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  • Morning Bell: Political Convention Drama Begins

    This week’s Republican National Convention is already experiencing its own drama thanks to Tropical Storm Isaac, which has postponed most of the events until tomorrow. But this year marks the 100th anniversary of another Republican Convention embroiled in political drama of a different nature.

    Unlike today’s conventions, which are little more than multi-day campaign rallies, at the 1912 affair in Chicago, 1,000 policemen stood by to make sure the delegates didn’t get out of hand. Strands of barbed wire lay concealed beneath the bunting on the speaker’s platform to keep disgruntled delegates from charging the stage.

    The very nature of our Constitution and our democracy was at stake, as William Schambra explains in a new First Principles essay from The Heritage Foundation.

    On one side was Teddy Roosevelt, who ran for President that year aiming to reshape American democracy. He thrashed lackluster incumbent William Howard Taft in the primary contests, declaring, “I believe in pure democracy.”

    But his definition of “pure democracy” included upsetting the Constitution. He endorsed “certain governmental devices which will make the representatives of the people more easily and certainly responsible to the people’s will.” These reforms included the initiative, the referendum, the recall of elected officials and even judicial decisions, and the direct election of U.S. Senators.

    On the other side were Taft (Roosevelt’s hand-picked successor in the White House just four years earlier) and the Republican leadership, including Senators Elihu Root of New York and Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts. They stood for the Constitution. Root and Lodge were great admirers and longtime friends of Roosevelt, but Roosevelt had sent shock waves through the Republican Party. Roosevelt had proposed a dramatic constitutional change that, according to Schambra, “posed the danger of undermining popular confidence in the institutions of government.” Therefore, Root, Lodge, and Taft were determined to deny Roosevelt the nomination at the 1912 Republican convention.

    Unlike the typically bland convention keynote speeches designed to smooth feathers ruffled by the nominating contest and unite the party for the main event in November, Root’s keynote was a call to constitutional conservatism.

    As Schambra notes, Root grounded the Republican Party in the Constitution, since it had been “born in protest against the extension of a system of human slavery approved and maintained by majorities.” After all, the GOP was the party of Abraham Lincoln, who had declared in his first inaugural address that “a majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations…is the only true sovereign of a free people.” The party’s duty, therefore, was not to reform the constitutional system but to “humbly and reverently seek for strength and wisdom to abide by the principles of the Constitution against the days of our temptation and weakness.”

    Preventing Roosevelt from winning the Republican nomination, these first conservatives saved the party from a platform of radical constitutional reform. But it also meant losing the general election. Taft won only two states, and Democrat Woodrow Wilson became President, with Roosevelt coming in second.

    “The result of the Convention was more important than the question of the election,” Root later said. Losing the general election did not supplant their “duty to hold the Republican Party firmly to the support of our constitutional system. Worse things can happen to a party than to be defeated.”

    Root, Lodge, and Taft sacrificed their friendship with Roosevelt and victory in the general election to save the Constitution from a proposed overhaul. Constitutional conservatism began with saving the Republican Party from Teddy Roosevelt. It continues today with the fight to save America from a deeper descent into progressivism. Members of the Tea Party movement are the intellectual heirs of Root, Lodge, and Taft.

    Thomas Jefferson wrote that “it is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor.” In a new essay in Heritage’s Understanding America series, President Edwin J. Feulner explores the ways the American people are bound to preserve our republic.

    It is up to us to ensure that we remain a virtuous and free people, Feulner writes, and to make sure our government stays faithful to the principles on which it was founded.

    “This is partly a job for the free press and the ballot box,” Feulner writes, “but we will not be able to speak and vote in support of America’s founding principles if we forget what those principles are.”

    As we watch the political party conventions, we have a duty to educate ourselves on the constitutional role of government and to compare that with what the candidates are saying. As Feulner says, “we have always an obligation to pass the inheritance of freedom on, unimpaired, to the next generation.”

    MORE:

    The Origins and Revival of Constitutional Conservatism: 1912 and 2012, by William A. Schambra

    What Is the Role of the People? By Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.

    Quick Hits:

    • Tropical Storm Isaac “may very well be the storm to test the fortitude” of Gulf oil drilling equipment that was hardened against storms after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
    • The Taliban beheaded 17 Afghan civilians yesterday because they were having a party with both men and women that included music and dancing, “activities the Taliban disapproves.”
    • “Even as President Obama accuses Mitt Romney and Representative Paul D. Ryan of trying to privatize and ‘voucherize’ Medicare, his administration crows about the success of private health plans in delivering prescription drug benefits and other services to Medicare beneficiaries,” reports The New York Times.
    • America mourns the death of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.
    • Heritage President Ed Feulner remembers Neil Armstrong.
    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    19 Responses to Morning Bell: Political Convention Drama Begins

    1. glynnda says:

      Very interesting article……these are facts I've never read about……and I am a Masters Degree holder……doesn't seem possible that I could have all this education without intimate knowledge of our nation's history, constitution, etc. All that I am learning since school days I am learning on my own…….
      I hope schools and colleges across the nation will begin to recognize and address this problem

    2. 1-of-We-The-People says:

      Disagree. Wanting to change the Constitution is not a disqualification for being a Conservative — as long as the approach to making those changes follows the Amendment process outlined in the Constitution itself (as opposed to the current approach taken by liberal judges, the Obama regime, and other leftists of just ignoring those parts of the Constitution you don't like).
      I don't claim to have any expertise in the Roosevelt vs. Taft (et al) confrontation whatsoever — but this article, at least, does little to help educate, as it does not indicate how Roosevelt proposed to undertake seeing those changes made to the Constitution.
      Plus, making "the representatives of the people more easily and certainly responsible to the people’s will" is all but a foundational tenet of the Tea Party.

