April 15, 2019

"[C]redulous historians have championed Jefferson and Jackson as the creators of 'our mythic democracy' — in reality..."

"...  a sham democracy driven by personal ambition, partisan corruption, and shameless pandering that disguised the powerful interests truly in charge [according to Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein, in 'The Problem of Democracy: The Presidents Adams Confront the Cult of Personality']. The Adamses had the nerve to point out the chicanery of this racket, and for that, the authors argue, historians have dismissed them as out-of-touch, misanthropic stuffed shirts. Isenberg and Burstein want to recover and vindicate what they describe as a lost 'Adamsian' vision of a more elevated, virtuous, balanced, nonpartisan polity, so unlike the system that defeated them, the all-too-familiar forerunner of our own. By the Adamses’ standards, Trump is not an aberration. He is an exemplar of everything in our politics that they resisted in vain, especially the fraudulent party democracy that substitutes tribal loyalties and celebrity worship for informed debate. But this view of the past and the present is flawed, historically as well as politically. The Adamses were chiefly the victims not of undeserving charlatans but of their own political ineptitude. And the crisis that has given us Donald Trump has arisen not from the excesses of a party politics the Adamses despised, but from the deterioration of the parties over recent decades.... Trump is not a creature of the party politics pioneered by Jefferson and Jackson. He is its antithesis, a would-be strongman who captured the presidency by demonizing party politics as a sham. He will be stopped only if the Democrats can mount a reinvigorated, disciplined party opposition. In that struggle, the Adamsian tradition is at best useless and at worst a harmful distraction."

Writes Sean Wilentz in "The Problem With High-Minded Politics/John Adams and John Quincy Adams’s virtuous disdain for partisanship was at the root of their failures" (The Atlantic).

69 comments:

David Begley said...

“He will be stopped only if the Democrats can mount a reinvigorated, disciplined party opposition.”

And Mayor Pete is just the guy. The gay JFK. He wrote his own speech. Camelot returns!

rhhardin said...

The first party to do away with political correctness will break through just fine.

Birkel said...

I like the phrase "would-be tyrant" almost as much as I love "quasi-tyrant" that a certain quasi-LLR used only yesterday.

Ralph L said...

The Adamses sound like the Bushes were in their dreams.

Quaestor said...

Isenberg and Burstein want to recover and vindicate what they describe as a lost 'Adamsian' vision of a more elevated, virtuous, balanced, nonpartisan polity, so unlike the system that defeated them, the all-too-familiar forerunner of our own.

Hmmm, it looks like Isenberg and Burstein never heard of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.

Michael McNeil said...

Alexis de Tocqueville on the “irresistable strength” of democratic governance as he saw it (1830's time-frame!) in the United States (quoting…):

My greatest complaint against democratic government as organized in the United States is not, as many Europeans make out, its weakness, but rather its irresistible strength. What I found most repulsive in America is not the extreme freedom reigning there but the shortage of guarantees against tyranny.

When a man or a party suffers an injustice in the United States, to whom can he turn? To public opinion? That is what forms the majority. To the legislative body? It represents the majority and obeys it blindly. To the executive power? It is appointed by the majority and serves as its passive instrument. To the police? They are nothing but the majority under arms. A jury? The jury is the majority vested with the right to pronounce judgment; even the judges in certain states are elected by the majority. So, however iniquitous or unreasonable the measure which hurts you, you must submit.

But suppose you were to have a legislative body so composed that it represented the majority without being necessarily the slave of its passions, an executive power having a strength of its own, and a judicial power independent of the other two authorities; then you would still have a democratic government, but there would be hardly any remaining risk of tyranny.

(/unQuote)
____
(Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 13th Edition, 1850, edited by J. P. Mayer, translated by George Lawrence, Anchor Books, Doubleday and Co., Inc., New York, 1975; pp. 252-253)
____

It is the Democrats — not Trump (who has been appointing only originalists of the highest stature and reputation to the Supreme and other courts) — who are pushing this kind of unconstrained (ergo, tyrannical) democracy onto the country.

