose to ignore history and embroil the nation in two costly wars while simultaneously cutting taxes to anemic levels. This type of disconnect is central to the Republican psychology of this presidential campaign and each candidate’s continued misinterpretation of the Founding Fathers.

As much as the Jeffersonians were ideologically opposed to a strong central bank and morally opposed to the Alien and Sedition Acts, they were pragmatists. Their fight against the latter gave spirit to the party, the former provided substance. Same concept, different century. 

Mind you, the GOP isn’t alone in their disassociation between candidacy and presidency. Take the curious case of candidate Barack Obama, self-proclaimed expert on the Constitution who signed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 on New Year’s Eve, which includes the controversial indefinite detention provision that has libertarians and others going berserk. As well it should. It’s a confusing bundle of words that, in conjunction with the authority granted to the government under the Patriot Act, theoretically provides President Obama with powers dangerously akin to those bestowed on President Adams by the Alien and Sedition Acts. 

So while pundits split hairs over who hates government the most and which candidate has been married the longest, we’ve tragically lost our place in our own history. And so here we are again: back where we started, none the wiser and with little to show for our experience.

Author: Jed Morey

Jed Morey is the publisher of the Long Island Press, LI's Cultural Arts and Investigative News Journal. The Press has a monthly circulation of 100,000, and, welcomes more than 500,000 unique visitors every month. He serves on the board of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center in Nassau County, as well as the President's Council of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Long Island. In addition to the contributions on this blog, Morey authors a column for the Long Island Press titled "Off The Reservation" and is a staunch advocate for Indian rights. The column was voted Best Column in New York by the NY Press Association in 2010 and third overall in the nation among alternative publications by the Association of Alternative Weeklies in 2012. Morey lives in Glen Cove with his wife, Eden White, and their two daughters.

11 thoughts on “Live Free and Die”

  1. I understand the need to draw attention to your blog/paper but to make such an attack on Rep. Paul is really deceitful. To send out a tweet, and lead the article with a throw away, and inaccurate statement such as that is really just wrong.

    I really enjoy your paper but that was just disgusting.

  2. Dan, Ron Paul’s understanding of the Constitution is as thorough and complete as any candidate who ever sought this office. His interpretation, however, is problematic as he is intractable instead of interpretive. If you read the Constitution as a Christian fundamentalist reads the bible rather than allowing it to inform your ideology within the context of the time in which you live then you must be prepared to die by the sword as well. This idea that state’s rights should have prevailed even during the time of slavery is anachronistic and dangerous. The conclusion I drew and promoted in this column is the logical (and yes, dangerous) extension of the ideology promoted by Ron Paul and must therefore be publicized. I have been equally critical of President Obama’s role in codifying the NDAA 2012 section regarding detention by pointing out that this clause is fascist in nature. Does it make Obama a fascist? No. But his action shows a tendency toward it if you draw this resolution to its logical conclusion. I do not level these criticisms lightly and I am an equal opportunity critic. These are serious condemnations of a political system that is severely out of balance.

  3. Dan, I agree the tagline to the article was misleading yet, it serves the purpose to draw a reader in and investigate further.
    Jed, I thought the piece was excellent, you provided some very valid points and inform the average reader who knows very little about politics exactly what is going on in our country and the ramifications of a tyrannical gov’t system
    that requires public awareness and direct involvement of it’s own citizens to enact necessary changes.

  4. Jed, Did you just take a personal interpretation by what Rep. Ron Paul said? Or did you personal call him to clarify a general statement referencing the act for the good points it might have had? Is the act as a whole correct with just a few small points that are some what misguided? Is not Ron Paul a true believer in the constitution? Is not the Amendment that freed the slaves only an enslavement of all citizens. Maybe it should be read very carefully. I will try to recite it here from memory. AMENDMENT XV. Propose Feb. 26, 1869, and ratified Feb. 3, 1870.
    Sec. 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall note be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude-
    Sec. 2 The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation Ron Paul never said freeing the slaves was wrong he said fighting a war over it was wrong and more so that it was really backed by foreign bankers who backed the southerners and did not want Abraham Lincoln to have A U.S. Bank controlled by congress and America. For that is the real reason Lincoln was killed. To Doubt me is fine but were did John Wilkes Booths co-conspirator run off too and what was his job? He was a Vatican guard and they would not extradite him for his crime. Maybe one should do more research.

