Stop Referencing the “Founding Fathers” in Political Debate

Debates over controversial social and political issues are often supported by an annoying crutch dating back to the 18th century: an appeal to the Founding Fathers. This is especially true when it comes to the irresistible commitment that Congress is now defining.

As a recent example, consider a tweet from South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds on the status of Washington, DC, which is currently under discussion in Congress. According to Rounces, a group of men who lived in a scattered group of former colonies 300 years ago would unanimously oppose the addition of 51 states in 2021.

Such references are often made to the Constitution when other high-profile debates arise. Following the mass shootings this month in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado, new calls for gun control are inevitably hitting the deaf ears of Republicans who, like many Second Amendment fundamentalists, tend to invoke America’s early days to bolster their support for an out-of-control armory. culture.

After Monday’s shooting in Colorado, the National Rifle Association tweeted the Second Amendment , which repeatedly stated that the organization, and not its critics, owes national guidelines set by a small group of white-owned slave owners who lived before electricity.

Apart from being a reductive statement, these calls are not the basis for a worthy argument. It is far more useful to use strategies other than speculative arguments about what Thomas Jefferson would think about abortion rights or what Ben Franklin would say about a ban on abortion.

Why is this argument fundamentally racist?

The founders were staunch defenders of the police as an institution dedicated to protecting public order. Each member of the militia had to be armed; however, the Founders maintained strict rules as to who could join the ranks. Black people and Native Americans are not allowed to enter. In 18th century gun rights beliefs, gun ownership was a privilege clearly reserved for white males.

As historian Noah Schusterman wrote for the Washington Post in 2018:

Laws rarely allowed free blacks to have weapons. Even more rarely, African Americans living in slavery received them. In slave states, militias inspected slave homes and confiscated weapons they found. (There were also laws against the sale of firearms to Native Americans, although these were more ambiguous.)

He continued:

These restrictions were more than just a footnote to 18th-century American weapons policy. White Americans were armed to maintain control over non-whites. Non-Whites were disarmed so that they would not pose a threat to white control over American society.

With this in mind, the question arises: Are today’s Second Amendment absolutists advocating a world in which gun ownership is a sign of racial superiority? Most would argue otherwise, but mentioning the serene 18th century gun ownership days means you are directly extolling America’s racist heritage.

Try to substantiate your argument in the present.

Chances are you are not a constitutional expert. The founding document of this country and the motives of the people who compiled it is a growing area of ​​research for historians, judges, lawyers and archivists tasked with interpreting its relevance to 21st century social norms.

However, if you are going to point to the Constitution or the early days of America to prove your point, you must understand the story inside and out. Instead, consider supporting your arguments in modern terms. If you are determined to strip Washington DC of statehood, try putting your views in a practical sense by listing what the 51st state will do to change the balance of power in the Senate. If you’re serious about the corporate identity, don’t use the cliché about free speech – talk about how you think lower corporate tax rates are good for the economy and job growth (if you believe so).

It is much more honest to discuss the problems of today than to call for a bygone era.

You are only confirming your biases.

Given that the true intentions of the Founders – in addition to the already trivial notions of freedom and that all people are created equal – were controversial, you are only hiding your true intentions by referencing them. Will Wilkinson, a senior fellow at the Institute for Progressive Policy Institute, recently tweeted this , tweeting, “The founders were not a corporate mind that could intend anything … It would be better if we just cut out the incoherent. an extra step and just say what we want and the real reasons why we want it. “

This is an important point. It is much better to be honest about your intentions, instead of hiding them behind the straw that you consider constitutional. To do so is to assume that your views are unambiguously American and therefore correct, which could not be more wrong.


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