Sunday, September 26, 2004

Thomas Jefferson would be a Democrat

I am just back from a weekend visit to one of my favorite places; Monticello, Virginia. I love Thomas Jefferson and sometimes I just have to get in the car and make the trip down to Charlottesville to say hello.

Republicans would probably be up in arms at the subject-line title above. They would scream at the top of their right wingnut lungs about how Jefferson was a states' rights guy; how he was anti-Federalist. Half of that argument is correct, as Jefferson did believe in a government where the states had total power to govern except for what was implicitly bestowed upon the Federal Government in the U.S. Constitution. Further, I am certain that he would see the size of our current governing structures in Washington D.C., and find it repulsive.

However, Jefferson's being an anti-Federalist does not imply a Republican slant. For all their talk about small government, deficits seem to grow under Republican leadership, not Democratic leadership. Also, despite their talk to the contrary, Republicans are the equals of Democrats in their ability to pork up a spending bill. So, let's eliminate that Republican argument right off since we can clearly state that Republicans spend at a level equal to, or exceeding, that of Democrats.

Staying on this line of discussion, let's also recall that Jefferson was very much opposed to having a national debt, and in fact, significantly reduced the Revolutionary War debts of the U.S. during his tenure in the White House while also completing the Louisiana Purchase. I further believe that while he would be strongly against our tax system, and would likely not like the size of our government, he would be ever the pragmatist and at least have a much more progressive, or Democratic, tax system in place, and would fight tooth and nail against tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the lower and middle classes.

Still, there are several other reasons why Jefferson would be a Democrat. The most obvious one to me would be religion. While Jefferson publicly conveyed support for Christianity and even wrote into the "Declaration of Independence" several references to God and the Creator, he also wrote the "Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom." He was quite clear in that all Americans should be free to practice religion according to their own beliefs, and the matter was strictly and completely personal. Some have even questioned his true religious belief system. There is no question that he would consider the attempted infiltration of religion into our public society by the Bush people and Republican Party in general. The Republicans use of religion in the abortion debate, school prayer(despite the nature of some of the courses taught at the University of Virginia when founded by Jefferson), and gay rights would bother Jefferson a great deal. He would also be sickened by Bush's constant references to God and faith. Jefferson would see it as disingenuous and a slippery slope to try to ascend.
Jefferson would support stem cell research in the name of science. He would support insuring that anyone wanting an education would be able to get one. He would support gay rights(he was wrong on slavery and he knew it). And he would certainly be a proponent of protecting the environment, while also being very cautious about allowing big business too much of a voice in setting government policy.
Lastly, in looking at George Bush, he would see a man with no imagination, no curiosity for knowledge and no interest in detail. He would have no respect for someone who was not well read or well spoken. Jefferson would not approve of Bush's stubbornness and unwillingness to see mistakes and change course. Bush would strike him as a simple man in the worst sense; someone not up to the task of leadership and not of able mind, spirit or conscience.
Thomas Jefferson would be a Democrat.

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