Sunday, November 8, 2015

It makes me wonder

I'm currently reading a library book called "Madison's Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America."

No, it's not about Warren Buffett or Bill Gates or Donald Trump or even Andrew Carnegie or Cornelius Vanderbilt or anyone else who bobbed to the surface somewhere along the American timeline.

It's about founding father James Madison, a 5-foot-4 intellectual dynamo often credited as The Father of the Constitution (as well as The Bill of Rights).

The partnerships explored in the book, written by David O. Stewart, include Madison's connections with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Monroe and Dolley Payne Todd (who eventually became Madison's wife).

I bring all of this up because we are in the midst of a sometimes fascinating, sometimes tedious, sometime ludicrous presidential campaign season. Absurdities uttered from nearly all the candidates, from both parties, seem to proliferate everywhere (you pick 'em, because what actually might make sense to me may be a joke to you. But they're there).

And this political season makes me wonder where and when we lost the intellectual brilliance of men like Madison, Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton.

Or did we?

From my point of view, I fear we haven't seen anything resembling the probing intelligence of our founding fathers, giants who seemed to be able to dissect an issue, then solve it with common sense and backroom compromise.

But, as it turns out, even the greats had their moments. The partnership with Madison and Hamilton that produced The Federalist papers faded in later years as political differences arose between them. Madison, who wrote many of Washington's speeches, drifted away from Washington in later years. It is, as they say, complicated. Political parties (never envisioned by the founders) formed, loyalties shifted.

And now, here we are, watching Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live and wondering if, 100 years further along the American timeline, our current crop of politicians will be seen as giants.

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