Phil 3:14 said...

Surely there is someone on the Left who can speak of a cult of personality President and cite Obama and not just start and end with a Trump.

Henry said...

The thesis at least represents populist electioneering as a tradition rather than an aberration.

One could just as well as substituted FDR in for the demagogue and Herbert Hoover for the high-minded klutz.

But FDR as demagogue doesn't offer the kind of populism the Adamsists want to oppose.

Larry J said...

And the crisis that has given us Donald Trump has arisen not from the excesses of a party politics the Adamses despised, but from the deterioration of the parties over recent decades.... Trump is not a creature of the party politics pioneered by Jefferson and Jackson. He is its antithesis, a would-be strongman who captured the presidency by demonizing party politics as a sham.

The 'crisis' is that the DC Beltway Establishment (AKA The Swamp) has proven to be venal, self-serving, and corrupt. Trump's election is a reaction to that corruptness. I suppose if you're a member of the Swamp, you see Trump's election as a crisis. That would explain why so many of them went all in on a coup attempt that - so far - has failed. Now, Trump is coming after them and some may not only lose their cushy jobs but face real jail time. Faster, please.

Henry said...

Trump is not a creature of the party politics pioneered by Jefferson and Jackson. He is its antithesis, a would-be strongman who captured the presidency by demonizing party politics as a sham.

Jackson wasn't a strongman?

Jefferson didn't demonize the politics of his time?

Nobody said...

the crisis that has given us Donald Trump has arisen not from the excesses of a party politics the Adamses despised,

I think that Democrat Party discipline is what gave us DJT. The party discipline to drag and push the sack of potatoes dead weight that was Hillary Clinton to the nomination overriding the will of their electorate. But I guess that their theory is “Once more into the breech!”

narciso said...

The coauthor wrote 'white trash' yes federalist got it all squared away.

Nobody said...

So at least they concede that Trump is not a "strong man,” but they just know that the man who has more respect for the Constitution than any president since Eisenhower, I would say, a man who even sticks up fo the perquisites of the House (DACA was never funded) and the Senate (The Iran deal was never ratified, or even offered to the Senate, nor was the Paris Accord) is “in his deepest heart, where only he and we Democrats can see” a strongman.

Nobody said...

And yes, Jefferson is at the center of the myth of American Democracy. Maybe the writer should look that word up.

traditionalguy said...

That piece was total horse shit. Veritable smoke and mirrors. Jefferson and Jackson won things based on making America great again, and they did that by taking DC back from the Federalist insiders that were looting the frontier states. He fought rigged elections and treason with the British.Sound familiar?

Trump fought the uni-party in DC by doing a hostile take over of its Republican branch.Now he is educating the American people on how bad the Uni-party has always been.And the silly DC insiders haven't been able to figure out how to assassinate him like they used to do so well. All they have left is pretend intellectual crap like this article.

Gahrie said...

John Quincy Adams became president because of a political deal he made when the election of 1824 was thrown into the House. He defeated three other candidates, including Jackson. Jackson was so mad he formed the modern Democratic Party.

Bill Peschel said...

Wasn't the federal government designed with checks and balances to keep venal men from stealing too much?

Corruption will always be present, just like crime. The question is, what are you going to do about it?

With the Democratic-Party aligned media is unwilling to face up to its obligation to report the truth on both sides, we get the uniparty, which under Clinton banned gays from the military, sent manufacturing jobs overseas, and deregulated the banks leading to the collapse of 2007/8.

Now they're admitting anti-Semitism and open borders (a favorite of the Dems and the Chamber of Commerce to lower wages). Heck, let's print more money and offer "free" tuition and "free" medical care as well.

Just get your investment out before the economy collapses again and you'll be fine.

John henry said...

Why do people think the United STATES is, ever was, should be or was designed to be any kind of "democracy"

It was designed to protect its citizens from democracy.

John Henry

narciso said...

