What The Founding Fathers Taught Me About Democracy -- And Why It Matters More Than Ever In The Age Of Trump

03/16/2017 09:11 am ET Updated Mar 16, 2017
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A federal judge in Hawaii issued a restraining order against President Donald Trump’s travel ban Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson ruled that Trump’s order intentionally targeted Muslims and thus violates the U.S. Constitution.

Trump had argued that the travel ban was necessary for the security of the country. But those who would give up liberty for security, Benjamin Franklin warned, “deserve neither.”

The Trump presidency has me thinking a lot about the founding fathers and their remarkable wisdom and prescience.

The Founding Fathers warned us about demagogues like Trump.

Alexander Hamilton, one of the authors of the Constitution, said this:

When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits — despotic in his ordinary demeanour — known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty, when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty — to take every opportunity of embarrassing the general government and bringing it under suspicion — to flatter and fall in with all the nonsense of the zealots of the day — It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’

The founders taught us that democracies are at their best when their citizens are the most informed. This requires that citizens remain engaged and informed – and this requires us to be skeptical of our leaders and to investigate their claims.

They knew that the “enemy of the people” was not the press, as Trump says it is, but anyone who would try to delegitimize the press.

They knew that only a tyrant feared a free press.

An informed citizenry depends on vigilant and critical journalism. The founders told us that a free press is indispensable to the democracy.

So, too, is protest.

When someone “rides the storm and directs the whirlwind” of tyranny, it is our duty as Americans to take to the streets and protest.

Trump has criticized those who protest. He calls protesters “thugs.” He says, “We are not a democracy.” His supporters question the patriotism of protesters.

Anyone who says this knows nothing about America or what it means to be an American.

This country was founded on protest. Protest is as American as the Declaration of Independence.

Criticism of the government is as American as Thomas Paine and Common Sense; irreverence is as American as the Boston Tea Party; and free speech is as American as The Constitution.

The Constitution is America’s greatest contribution to civilization – and we do a great disservice to it and America when we neglect it.

We must stand up to Trump.

America’s future is at stake ― and so is its past.

Democracy must defeat Trump before Trump destroys democracy.

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