Happy July 4! WashPost Calls For “Independence From the Founding Fathers”

The Fourth of July, for many, is an occasion to remember those who have devoted their lives and fortunes to liberty and the nation. Or, if you’re Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman, you may have decided to pen an opinion piece titled, “This July 4, let’s declare our independence from the Founding Fathers.”

Waldman quickly explains his argument after that provocative headline. 

This isn’t a call for repudiation of the men who created the Constitution and signed the Declaration of Independence. . We must let go of the poisonous belief that these men are perfect in everything, that they were vessels full of holy wisdom that should bind today’s society no matter what damage it may cause.

Of course, what Waldman means by “damage” is the recent series of landmark Supreme Court decisions pushing back against the excesses of American progressivism, “As we’ve seen recently, American right found in the framers an extremely effective tool to roll back social progress, and subvert our democracy.”

Originalism — a favorite target of the left now — was particularly in Waldman’s sights, “Imagine you could travel back and describe to them the idea that hundreds of years hence we’d all be bound to their utterances and the condition of their society. They’d probably say, ‘That sounds insane.’”

Waldman answers his hypothetical scenario by using the fact many founders had slaves as a way to undermine the reverence conservatives place on them.

How do we approach a person like Thomas Jefferson? Thomas Jefferson was a remarkable individual, capable both of writing brilliant political philosophy and creating structures that remain standing today. But he owned other people..

We don’t honor the Founding Fathers because they were slave owners, we honor them in their capacity as “designing structures that still stand,” the structure, mind you, that ultimately rid America of many of the societal contradictions and inequalities present at America’s founding, including slavery. 

This type of whataboutism is not used to Karl Marx. Karl Marx’s tumultuous personal and violent racism are routinely ignored. It’s probably just an accident.

Waldman attempts but fails to conclude his article in a better way. 

These men must be thrown out of our lives. It is important to study and learn from them and give thanks for the amazing things they have done. They were not Gods. They can’t take us to a future of freedom and justice. They can’t take us to a future of freedom and justice. We must do it ourselves.

This article is essentially a strawman argument. No one believes the founders are gods. Waldman himself admits they did great things, and yet also wants his audience to believe that, after establishing the Constitutional Republic that has served America well for 246 years, we should stop looking to the Founders for guidance because their vision of “ordered liberty” no longer complies with the demands of radical 21st-century progressivism.

If America shouldn’t be honoring the legacy of her Founding Fathers and see them as a guiding light for the preservation of liberty, then this begs the question: who does Waldman think our guide should be? 

It is a question he — distressingly — does not answer.

About Post Author

Follow Us