The Founders Reconvene - In Heaven

Jim Blasingame - A Satire -

The calendar strikes 2000. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams are having tea in heaven (No ale, heaven is dry).

Jefferson speaks first, "John, you and I have had our differences, but I know you agree with me about how pitifully uninvolved our American children are these days in the political and governmental process."

"Yes, Tom," Adams responds, "I have been worried about our baby for a long time now. I fear if something doesn't change, there won't be a United States in a few years. Got any ideas?"

"Actually, for the first time since 1787," Jefferson answers, "I think we should get the boys back together and see what they think."

"Good idea, but there's one problem: All of the guys aren't up here," our second president reminds his friend.

"Oh, I think we can get a couple of day-passes. This is pretty important stuff." Jefferson said.

A few days later, as the meeting of the Founders and various revolutionaries convenes in heaven, Jefferson addresses the group, "Gentlemen, President Adams and I have called you together to discuss the sad state of affairs in America, and we want to get your thoughts."

Thomas Paine, author of the revolutionary pamphlet, "Common Sense", rises and speaks without being recognized, "It's about time we admitted that there's a problem down there. Sometimes I just want to yell, Hey! You ingrates! Pay attention to what's going on in your country! Get involved. For God's sake, at least vote!!"

"Settle down, Thomas," Jefferson coaxes. "That's what we're here for, but we have to handle this so that our actions have a lasting effect; hopefully at least for as long as since the last time we met. President Madison, you have the floor."

Rising to speak, the staunch federalist, foremost architect of the Constitution, and fourth president of the United States says, "Thank you, Mr. President. I too, am concerned about the future of America. Did you know that in recent national elections as few as 40% of eligible voters cast their ballots? We dedicated our time, resources, energy, and sometimes even our lives to forge and bequeath this great governmental legacy. I yield to the gentleman from Connecticut, the great patriot, Mr. Hale."

"Mr. President, America is going to hell in a hand basket, no offense Mr. Burr, and after 224 years, we have to do something about it. I hate to think that I gave my life for this."

Benjamin Harrison, Governor of Virginia, father of William Henry Harrison, 9th president of the U.S., and great-grandfather of his namesake, the 23rd president, stands and says, "Nathan, I share your concerns. But how should we influence what's going on? What are our options?"

"Gentlemen, gentlemen," All heads turn to the great sage and statesman they had so often looked to for grounding and wisdom during the founding days. Peering over the top of his homemade spectacles, Benjamin Franklin continues, "I think what America needs today is a national civics lesson. What if we could create a situation that is so dramatic that it makes the average Silas and Sarah American not only start participating in the process more diligently, but furthermore, be so compelling that they would become, almost without realizing it, very knowledgeable of how our system of government works. Yes, Sam?"

Samuel Adams, author of early revolutionary documents and original proponent of what became the Continental Congress, stands to speak, "Ben, you've seen how spoiled and self-absorbed Americans are these days. They seem to only want to learn things that directly affect their own little lives. Civics is about service to others and issues larger than oneself. I can't wait to hear how you're going to thread that needle."

Franklin, "Let me ask you a question: What are the greatest challenges we face here? General Washington?"

The surveyor-turned-general-turned-president-turned-national patriarch stands and answers, "The greatest challenges I see in American government and politics is a dearth of leadership, too much money in the political process, and not enough citizen participation."

"Exactly," says Franklin. "And I think we can use each of those to our own end. There's a national election coming up this year. We all know that both sides of the two major parties are more loath to see the other side in power than at any other time since 1860. So they will be spending the record levels of money to get their constituents out to the polls to vote. What if we made sure that the two main choices American voters have for president are so equally unimpressive that voters for each side becomes inordinately energized just to keep the other side's dolt out of office? Yes, President Adams."

"So you're saying a combination of weenie candidates, intense partisan acrimony, and unprecedented campaign funds will, in a rather perverse way, foster voter turnout. Is that it?"

"Yes, John," Ambassador Franklin answers, "that is my thinking. Mr. Henry?"

Patrick Henry, a courageous revolutionary, but opponent of federalism and a national constitution speaks, "I think I see how your plan will create increased voter activity, but I don't yet see the civics lesson. And other than what we do to arrange for the weak candidates, what else do we need to do?"

