What our elected representatives can learn from history: It may take a Revolution

We live in an age when our politicians seem incapable to reach a consensus, make a decision or act in the best interests of the nation. They vote to establish a “Super-Committee” to do by November 23, 2011 what they are unable to do themselves – make tough decisions. It too failed and no final decision was reached. Our elected leaders would be well served by studying our own history, and what our founders faced in 1776.

In the wake of the bestselling Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, the Second Continental Congress met in a red brick building in Philadelphia in the spring of 1776. That building would come to be known as Independence Hall because of the brave words uttered by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia on June 7th, 1776. Lee proposed the colonies break entirely from England. Finally, the words that no one wanted to speak were on the floor for debate.

Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence in three weeks, which was read to the delegation on June 28th. It was not accepted at its face and some words were stricken; the issue of slavery was remanded to another day. The vote was cast six days later on July 4th 1776, and the rest is history.

Was the topic of independence less an issue in 1776 than the jobs, spending and budget crisis of 2011? Do you believe the debate in 1776 was less partisan, or contentious, than the debate today?.  The removal of Jefferson’s words on slavery attest to the stark difference between north and south that would later lead to civil war. Despite deep differences,  fifty-six delegates signed their names to that declaration knowing the vote they cast could lead to war and the loss of many lives. Our founders were leaders and decision makers. They knew the risks to their own lives and freedoms by their signature on the declaration sent to King George. .

Our problems today seem so insurmountable to our politicians. Yet they pale in comparison to the decisions of 1776. Our politicians need to re-visit our own history and re-learn how our elected leaders faced the challenge of independence in 1776. They need to study what the founders told the colonists in 1776 that convinced a skeptical population to follow them to war and independence. The colonists were not overwhelmingly in favor of independence. As today, between Republicans and Democrats, there were deep divides between loyalists and rebels. Both sides could predict the destruction of their country and way of life if the wrong path was followed.  The delegates who walked out of Independence Hall to announce the Declaration of Independence faced a deeply divided population.

Our elected representatives face such a divided population today. They face daunting budget deficits and run-away government spending that seems impossible to control. But they must address the crisis. They can no longer vote “present” and kick the can down the road. The young OWS protestors from Wall Street to Oakland drum their complaints against crony capitalism, joblessness, and the status quo. The Tea Party, who could be no more different than OWS, also protests the status quo.

Like the colonists of 1776, there are many people today who believe America is headed the wrong way. Rasmussen Reports, a poll on where the country is headed, finds 75% of Americans believe we are headed in the wrong direction (November 6, 2011). A similar Rasmussen poll finds just 37% of Americans believe our best days are in the past, a percentage similar to the Loyalist position of 1776. Interestingly, the same Rasmussen survey found 59% of Americans rate their own life as good or excellent.


America is on an unsustainable path. With $15 trillion of debt, America is at a crossroads. Congress could not reach an agreement and created a Super Committee. The Super Committee was tasked with reaching an agreement on how to tame deficit spending that is projected at more than $1 trillion per year for the next ten years. More than 100 Representatives and Senators demanded they “Go Big” and make more than $4 trillion of cuts. Like Congress itself, the Super Committee failed to reach a decision. When a population is so deeply politically divided, and it’s elected representatives so partisan and paralyzed that nothing can be accomplished, it may take a revolution to change the status quo. This is what happened in 1776.

The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are clear signals that a Second American Revolution is brewing amongst the population. The Rasmussen polls are proof positive that the country is headed in the wrong direction. Americans will not accept the fate of Greece and Italy and allow this great nation to become a second or third-rate country. It may take a Revolution to prevent it from happening. It happened once before.

(Robert J. Cristiano, Ph.D. is the Real Estate Professional in Residence at Chapman University in Orange, CA, Senior Fellow at The Pacific Research Institute and President of the international investment firm, L88 Investments LLC. He has been a successful real estate developer in Newport Beach California for thirty years.)

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