*One of the great things about the creation of the United States was the communal spirit that existed among the first generation of founding fathers. They all knew they were embarking on the immense challenge of starting a completely new way of governing.
Because of this understanding along with an established set of aristocrats, there was much less partisanship in the first generation of America. Washington stacked his administration with the greatest minds of the era irrespective of their party affiliation. Even as the Democratic-Republican party emerged in the early 19th century, there was still the sense that the decision makers were leading the entire country and not specific segments.
Unfortunately our country does not exist under those circumstances any longer. After being on the winning side of two world wars and a protracted geo-political struggle during the twentieth century, the United States is the unquestioned predominant world power.
Ensuring that the American system of government survive is not the most important thing among decision makers today. Nor should it – the United States form of government has been a model for other countries to reform. But more telling is that a communal sense of how to help the country grow and prosper is not the most important thing among today’s decision makers. To the contrary, they are more concerned with how to get a bigger piece of the American pie for themselves and their constituents. This is understandable and to be expected to a degree but the pursuit of self interest is occurring to the detriment of the pursuit of common interest.
In following the Republican campaign season for the presidential nomination, the candidates frequently reference “the things that made the country great” and look backward to “past generations” but do not acknowledge the difference in philosophy from our decision makers in years past.
There is certainly a place for social programs just as there is a place for individual selfishness. In fact I would argue that both are necessary. But elected leaders need to see the big picture; they need to look beyond a specific program or certain interest group.
Then the United States was formed half the people thought slavery was a terribly evil institution while the other half believed it to be the greatest labor system ever devised. And yet those two groups were able to co-exist and create laws to benefit both sides. And unless we are going to split our country into two nations, similar brainstorming and sacrificing needs occur.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected]