I re-read an old favorite of mine just because I picked it up again. I guess you would call it a political thriller, though some might not find it so exciting. It doesn't have the high tech warfare you might find in a Tom Clancy novel, but it is set forth in a time like our own when the political situation is somewhat tenuous. There has been significant battle and bloodshed to this point, but the real struggle is more Machiavellian in nature. I doubt that you will see this one in movie form. Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, and Demi Moore are not knocking at the door for lead roles. This work would just be too tough to cast. While the power struggle remains the same, the cast involved in that struggle changes too frequently to accommodate Hollywood egos and budgets. This is one of those classics where the struggle itself is much greater than any single protagonist or villain. It has a certain Shakespearean allure not only because of the intricacies of the power struggle, but because like the English Playwright's works, there is some question as to whether or not this one has a single author.
A good work always has conflict. A great work intricately ties in not only a struggle between good and evil, but struggles among noble causes as well. Quests for perfection, justice, or tranquility cause the reader to yearn for the next line or next page with the same or even greater anxiousness contained in a well spun mystery. Shared existential risk balanced against noble ideas such as protecting the welfare of others--even the liberty of another generation--increases the drama of each successive word. You won't buy the Cliff's Notes for this one. The commentaries and reviews far exceed the length of the work itself. You will, however, remember a line or two from this one, whether you have read it or not. It begins, "We The People…"
Yes, this political thriller is the Constitution of the United States of America. It is about a struggle for power, and like most political thrillers, that struggle is established by the authors themselves. The authors recognized that power was indeed a corrupting force. Power vested in a single man or woman could be used to promote domestic tranquility, or just as capriciously could be used to enslave the governed. In this good versus evil genre, the authors knew that no single individual could overcome the temptations of power. Their noble causes of domestic tranquility, common defense, and securing the blessing of liberty required that power not be permitted to consolidate in a single individual. They set up accommodations for continued power struggles and inefficiency and by so doing offered no lodging for tyranny.
Our republic is based upon democratic premises tempered with state's rights. The safeguards of the Constitution are vested in separation of powers not only at the federal level, but between the federal government and the states, with still more rights or liberties reserved directly to the people. The more perfect union is a union of separate states. The Electoral College may appear to be archaic, but it is representative of the distributive nature of power allocation in our system. The Constitution is not a model designed for efficiency. Instead, it is designed for the preservation of representative government.
The greatest fear of the founding fathers was tyranny. That tyranny could come in the form of a popular president unwilling to relinquish his office or an Oliver Cromwell emerging from the legislature. It could also come from the tyranny of mob rule. We would like to think that we have outgrown the need for the protection from the tyranny of mob rule. Before we acclaim ourselves so enlightened, we should first take stock of our emotional nature. The single greatest threat to our nation is our intolerance of its inefficiency and imperfections. Our emotional outcry for efficiency and certainty is an offer to have tyranny as our guest. Before we decide that we have reached the point where we need to reinvent the whole government (yes, the founding fathers even had the sagacity to see that. Read the Second Amendment), we should take the time to see why this one works the way it does. If nothing else comes of accepting my invitation to this small investment of time, it should at least move the Constitution to the best seller list. It's a good read.