Franklin answers, "I'm just getting to that, and it's the same answer for both questions: Our additional involvement actually produces the civics lesson. We all know that the Electoral College was created more out of elitism than anything else. At the time, we frankly didn't feel the average citizen would be informed enough to cast an intelligent vote. In the intervening two centuries since it was created, this system has taken on a different application. The Electoral College process of selecting a president has now morphed into a system that provides less populated states with reasonable representation parity - not to mention strategic positioning - with the densely populated states. We never saw that coming. Isn't it interesting that even one of the less-than-noble components of our system actually has served our representative republic system very well? Yes, Secretary Hamilton."

The author of most of the Federalist papers, first Secretary of The Treasury, and father of the national banking system, Alexander Hamilton complains, "I told you we needed a stronger central government. If you had listened to me we'd have a more permanent executive, and Senate, and...."

Jefferson's first Vice President, Aaron Burr, interrupts, "General Hamilton, even now you can't see that your centralized government ideas were a bad plan and..."

Fearing another duel, James Madison rises, "Now, now, gentlemen, let's mind our tempers. I think Ben has a good idea. I still want to hear how he's going to create the civics lesson, and once created, how will we get these poor stewards of our legacy to actually accept the lesson?"

The publisher of "Poor Richard's Almanac" continues, "Keep in mind the strategic possibilities the Electoral College math might give to any given state. Taking advantage of the intense voter interest and participation, let's create a scenario where the presidential vote is very close nationally, and so close in a few states that re-counts prolong a final decision. The controversial resolution of the decision will require that the sun will be made to shine on how our election process works, including how the local, state, and federal organizations, as well as the political parties, work together. And since we know we can count on the media to milk the controversy ad nauseam in every conceivable medium, including that new Internet thing, they provide the sunlight, and, I might add, by using electricity. Mediocrity + $$$ + self-interest + participation = a close vote. Yes, President Jefferson."

The founder of the University of Virginia asks, "Ben, I see the civics lesson, but how does a close vote produce the level of controversy that will insure the lesson sinks in on a national level?"

To which the man who first suggested daylight savings time answers, "All we have to do is let the media do what it is prone to do anyway: Prematurely project that one of the candidates is the winner in one of the critical swing states. President Jefferson you once said that information is the currency of democracy. Well, election controversy + ad nauseam media coverage + voter investment = a national civics lesson. And the state I recommend that the media prematurely project is Florida. I choose Florida out of nostalgia, because that was where the last Electoral crisis was decided in 1876, by one electoral vote."

"Where's Florida?" shouts someone from the back of the room. "When did we get that state?"

"Who let Benedict up here," yells Jefferson, "I didn't request a day-pass for that traitor. Get ye back to hell!"

"Alright, I'm going," Arnold concedes. "At least I can get a pint of ale down there."

As the room settles down, John Adams installs some rules of order, "Is there any more discussion about Ben's idea before we take a vote? What's that? No, Mrs. Ross, we can't get involved in the New York Senate race. Anybody else?"

"May I speak, gentlemen?" All eyes turn to a tall, angular figure now rising.

"President Lincoln," Adams says, "Didn't know you were in attendance. By all means, please, speak your mind."

"Thank you, Mr. President." Abe continues, "I have only one question and one concern: By creating a close national vote and election controversy I fear the potential for another house divided. With such an opportunity for our goal of increased citizen activism to turn into internal national strife, I pray our actions do not create a repeating of history. Mr. Franklin, how can another national tragedy be prevented?"

"Mr. President, I bow to your wisdom and your experience, "Ben responds. "I have thought about your valid concern. As President Washington has pointed out, there is a dearth of leadership in politics in America today. Consequently, we have no reason to believe, should the controversy become prolonged, that either candidate we choose will be likely to put the good of the country ahead of self-interests and concede as Mr. Burr did in 1801, as Mr. Nixon did in 1960, and as Mr. Ford did in 1976.

"I feel certain the United States will survive an honest testing of the political process, and the subsequent presidency of either political party's candidate. But frankly, I am afraid I cannot promise you it will survive the attorneys and their lawsuits that result when small minds prevail, and when men fail to lead."

"Gentlemen, and Mrs. Ross, are we ready to vote?" Adams asks again. "All in favor, Aye. Opposed, Nay. The Ayes have it. President Jefferson has prepared the official document as we have been talking. Let's all sign it so we can put our plan into effect. And this time, Mr. Hancock, leave some room for the rest of us."

As the Founders and other patriots gather around to sign the document, Mr. Franklin is heard to say of the sun that is painted on the back of Jefferson's chair, "I pray that it is still a rising, and not a setting sun."

Write this on a rock... Pray for leadership. Pray for patriotism. Pray for reason. Pray for the Constitution.

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