Jewish World Review Sept. 25, 2012/ 9 Tishrei, 5773
The flood approaches
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | They go together like hot dogs and baseball games, though the combination isn't nearly as appetizing: mud and American presidential campaigns.
It's a tradition that goes back at least to 1800, when
A supporter of the treaty -- indeed, he'd help draft it -- wrote at the time: "It was to have been foreseen, that the treaty which Mr. Jay was charged to negotiate with
Col. Hamilton was himself pelted with stones by an angry crowd for the crime of talking sense about that controversial treaty.
The furor over the treaty was one of the first outbreaks of the partisan fever that has overtaken American politics periodically ever since, usually in election years. As a clear-eyed historian would later sum up the disputatious air that characterized debates over the treaty:
"The Jay Treaty was a reasonable give-and-take compromise of the issues between the two countries. What rendered it so assailable was not the compromise spelled out between the two nations but the fact that it was not a compromise between the two political parties at home. Embodying the views of the Federalists, the treaty repudiated the foreign policy of the opposing party."
Vicious attacks have come with the unruly territory that is the two-party system ever since. For in a free country, liberty cannot be separated from license, free speech from its abuse by the dishonest or just sincerely misled. "Politics ain't beanbag," as
To quote a perspicacious foreign observer back in the 1830s, whose study "Democracy in America" remains the best guide to the curious habits of the American body politic and spirit in general, our presidential election is "a revolution in the name of the law."
Here is how M. de Tocqueville described the presidential campaign he witnessed:
"Long before the appointed day arrives, the election becomes the greatest, and one might say the only, affair occupying men's minds. ... The President, for his part, is absorbed in the task of defending himself before the majority. ... As the election draws near, intrigues grow more active and agitation is more lively and widespread. The citizens divide up (and the) whole nation gets into a feverish state."
Sound familiar? How little things have changed, which is another tribute to the continuity of American history.
Even more remarkable is what happens after election fever breaks: Everything suddenly calms down, like a great river returning to its banks after a flood that has swept everything away. As if there had never been any Great Divide at all. And life flows on.
It'll be a great day,
But while passions mount, so does zealotry. Only the perspective that time lends may cure it.
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