Last week, while recovering from surgery, I pulled out my copy of The Federalist Papers and started reading.
As I skipped around the various articles, I was reminded of two things. First, the eighty-five articles written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay under the single pseudonym of Publius are the most brilliant, deep and thoughtful commentary ever written about American government.
Secondly, and far more importantly for me last week, The Federalist Papers were definitely not meant to be read while taking narcotic-level pain killers. While reading Madison’s Article 14, the letters all appeared to dance around the page like dead-heads at a Phish concert.
I put the book away and turned on cable television. The drugs that had made The Federalist Papers incomprehensible also made Keith Olbermann tolerable (although it occurred to me, when the drugs wore off every six hours or so, that Keith wasn’t actually trying to make me giggle).
Tuesday night, as I sat and watched election returns come in, I went back to review Madison’s writings on representative democracy. Madison had a vision that, under the federal government, issues of the country would be debated “by a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interests of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary considerations.”
If Madison had been a stand-up comic, you could almost hear the pregnant pause occur before he wrote: “On the other hand, the effect may be inverted.”
Madison’s “or not” comment is illustrative of the anger displayed at the ballot box Tuesday night. Those who voted to throw the bums out believe that today’s politicians have inverted the proper priority, by placing their own short-term personal interests ahead of the true interests of the country.
Why Rand Paul won
A few weeks ago I assisted in preparing Kentucky Senator-elect Rand Paul for his first campaign debate. Prior to that prep session, I had only met Dr. Paul briefly at a social event and wasn’t quite sure what to expect at this second meeting. I wanted to spend some time with him in order to look into his eyes and see what made him tick.
I came away from the debate prep genuinely liking Rand Paul. He is not any of the labels placed upon him by his opponents in either party. He is not a racist. He doesn’t hate old people or dogs (yes, dogs were an issue at one point). He’s not a college professor-type, kook, nut or know-it-all.
Thoughtful beyond the normal party-generated talking points used by other pols, Rand Paul is what we call in politics a “true believer.” He is someone who believes that he will, in the words of Madison, use his wisdom in the best interests of this country and will not be swayed by temporary considerations.
The passion for his beliefs was often what got Rand Paul into hot water. He doesn’t speak in made for television sound bites, and he actually likes to explain his answers to questions. This open discussion of issues was refreshing for Tea Partiers, but a Wes Craven level nightmare for Paul’s campaign staffers, who had to deal with snippets of his long-winded answers being used against him in attack ads.
Rand Paul won the debate, but not because of anything anyone told him in debate prep. He won the debate (and the election for that matter) because he spoke his mind openly, frankly, and without any thought as to how his campaign staff would react. He said what he believed and left the election in the hands of the voters.
In a year of people believing in their cause, Rand Paul was the ultimate true believer.
Why Christine O’Donnell lost
I make the following statements with the proviso that I’ve never met Christine O’Donnell. I am sure that she is a nice, well-meaning person, but we don’t hang around in the same covens.
Unlike Rand Paul, however, Christine O’Donnell never struck me as a true believer. Several of my colleagues who are Tea Party regulars refer to O’Donnell as a “poser.”
Rand Paul believes in well-thought-out principles, which drew voters to his campaign. Those beliefs happened to align with those of Tea Partiers. Christine O’Donnell never gave voters the same confidence about her convictions. She gave many the impression that she adopted Tea Party principles believing them to be her only path to election.
As they move forward, the challenge of the Tea Party is to find more Rand Pauls.
After I finished reading several more 220-year-old articles about government on Tuesday night, I put The Federalist Papers back on my book shelf, knowing that I will probably pull it down in two years. I’ve marked all of the good places with left over pain killers and a Rand Paul for Senate brochure.
Rick Robinson is the author of political thrillers which can be purchased on Amazon and at book stores everywhere. His latest novel, Manifest Destiny has won seven writing awards, including Best Fiction at the Paris Book Festival.