Call them the “Framers” of the Constitution or the “Founding Fathers” of the nation.
To give them their historical due, worship is not necessary, and it might be more realistic to admit they benefitted from a lot of luck. It’s true that the American Revolution struck longer-lasting blows for democracy than other contemporary uprisings, but why is open to debate.
Hundreds of years later, the revolutions in the name of “the people” — -always in the name of “the people” — -look cheek by jowl after the Peace of Westphalia, when it became clear that the vicar of Christ, the Roman Catholic Pope, was going to lose his grip on secular political power.
Martin Luther had blown the lid off Church corruption in 1517. Was it really that long for Westphalia to be concluded in 1648 and recognize that anybody with a sword and an army of serfs could go kinging without a license from the Pope? Well, yes — 131 years is a long time, but it’s amazing how much history can go on one page of a book.
One house of inbred royals after another fell to revolution, always for “the people.” While it’s true that the leaders of the American Revolution were not exactly working-class heroes but rather men of property, and many of these spokesmen for equal rights owned slaves, they were off on a new track, the politics of Enlightenment philosophy.
Within the Founders, there were divisions between Anglophiles (who held the advantage of the upper classes being educated in the traditions of the mother country) and Francophiles (whose mixing with French intellectuals got even closer when the revolution was won with the help of French naval cannons). The Founders were smart, well-educated, and for the most part had good intentions.
Still, luck matters, and we are smack in the middle of a crisis that has a good chance of not being the end of our 244 year old democratic experiment, a chance created not by foresight, but by luck.
There are so many things the authors of our Constitution could not have foreseen. Weapons that could destroy most life on this planet under the control of the commander in chief of our military is near the top of the list.
And how could they have foreseen that Americans would elect as commander in chief a man with only an undergraduate education in business, a man who seemed to value money above most things but was elected without following the custom of telling the voters where his money was invested?
We engaged in hostilities just short of war with an empire headed by Russia after WWII. We thought we won, but then the mystery man elected president turned out to be under the control of the Russian president for reasons unclear.
If we are saved from a reversal of what we thought was the outcome of the Cold War, we can thank three purposeful designs in our democracy and one piece of luck. The safeguards on purpose are civilian control of the military, an independent judiciary, and a free press.
The matter of luck is the state of communication and transportation in 1788 when the Constitution was ratified. The administration of elections was left up to the states because there was no other practical choice. States made different choices in pursuit of honest elections, very different choices.
So it was that 2020 was an election year, and in that year a hostile foreign power was able to penetrate our most important data processing networks without effective opposition. When informed of the largest breach in our computer security since we started using computer systems, the commander in chief simply denied that the breach had happened and took no action.
The hostile foreign power was not, however, able to penetrate our elections. There would be at least 51 differing systems and probably more because many states have left the responsibility with counties or even cities.
This obstacle to manipulating our election data is based on luck, not foresight. With the compromised man at the top apparently voted out, we will have at least four years to harden our defenses around other government functions, particularly utilities.
Still, we should keep management of our elections decentralized, because some of us think that the ability to hold free and fair elections is the most important function of a democratic government. I noticed last year that others do not find elections that important. Almost half of the electorate voted for a would-be autocrat.
It’s enough to make me wonder if we are changing our minds about that revolution.
Previously Published on Medium