Probably so:
https://thefederalist.com/2019/04/15/doj-closed-inquiry-dossier-fabulist-christopher-steele/

Fen said...

The 'crisis' is that the DC Beltway Establishment (AKA The Swamp) has proven to be venal, self-serving, and corrupt. Trump's election is a reaction to that corruptness.

Why is this so hard for our "elites" to understand? Do they really not get it? Or are they just pretending it's not their own damn fault?

Seems like the need Moar Trump.

Larry J said...

Why is this so hard for our "elites" to understand? Do they really not get it? Or are they just pretending it's not their own damn fault?

Perhaps they all think they're so wonderful that they believe everyone else must love them as much as they love themselves.

Fernandistein said...

Ponderous load of hooey to (not) explain why Billary lost.

disdain for partisanship was at the root of their failures

Then it was a mistake for them to have disdain for partisanship.

Roughcoat said...

Actually, Buwaya wrote that article.

Robert Cook said...

"Why do people think the United STATES is, ever was, should be or was designed to be any kind of 'democracy'

"It was designed to protect its citizens from democracy."


Well, it was designed to protect its wealthy citizens (such as the founders) from democracy.

Robert Cook said...

"The 'crisis' is that the DC Beltway Establishment (AKA The Swamp) has proven to be venal, self-serving, and corrupt. Trump's election is a reaction to that corruptness.

"Why is this so hard for our 'elites' to understand? Do they really not get it? Or are they just pretending it's not their own damn fault?"


I think most of them really don't understand that they are toxic. They lie to themselves about themselves, as many people do.(The few who may realize it don't care, and will just do what they can to hold on to their power.)

rcocean said...

Every Liberal Historian changes their historical interpretations to fit their politics. If you've read enough or been around enough, this not only becomes predictable, it becomes boring. And annoying, because no one else seems to catch on to the con.

In any case, Adams didn't lose in 1800 because he was above partisanship. He lost because people didn't like the Federalists. They were the party of the elite. They soon became so unpopular they disappeared - and were replaced by the Whigs, who then disappeared and got replaced by the Republicans.

rcocean said...

Its hilarious we have Broadway celebrating Hamilton, the least popular Federalist of all. A foreign wack job, who wanted to make Washington President for life, and turn the Senate into the House of Lords.

rcocean said...

Good God, how would you like Lord John McCain or Sir Mitt Romney in the Senate!

narciso said...

remember wilentz used the sally hemmings meme to excuse Clinton, so another day ending in y,

Quaestor said...

I think most of them really don't understand that they are toxic. They lie to themselves about themselves, as many people do.

We shall wait in vain for a list of Robert Cook's self-professed lies about himself.

TJM said...

rcocean,

Well these same folks who love Hamilton would have liked to have had Obozo the Magnificent fill the role you suggest.

iowan2 said...

Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
It is mandatory to go back to the oranges.

How did we get to the United States? Pennsylvania was chartered in 1681. The same time frame as the original 13 colonies. 100 years they grew and prospered. Without a federal govt. Why/
A centralized govt always (they studied history) devolves into tyranny.
How to protect the people from that overwhelming centralized power?
Decentralize by implementing Federalism. Set out in a charter exactly what those defined powers are. Prohibit the centralized govt from doing anything unless it is specifically enumerated. Codify the all powers not enumerated to the centralized govt to the people, or the individual colonies.
The Federal Govt has become feral, running wild, encroaching in areas they destroy by their presence. Time to spay, neuter, and confine this feral species.

Ambrose said...

I really don't follow the "would be strongman". What has Trump done to support this?

Dad29 said...

Isenberg and Burstein want to recover and vindicate what they describe as a lost 'Adamsian' vision of a more elevated, virtuous, balanced, nonpartisan polity,...

Just read a theory under which people like Romney and Biden will shadow-'form' a third party to capture moderate Dem and disaffected Rep voters. The idea is to shove both Trump and the AOC-types off the stage....

And just by "co-incidence" this article appears, eh?

sykes.1 said...