  5. Dear “the Watcher”
    We’re on the same page. Ron Paul IS a true believer in the Constitution.
    But let’s be clear. My point here is that the Civil War was indeed a just and inevitable war. We all know the framers punted on the issue of slavery and knew the war would someday come. But they had a nation to build.
    Moreover, your theory at the end only furthers my point that most of these events boil down to banking and money. Some things don’t change.

    Where we split is that I do not believe the Constitution is rigid and set in stone. I believe it is fluid and must be interpreted and applied to the times in which you live. The fact that there were amendments and arguments by the Founding Fathers during their own lifetimes is evidence that they too felt the same way.
    It’s funny how Libertarians believe in individual liberties and the rights to all the Constitution provides yet when someone dares question the Constitutionality of something or the document itself, they consider it heresy.

    My reason for drawing out Ron Paul supporters and free-market ideologues with a salacious statement was partially to offend but ultimately to engage in exactly this kind of dialogue. So, thank you for taking the time to read the article and comment.

    Sincerely, “the Writer”

  6. Plaudits for the Jan 12 “Live Free and Die.” your column is a breath of fresh air in a toxic political climate. I just wish it could get broader exposure. Please try to share it with the Times, Washington Post or other, Keep up the good work!

  7. Thank you for reminding us of the political manuverings of our founding fathers. The fact that THEY found it necessary to further define the instrument should attest to its amendable nature.

  8. Jed,

    While I disagree with the parsing of Ron Paul’s interpretation and rationale for states’ rights, I appreciate your intent of starting a dialogue that is seriously lacking in the age of “American Idol”

    To your point, both parties have done a terrible job of encouraging an adult discussion of the issues. Both demagogue each other’s stances with absolutes that only serve to fill news segments with headlines devoid of substance. It’s no wonder that the prevailing inclination of the masses is apathy.

    Many have misinterpreted Ron Paul’s views and while he’s not perfect, he is the only candidate in this three ring circus that attempts to tackle these issues head on, not providing the prepared sound bite that he thinks the people want to hear. He is principled, consistent and his motivation is authentic. In the age of Abramoff and lobbying run amuck, Ron Paul, aka “Dr. No”, has never even accepted a political junket. More importantly, few can match his defense of our “collective” civil liberties as a congressman, as well as his critique of both Republicans and Democrats that threaten them. (Can you say, NDAA?) You can’t say that about the rest of ravel being served up to us.

    And by the way, while we’re on the topic, as a person that voted for Obama with the hope that he would bring about the change that our country sorely needed, something apparently happened on the way to the White House. The same constitutional law professor that railed against the Patriot Act and circumvention of the FISA courts on the campaign trail, extended the Patriot Act, signed into law further reaching conditions of FISA and, in recent weeks, signed the NDAA, even though he had reservations with it. Wow… In my estimation, people that supported him for those reasons, yet do not hold him accountable for those actions, are not only in denial but hypocritical. In the words of Bill Maher, “their all brainwashed Liberals.”

    In closing, I leave you with this link.
    It’s some guy that had the conviction to stand up and introduce legislation to repeal section 1021 to the recently passed NDAA.

    Keep serving it up Jed, your viewpoints encourage the brand of critical thinking absent in today’s political dialogue…

  9. Hold on a sec, as a young lad, in your family’s mansion, if I’m remembering correctly (and I have a long memory), wasn’t there a housekeeper? What caribbean island did she come from? What was her name again?
    So your slant on the subject of racism in current politics comes from your family exposure?
    Silly, I have read most of your work and reviewed most of your speeches. Don’t you think that if you did run for office, those peccadilloes wouldn’t erupt too? No one is a Saint, Jed; no one.

  10. BTW, that doesn’t mean I don’t think you’re the best man for the job. I just wish you’d present yourself as the faulted man we all are. The electorate has grown smarter, as revealed by your sycophants here. They see in you the personification of themselves, just a little more articulate. As I see it, the problem is; the vast middle of this country are not Starbucks drinking east-enders. Show that you’re more commoner than elite, and attract the base. A vote for Morey is a vote for America. Run Jed, run.

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