Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Federalists and Anti-Federalists on Sarah Palin

All the hullabaloo over Sarah Palin’s resignation reminded me of an interesting debate between David Brooks and Stephen Hayward on her ability to rule. Their debate is really a debate that goes back to terms of the Federalist/Anti-Federalist discussion: What is a representative’s role in a republic?

David Brooks took the Federalist view. Representatives should be grounded in “classical education, hard-earned knowledge, experience and prudence.” Prudence is acquired by “experience. The prudent leader possesses a repertoire of events, through personal involvement or the study of history, and can apply those models to current circumstances to judge what is important and what is not, who can be persuaded and who can’t, what has worked and what hasn’t.” Brooks tells us the word “experience” is in the Federalist Papers 91 times.

In the justly praised Federalist No. 10, James Madison argues that representatives should be ‘enlightened statesmen’ who will provide a check on the people by filtering their views. While the people are not a mob, they can be. This is not argument for aristocracy because the people will elect their leaders and can remove them from office. Madison’s idea of a filtering effect signifies the idea that the representatives should lead, not be led by, the people.

In opposition to the Brooks’ Federalist position, Stephen Hayward puts forward the Anti-Federalist position. He says Brooks and others are “affronted by the idea that an ordinary hockey mom--a mere citizen--might be just as capable of running the country as a long-time member of the Council on Foreign Relations.”

The Anti-Federalists espoused what I like to call the ‘sameness’ principle. Representatives should reflect the views of the people themselves. When I vote for a candidate, it is based on the belief that he or she will vote the way I would have if I had been in Washington. Representatives are the people’s proxies.

The debate between Brooks and Hayward occurred nearly a year ago, but it is still underlying the hostility over Palin today. Ross Douthat reiterated Hayward's argument in a recent column: “…Sarah Palin represents the democratic ideal — that anyone can grow up to be a great success story without graduating from Columbia and Harvard.”

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