Credulous historians still think the Constitution was an improvement over the Articles of Confederation. Silly boys.

Michael K said...


Blogger Gahrie said...
John Quincy Adams became president because of a political deal he made when the election of 1824 was thrown into the House. He defeated three other candidates, including Jackson. Jackson was so mad he formed the modern Democratic Party.


Bingo ! The Adamses were the deep state of the time. The Federalists were the Tories of the new USA. Jefferson was the dreamer who wanted the country to remain rural agrarian, sort of like Sparta, which also used slaves to do the work.

JQ Adams was the beneficiary of the Corrupt Bargain, sort of like the Hillary if she had won. The comparison between Jackson and Trump has a lot of weight. Jackson's followers who invaded the White House after the inauguration, are just like Trump "Deplorables."

mockturtle said...

It's not so much that John Quincy Adams had a 'virtuous disdain for partisanship' but that he had a sanctimonious disdain for the non-elite.

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William said...

Jefferson, Jackson, and, most recently, Wilson are on the wrong side of the slavery and civil rights issues. This is unforgivable and blots out any other virtues and achievements they might have. Jefferson authored a document that subverted the millennia old institution of slavery. Doesn't matter. He owned slaves and probably had sex with them. To the trash heap. Jackson kept the Union together. With a different president, the south might have seceded and done so successfully. Its peculiar institution would have lasted an extra few generations longer without Jackson. Wilson? Well, I'm unable to say anything nice about Wilson. Does the FDA outweigh his disastrous performance in WWI and its aftermath?......It does seem strange, however how these founders of the Democratic Party are now considered pariahs by the children of that party. I wonder how long it will take before the Dems catch on to the fact that FDR was an anti-Semite and that, unlike Nixon, his anti-semitism had a body count.

bagoh20 said...

"Well, it was designed to protect its wealthy citizens (such as the founders) from democracy."

Certainly, and it's a good thing it was, becuase if the people can loot the wealthy, they will bring the nation to mass murder and catastrophe as they always have in such failed systems. As we see even today with the poor better off than the wealthy of just a generations ago, the masses never stop coveting what they have not yet earned. Theft under legal disguise is irresistible, and the founders were brilliant to put in place protections from that, whether out of self-interest or genius. I fear they didn't put in enough protections. Any system that allows people to steal rather than earn will collapse on itself in sloth and violence.

rcocean said...

"Jefferson, Jackson, and, most recently, Wilson are on the wrong side of the slavery and civil rights issues"

Nobody with a brain cares that Jefferson or Jackson were on the wrong side of slavery. The whole fucking world was on the "Wrong side" of the slavery question in 1800 or 1830. China has slavery all the way till 1909. Go look up the dates that say Turkey or the Philippines or any other country abolished slavery. When did Africa "abolish" slavery? Oh that's right, they only did it at the behest of Europeans.

rcocean said...

"Any system that allows people to steal rather than earn will collapse on itself in sloth and violence."

Yeah, like TARP.

Birkel said...

These numbskulls never get it right.
Ours is a republic, not a democracy.

Nobody said...

I really don't follow the "would be strongman". What has Trump done to support this?

He won an election that they gave him a 5% chance of winning against one of the leading lights of the deep state.

Fernandistein said...

I really don't follow the "would be strongman".

"Would be" is fancy psych-projection talkin' for "he's not".

Ken B said...

The Adamses were straightforward elitists. (Elitism has its virtues. We had elitists in charge from the end of the war through till the 70s, and they accomplished much,especially in building Pax Americana.) They weren’t hypocritical about it, didn’t give speeches in fake accents when talking to black voters. Refreshing.

Ken B said...

Wow. Look at his first sentence. A frank admission that the verdict comes before the event.

bagoh20 said...

"Yeah, like TARP."

