Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July!!!!

It was just 232 short years ago that the cornerstone for the US system of presidential selection was laid. So thanks Founding Fathers, and yes, especially you, John Hancock (You were aiming for a blurb in an FHQ post lo those many years ago, weren't you?) for declaring American independence. Over 200 years of electoral evolution later, we've had an election even the Framers would have been entertained by. And while you're dining on hamburgers and hot dogs today, you too can ponder what the Founders would have thought of 2008.

What would they have thought of the Clinton-Obama nomination battle?

Would they have found the increased participation in the primaries beneficial to American democracy?

Given the 3/5ths compromise (or the language concerning "all men being created equal), what would the prevailing mindset have been among the Founders concerning an African American (or a woman) being among the most viable presidential candidates? Or given life expectancy at the time, what would they have thought of a 72 year old (in November) running for president?

Happy 4th everyone!

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (7/2/08)

Did Obama Bounce Everywhere in June?

The Electoral College Map (6/29/08)


SarahLawrenceScott said...

Happy Independence Day + 1!

I think the Founding Fathers, for the most part, would be delighted with the diversity of this year's contest, and not all that surprised.

Start with age. Interestingly, the idea that a President should be young and vigorous doesn't seem to have shown up until the mid-nineteenth century. Of the first seven Presidents, the youngest at the time of ascension was George Washington, and he was 57. That puts them all above the median for US Presidents! I don't think they saw life expectancy the same way that we do. Every four years was a risk, whether you were 35 or 75. If you'd made it to 70 and were evidently sound of mind and body, your odds of going another four years didn't seem all that much worse than a 40 year old. (William Henry Harrison seems to have been the turning point.)

An African American? The Founding Fathers clearly struggled with slavery and ideas of equality. For some of them, the idea that it took 232 years from 1776 to get to this point probably would have seemed slow.

A woman? I'm not as sure on that one, but the Founding Fathers were a pretty progressive bunch. One glance at the changes in our society--for instance, more women seek higher education than men--and I think it would seem obvious to them.

But here's the part that I think would have been disturbing to some of them, but not to others: the idea that we vote for President as a nation at all. Originally the President was chosen by the states, not directly by the people. We still have an echo of that in the Electoral College. Sovereignty of states was a very important concept to some of the FF's, and it's clearly diminished dramatically.

Josh Putnam said...

Nice addition, Scott. It was indeed a slow day for the blog yesterday and I've been on the road again today.

Your point about the Founders re: the states is a valid one. The only real remnant of that is the electoral college tiebreaker in the House (done by state delegations). And I agree, that aspect probably would have agitated the broadest cross-section of the Founders more than any of these other issues.