The voting has been completed. A candidate is announced as the winner. The results are either accepted or a process to contest is begun. Let’s assume that on January 20, 2017 a new President is sworn in as the Chief Executive of the United States. Seventeen days before, the 115th Congress will begin its business, the House of Representatives with 435 newly elected members and the Senate with one-third of its 100 members having be elected or re-elected. The Third Branch of Government – the Supreme Court – is short-handed and seemingly equally divided on many issues.
The media is having a field day with the divisions clearly sparking in all directions; the negative speculation in the financial markets; with the many difficult international situations creative havoc throughout the planet; with the concerns expressed by America’s “allies” as to their future relationships to America; and the politicians of all persuasions already going into their trenches or foxholes.
Of course, we hope that lightening does strike and that “We the People”- as individuals, as families, as neighborhoods, as greater communities, as those who are open to the gift that that the astute men we honor as our “Founders: fashioned to invent a new form of government. That invention acknowledged that we are basically self-serving people and that it would not work to rely on citizens to rise above their own interests to join in achieving some larger good that they would recognize by reasoning together. The founders recognized that we are not imbued with “pubic virtue”– and that the “blank slate” that Thomas Paine had described America as having in 1776 ran into great troubles soon thereafter. The people had nearly let their army starve; they had competed one state against another for the upper hand in trade. They had defaulted on their debts, while profiteering, and refusing to work together. [See The Genius of America, How the Constitution Saved our Country–and Why It Can Again. Lane, E. and Oreskes, M. , Bloomsbury, NY, NY 2007).
Those men who got together, after being chosen by their states, went way beyond their instructions to fashion a new set of ideas about government and democracy. This has been described as acceptance of “conflict within consensus.” [A Machine That Would Go of Itself:The Constitution in American Culture. Kammen, M. New York, Knoff. 1986, 5.] The Constitution that was created, and unanimously accepted after over four months of debate and compromise was finalized by a group of five men who constituted the Committee on Style and Arrangement. These men were James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Gouvernour Morris, Rufus King and William Samuel Johnson. Perhaps their greatest contribution was the recasting of the Preamble. “The Preamble and all it came to represent was the unique achievement of a remarkable group of men at a momentous turning point in American History.” [For Ourselves and Our Posterity: The Preamble to the Federal Constitution in American History. Hoffer, P. Oxford U. Press, New York, 2013, 2]