Including all the waste, and graft, I'm not sure we would be better off without that monstrosity when we needed something to shore up and stabilize the financial system? Once you have such a bastardized system in place that supports so much of the economy, even if it sucks, deciding at that time to let it collapse would have probably been a bad call. I don't know, but it's one of those sunk costs questions, which are not as simple as us libertarians like to believe. You can't replace a flat tire with nothing. You might need to steal an over sized, over-priced, tire just to get out the hood before dark.

traditionalguy said...

Was it old Hickory who said he would never forget the slanders of his wife and the Corrupt bargain between Adams and Clay, and then killed the FED of his day and threatened the Nullification States leaders with execution by hanging for treason. Why yes it was.

And President Trump will soon kill the FED and hang for Treason the fabricators of The Russia Hoax and the Obama criminals who spied on his campaign.

Maybe that is why there is no news today. The Treason guys are too busy on the run from arrest.

narciso said...

if only responsible folks were in charge:


https://thefederalist.com/2018/08/13/former-gun-control-candidate-charged-shooting-campaign-treasurer/

Darkisland said...

Blogger Robert Cook said...

Well, it was designed to protect its wealthy citizens (such as the founders) from democracy.

No, it was designed to protect ALL of us from democracy, Cookie.

You seem to think democracy is a good thing. Suppose that 65% of US citizens, in a fair election, voted to outlaw Islam and round up all Muslims into controlled areas. (Don't call them ghettos)

All Muslims otherwise qualified, would have been able to take part in the vote so it was very democratic.

Would you be OK with rounding them up? You probably would have voted against it. But once the democratic results are in, you would accept them, right? This is what democracy looks like and all. Right?

The founding fathers also protected you from democracy and you should be on your knees every day giving thanks that they did.

John Henry

Darkisland said...

Bagoh,

Thanks for remoinding me.

I've recommended it before but it has been a while and I'll do it again. Especially for Cookie but for everyone else as well.

The Law by Frederic Bastiat https://mises.org/library/law

It discusses why some people, like Cookie?, think it is morally wrong to rob me themselves but quite proper, morally, to group together, call themselves a "government", and pass laws giving them license to do so.

John Henry

Robert Cook said...

"As we see even today with the poor better off than the wealthy of just a generations ago...."

You can believe this ridiculous notion if you wish.

Robert Cook said...

"It discusses why some people, like Cookie?, think it is morally wrong to rob me themselves but quite proper, morally, to group together, call themselves a 'government,' and pass laws giving them license to do so."

Well...if a society is going to have a government at all, it is for the purpose of organizing the many and varied needs of a society and working out ways that the wants and needs of disparate groups within the society can be met. This is true of the most wide open democracy to the most closed totalitarian society. In a democracy or a republic, the people decide how the needs of society will be met and paid for. Obviously, taxes are necessary to spread the costs of society among all members of the society. The question is simply, how will society decide how much funding to allocate to what societal needs, and how taxation will be levied, and upon whom. I, for one, dislike having my tax dollars spent on a mass murder machine (our War Department), as well as a giant spying machine that is monitoring everything we do all the time. I do not resent my tax dollars being spent to provide meager assistance to our society's deprived. Others will have different preferences.

So, you either agree with the above, which means your resentments are to do with how and on what your tax dollars are spent, (and possibly on how, how much, and on whom the taxes are levied), or you can disagree, which means you advocate an anarchy. There's no other choice.

Sebastian said...

"Obviously, taxes are necessary to spread the costs of society among all members of the society."

All? Not in the US of A. Nation of Takers, as Eberstadt showed.

Sam L. said...

Forget it, Jake; it's The ATLANTIC.

rcocean said...

"Once you have such a bastardized system in place that supports so much of the economy, even if it sucks, deciding at that time to let it collapse would have probably been a bad call."

And who was claiming it was going to "Collapse"? Why all the super-smart - and well to do - people who'd previously said it was fine and many of whom had benefited from financial institutions gambling with their shareholders money! Why believe "they" were any more right about it "Collapsing" then about anything else? Why believe them when it was in their self interest to say we needed TARP or the sky would fall?

rcocean said...

