Last night PBS had a bio of Hamilton, "Reckless Genius", part of their 'American Experience' series. Though there was nothing new to learn from the two-hour documentary, I was struck by a comment made by one of the historians on the panel - "...it is confusing..because the Republicans of the 1790s had no resemblance to the Republicans of today..."
This got me thinking that the historian is in error. The GOP is now very much like the Jeffersonian version of Republicans :
- Tom Jefferson and company harangued everyone that those who didn't share their dopey-daffodil agrarian vision were 'monarchists'. Feature today that anyone who begs to differ with the Iraq War/ Neocon 'permanent war' policy are dubbed as enabling Al Quaida and giving aide and comfort to 'Islamofascists'.
- Dick Cheney and his Neocon thugs engage in the politics of Fear, stating that if we aren't occupying various nations in the MidEast, the Muslim terrorists will be suicide-bombing Main Street USA enabled by interior 'fifth columnists', tomorrow. The Republicans of the 1790s had similar McCarthyism down pat. Jefferson and his bought and paid for media hacks would have had the public believe that Hamilton's nation-building policies were entirely geared for the restoration of the Hanoverian British monarchy.
- Many of the Federalists served with honor in the Revolutionary Army that tossed off the yoke of the British Empire. It is remarkable how many of the Republicans, who claimed to be revolutionary purists, never fired a shot against the troops of the hated British monarch. Tom Jefferson, George Clinton, and James Madison and other Anti-Federalists didn't serve a day in the Revolutionary Army. Flash today at all of the war chicken hawks: Cheney, Bush II, Paul Wolfowitz, Karl Rove - who all think that the Vietnam War was necessary - either got draft deferments or cushy placements in the National Guard during this conflict.
- Both Jefferson and Cheney think that they have the 'People' in their hearts and speak for them with code phrases that is in every sentence that they utter such as 'freedom' and 'liberty'. Jefferson's 'People' were largely in his own imagination and he was a slave-owning country squire who spoke chiefly for the interests of his fellow Plantation oligarchs. Jefferson, like most ante-bellum Southern aristocrats, despised the po' White Trash in actuality. Today's GOP preaches the Free Market and privatization which somehow they assure the 'People' it is in their best interests to outsource their jobs, level wages to 3rd World levels and keep them away from labor unions. The GOP are mouthpieces for the tiny OverClass from beginning to end.
- Right-wing radio and television paint anyone not a conservative Republican as 'Elitist' who despise the common people. They assure that the the Democrats are primarily Ivy League, wine-sipping 'cultural Marxists' out to enslave us all to their PC agenda. Meanwhile, these same folks crying about elitists, are spokespeople for the one-percenter corporation predators who are looting the economic infrastructure of the United States and a good portion of the globe.
Again, most of the 1790's Republicans, the top dogs, were slave-owning gentry who dished out propaganda that the Federalists were 'moneyed aristocrats'. The Federalists believed in meritocracy and most Abolitionists were Federalists in that era. Who are the real elitists and oligarchs here?
- Obsession with the Classics and racialist hegemony.
Tom Jefferson was a staunch proponent of Anglo-Saxon supremacy and had, even for those times, a over-bearing veneration of the Old Roman Republic(ruled by slave-owning plantation owners like himself).
Today's Neocons, who have taken over the consensus of the Republican Party with their fundamentalist Christian fellow-travelers, have many of their ideologues who were students and/or influenced by the classical scholar Leo Strauss. Although Strauss was opaque in his teachings and didn't concern himself with economics and foreign policy, he taught that 'modernity' lead to tyranny and only the men of ancient Greece and Rome knew what was correct for society. The men of the classics, Strauss believed, wrote and spoke in 'code' that only they could understand. This hidden elite in a liberal democratic society, had to co-opt and lead the 'People' via smoke and mirrors and give the People their Bread n' Circuses and religious fervour to protect the cloaked elites. If there was not an *Enemy* - an enemy had to be created. 'Islamofascism' is the created enemy by the Neocons, as 'monarchists' were that of the Jeffersonians.
Neocons, many of them, have adopted a neo-imperialist foreign policy called the 'Anglosphere'. They proclaim that only the nations founded by Anglo-Saxons have a monopoly on the memes of liberty, freedom, democracy, that has its roots in the Magna Carta. All the other nations, even those on the European continent that are more democratic than any nation of the English speaking ones, are subject to throw themselves in the arms of dictators and whatnot, according to the Neocons. It is the Anglo-Saxons' burden to push the memes of 'democracy' and 'Free Market' on everyone else, even with bombs and troops. Besides, this is the 'end of history'.
These are the major similarities between the Republicans today and those under the Sage of Monticello. It is now up to the Democrats(who formerly boasted about being the ancestor of Jefferson) to take the Federalist torch with both hands. The torch was passed to them with the New Deal, but they dropped it and must pick it up again with vigor and energy. Reagan was right when he said that the Republican Party was the "children of Jefferson". Let the GOP have him as Papa.