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Battle over health-care reform: vital lessons from America's founding fathers

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Washington’s authority was complete; for four months our most thoughtful founding fathers wrote, debated, compromised, stood firm, and rewrote it, without press leaks or contraband drafts being circulated for public effect. He understood the final product would be stronger and more durable if debates were not hamstrung by specific constituencies’ demands. He asked for intellectual and moral judgments from the individual delegates themselves, and in so doing was able to keep the focus on what mattered most, making a government strong enough to enable our new country of free citizens to stand among the family of nations, then and now. Importantly, they agreed upon the goal, and in the end, all but a handful signed the document. It was then revealed to a public that became as divided as the rhetorical attacks were sharp.

Sound familiar? An unsustainable status quo, partially remedied by a complicated document that was badly explained initially, whose provisions were falsely accused of heinous implications (death panels, job killing, budget busting, etc.), that then led to “patriotic” calls for outright rejection.

The foundational public debate over the Constitution was then conducted in the individual states, separately and mostly sequentially, but with the benefit of knowing arguments pro and con used in other states. This enabled claims and counterclaims to be anticipated, sharpened, and improved as time passed. In quite a few cases the majority of state convention delegates were against ratification at the outset, but only Rhode Island and North Carolina failed to ratify in the end. And both of them came around very soon, by large margins, after the new government was formed and operating.

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