2 -- Part 11: AMERICAN CITIZENS AND POLITICAL CULTURE
History is not dull when it comes from the mouth of the man who has made so much of it.
The "Contract With America" helped propel the Republicans into the majority in Congress in 1994 for the first time in forty years, and made Newt Gingrich Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 1998.
It's hard to forget that Newt Gingrich was a history professor at Western Georgia College before he changed American politics in the 1990s.
For the last few years he has resumed the work of a scholar in the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank where, in addition to being a media commentator and adviser to his party, he can play with ideas and talk to other smart people to his heart's content.
It seems to be part of who he is.
He petitioned the city council to build a zoo when he was ten years old.
He claims that his military family moved away before he could convince them.
The Gingriches lived in a number of European cities after World War II.
It was obvious to Gingrich that the atrocities of war could happen at home.
He uses historical insights to make things happen today, by studying history and gleaning from it insights about human motivation and behavior.
He is committed to crafting new ideas out of old lessons, leading his fellow citizens on a mission he believes will restore the country to its fundamental principles.
He won't give an answer if you ask him why it's important to study history.
You can almost hear the clicks and whirls of the processors as he assembles his thoughts.
He opens his mouth and the sentences fall out.
If you've never run out of gas, you don't understand why filling your tank matters.
If you have never had your brakes fail, you may not want to have them checked.
You may not understand why learning to drive on ice is important.
If you haven't lived in a bombed-out city like Baghdad, if you haven't seen a genocidal massacre like Rwanda, or if you haven't been in a situation where people were starving to death, you may not understand why you should care.
It's easy and it's soft because your life is good.
Most people in the history of the human race have been slaves or subjects to other people.
The Greeks discovered the concept of self-governance, the Romans created the objective sense of law, and the Jewish tradition of being endowed by God created a sense of rights that we take for granted.
We have a lot of history protecting us.
"Be responsible, live out your responsibilities as a citizen, dedicate some amount of your time every day or week to knowing what is going on in the world, be active in campaigns, and if nobody is worthy of your support, run yourself."
Civil society is all about volunteering, helping your fellow American, being involved with human beings.
America is an organic society.
We are the most voluntaristic society in the world.
There was a conflict between narratives about the nature of human beings and the possibilities of republican government during the fight over the Constitution.
The new Constitution was favored by the Federalists.
The Anti-Federalists believed that the Constitution had many opportunities for corruption.
They made the attachment of a Bill of Rights a condition of their acquiescence because they lost the battle for public opinion and votes.
Discuss the debate over the Constitution.
There are different narratives to be told about the American founding.
We didn't want to portray the founding as a rush to liberty on the part of the people.
Politics is more complicated than that, and this is a book about it.
We didn't want to tell a story that depicted the American founding as an elite-driven period of history in which the political, economic, and religious leaders decided they were better off without English rule.
The stories obscure two important points.
There was more than one "elite" group at work during the founding period.
Although political and economic leaders might have acted together over the matter of the break from England, it was clear that there were competing elite groups.
The groups included leaders of big states and leaders of small states, leaders of northern states and leaders of southern states, merchant elites and agricultural elites, and those who found their security in a strong national government.
The compromises that form the framework of our government are the result of the power struggle between the adversaries.
Not all of the actors during the founding period were in the top tier of political, economic, and religious leadership.
Ordinary citizens had nothing to do with the Revolution and the government-building that followed it.
At the time of the founding, citizenship was a new concept.
The British were subjects of the English crown.
We pointed out in Chapter 1 that there is a world of difference between a subject and a citizen.
There is a personal tie to the monarch and a legal tie to a national territory.
The citizen has both rights and obligations.
Enlightenment thinking was the source of the new ideas about citizenship.
John Locke believed that citizenship was the product of a contractual agreement between rulers and that obeying the law depended on one's rights being protected by the state.