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368 pages, Hardcover
First published September 15, 2020
Americans must take a firm and nonnegotiable stand for fair representation and democratic values, understanding that electoral wins and losses need not be apocalyptic scenarios; grasp that divisive politics have been used as a weapon against the people from the very beginning; and recognize that communal good can far outweigh the visceral and toxic appeals of prejudice and tribalism.
…what we find is that normal people have been excelling and achieving greatness in spite of America. Once this is clear, it becomes obvious that the march on Selma, the Stonewall uprising, Frederick Douglass's fearless turn as America's conscience, the perpetual struggle by women and vulnerable minorities to seek equality, and even the ability of people to continue striving, dreaming, and just surviving in a system designed to hinder them at every turn, are just as inspiring as a band of eighteenth-century revolutionaries defeating Great Britain, the world's foremost empire.
All three authors [Hamilton, Madison, Jay] made the case that America’s Constitution was meant as a means to consolidate the influence of the states, improving upon the Greek, Roman, and British systems. They suggested that the United States, with the correct engineering, would become the heir to these empires and grow more powerful than any empire that had come before, but that mission required the cessation of the perpetual revolution as envisioned by Jefferson in favor or a system that protected the wealthy. This approach blended the rigidity of control in past and existing empires with Enlightenment thinking, instituting a new reality where people were to be controlled but believe themselves to be free.
The Founders’ plan for perpetual control of the people also required a narrative to protect it from scrutiny, and in The Federalist Papers, Madison, Jay and Hamilton found an opportunity to establish that narrative. Their essays coupled the Constitution with the appeal of divine inspiration and the tenets of the revolution, with an emphasis on unity against outsiders. They argued that God had given “one connected country to one united people - a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manner and customs.”
Through this framing, the Founders planted the concept of American identity and American exceptionalism, particularly white American exceptionalism: a worldview in which the creator of the universe had touched a people and made them superior to carry out his plans.