Even more ridiculous were Hedge fund clowns like Mittens telling us we had to bail out AIG and Goldman Sachs or the sky would fall BUT we shouldn't bail out GM 'cause "Free Enterprise". No wonder he lost in 2012!

gahrie said...

"As we see even today with the poor better off than the wealthy of just a generations ago...."

You can believe this ridiculous notion if you wish.


Let's go back to the 1950's, perhaps a little more than a generation ago (but certainly my parents generation)

What percentage of the wealthy had air conditioning? Color TV? Cable TV? Microwave ovens? Cell phones? Ipods? Video games? Access to the internet? Birth control?

Those we call "poor" in the United States usually have a higher standard of living than the middle class in most of the rest of the world, and all but the richest in much of the world. They have a higher standard of living than my grandparents did. Poverty is a relative term, and the government redefines it almost every year.

Bilwick said...

"Obviously, taxes are necessary to spread the costs of society among all members of the society."

"Costs of society"="What statists want to steal from you."

(Translation from the "Progressive" BS into plain English.)

Rick said...

"Obviously, taxes are necessary to spread the costs of society among all members of the society."

I've heard this one before. In fact the old aristocracy used exactly the same justification as the new aristocracy has adopted.

Kirk Parker said...

bagoh20,

Ready to join my No Representation Without Taxation movement?

mikesixes said...

Robert Cook said: "Well...if a society is going to have a government at all, it is for the purpose of organizing the many and varied needs of a society and working out ways that the wants and needs of disparate groups within the society can be met"
Actually, according to the founding documents of the United States, the government was formed for the purpose of protecting the rights of its citizens. It is left to the disparate individuals (they didn't GAF about groups-the individual human is the repository of all rights) to pursue happiness as they saw fit. If you think it's up to the government to work out the ways that the wants and needs of disparate groups can be met, you're in the wrong place. Please move along.

Robert Cook said...

"If you think it's up to the government to work out the ways that the wants and needs of disparate groups can be met, you're in the wrong place. Please move along."

Given that in a representative republic, we, the people are (supposed to be) the government, I don't know what you suggest as the alternative. I must assume anarchism. We are not the frontier society you seem to want to live in, but a highly complex society that would not be possible without a medium (a government) by which we manage the many and complex social and commercial activities and interactions that occur every hour of every day. Our society was never the comic book version of it you seem to imagine.

mikesixes said...

The government makes laws which exist to protect the rights of the citizens-basically, no force, fraud or theft allowed in personal or business interactions, and no costs imposed on anybody without his consent. There are some exceptions, for example in the area of environmental protection, but for the most part laissez-faire provides the optimal solution. If everybody is free to pursue happiness within those few constraints, people will manage their own affairs. We certainly were never meant to have a government that "manages the many and complex social and commercial activities and interactions that occur every hour of every day". The impossibility of such a system has been shown many times (Venezuela is the latest example). The theoretical basis of this impossibility was established almost a century ago, but some people never learn.

mockturtle said...

Mikesixes is right. The whole argument is about 'the good of the whole' vs. 'the rights of the individual' and our Constitution favors the latter.

Michael K said...

We are not the frontier society you seem to want to live in, but a highly complex society that would not be possible without a medium (a government) by which we manage the many and complex social and commercial activities and interactions that occur every hour of every day

Cookie, I know the free market is anathema to you but for thousands of years it has worked pretty well. Government is usually the result of some asshole trying to get control over the other guys,. Traffic laws and patent laws are pretty basic but trying to manage the commerce by millions of people is hopeless and tempting at the same time.

Nichevo said...


Robert Cook said...
"As we see even today with the poor better off than the wealthy of just a generations ago...."

You can believe this ridiculous notion if you wish.

4/15/19, 12:24 PM


Mighty white of you, Bob. Most of your pals don't seem to want to let others believe things they don't like.

Robert Cook said...

"If everybody is free to pursue happiness within those few constraints, people will manage their own affairs."

Ha!