Saturday, December 31, 2016

What We Could Learn From Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson had very different visions of America.  Hamilton wanted to create an economic powerhouse that would not threaten individual freedom.  Jefferson was skeptical of that prospect.  He favored an agrarian economy that would preserve individual freedom in a fragile democracy.  However, Hamilton supported Jefferson in his battle against Aaron Burr for the presidency.  He did so because he believed that Burr was a man without principle.  He was driven by unbounded personal ambition that could not be contained by principle.  Burr would exploit uninformed zealots to secure his power and authority.  Hamilton had to choose between two men with whom he had little agreement.  He chose Jefferson because he would preserve a fragile democracy.  Aaron Burr was a demagouge who was blinded by ambition and who cared little for the institutions that were created to preserve our democracy. 

We have elected a demagogue as our 45th president.  We will have to see whether the institutions that we have created to protect our democracy from a person like Aaron Burr will survive the test that Hamilton feared.  We have granted great power to a person who thinks only of himself.  The Republican Party will have to make a choice that Hamilton helped us to avoid.  The Republican Party can choose between harnessing his power to its advantage or preserving a still fragile democracy.

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