    3. 1-of-We-The-People says:

      I don't claim to have any expertise in the Roosevelt vs. Taft (et al) confrontation whatsoever — but this article, at least, does little to help educate, as it does not indicate how Roosevelt proposed to undertake seeing those changes made to the Constitution.

      Plus, making "the representatives of the people more easily and certainly responsible to the people’s will" is all but a foundational tenet of the Tea Party.

      Finally, I find it amazing that anyone really thinks (Root included) that when one considers the irreparable damage done by Wilson in the White House to both Conservatism and U.S. foreign policy, that another term of Teddy Roosevelt somehow could have been worse. That's like saying the election of a non-Conservative Republican like McCain would have done more damage to the nation and our international stature than the anti-colonialist Obama….

    4. Lee says:

      You might just want to take a look at the first republican convention and how immigrant racist thug beat up and intimidated to bring Linclon up from 13th place to 1st place. Oh and how Linclon destroyed the Constitution with the same type of bull Obama uses. Destruction of States Rights was destruction of "the consent of the governed". Linclon was Julius Casear and he crossed the Rubicon we have been an Imperial Centralized Government ever since. We have good Casers and bad ones but that does not change the fact the "a government for the people, by the people" was just smoke up your keester. Oh and that slavery bs is also smoke up your keester.

    5. sdfultz says:

      Great article, that's the type of information I can appreciate from the Foundry,
      We the People still know how to think.

    6. Tom Sullivan says:

      It is useful to expose Teddy Roosevelt as a progressive. He sabotaged the Republican party.

    7. 1-of-We-The-People says:

      Disagree. Wanting to change the Constitution is not a disqualification for being a Conservative — as long as the approach to making those changes follows the Amendment process outlined in the Constitution itself (as opposed to the current approach taken by liberal judges, the Obama regime, and other leftists of just ignoring those parts of the Constitution you don't like).____I don't claim to have any expertise in the Roosevelt vs. Taft (et al) confrontation whatsoever — but this article, at least, does little to help educate, as it does not indicate how Roosevelt proposed to undertake seeing those changes made to the Constitution.____Plus, making "the representatives of the people more easily and certainly responsible to the people’s will" is all but a foundational tenet of the Tea Party.____Finally, I find it amazing that anyone really thinks (Root included) that when one considers the irreparable damage done by Wilson in the White House to both Conservatism and U.S. foreign policy, that another term of Teddy Roosevelt somehow could have been worse. That's like saying the election of a non-Conservative Republican like McCain would have done more damage to the nation and our international stature than the anti-colonialist Obama….

    8. reggiec says:

      Whistling past the graveyard
      I believe the reaction of the left to the beginnings of limiting government, forced on congress through the influence of TEA party activists is pure unadulterated fear. How else can you explain their descent into the cesspool of lies they have promoted in recent advertisements. The establishment, elite GOP is also feeling the pressure. Their bluster, name calling, primary shenanigans and dire warnings of disaster are evoked by fear of ghosts from the past reincarnated in the Tea party. Look at the recent rule changes concerning the delegates to the Republican convention. The elite are making every attempt to exclude grass root delegates from any influence. Their fear is real, it is part of the liberal and go along to get long RINO elite cell structure; it has been embedded in their brains for decades. They have to be wetting their pants after the Kansas Republican Primary. Nearly every establishment Republican lost to a Conservative (17 out of 22).

    9. reggiec says:

      It is the fear that the American people will realize that our Founding Fathers really had it right. The modern liberal rhetoric is completely destroyed when stacked against the ideals of those grave yard ghosts in the form of our Founding Father’s spirits. The Liberal/RINO fear is that we have finally awakened and have had enough. They are beginning to realize their Waterloo will be the 2012 elections and they are whistling past the graveyard. Let them hear us ROAR in November! THIS IS OUR COUNTRU AND WE WANT IT BACK!!!
      It may take a while but vote Conservative for every level in government and make sure we bury them with a huge voter turnout this November.

    10. J E Houser says:

      I strongly feel the 17th Amendment ought to be repealed. It would require each senator to look back to his state, rather than being part of a group concentrating on themselves rather than their appointee/states. The Constitution was formed on the concept of a group of companion states rather than a centralized government. Every incidence of human/mental growth has occurred within the boundaries of a group of competitive states. That concept is being destroyed by such silliness by the federal government that "no child can be left behind" by its destruction of families and education.

    11. alexander Ilnyckyj says:

      If only we can get rid of the RINOS, then and only then will the Republican party be a voice of the Constitution and preserve it for generation to come. Now that's what Heritage should strive for and instill this in our candidates that are running for public office.

    12. Ben C. says:

      I saw the movie this weekend and HIGHLY recommend it for anyone remotely concerned about our country. While it is not new information for us it certainly very clearly connects the dots and explains reasoning behind Obama's behavior and decisions. It is a documentary that is everything Michael Moore wants to present but is too mentally challenged to produce. For me it will be interesting to see how the academy awards treat 2016 – probably ignore it. This movie should be required viewing for all voters in the next election.

    13. Jeff says:

      AFTER the election, we'll either straighten out this party — or replace it with some real people.

    14. fred Roberts says:

      The Republicans cannot be afraid of exposing the President and his true agenda of fundamentally changing our nation. Being a "nice guy" is not the issue for Mitt Romney to say about him. What about having D'Souza tell about how Obama's brother called him for help with his child in the hospital…and using this movie , 2016,info to expose the true Obama, while telling how Romney will be a positive force to restore our economy with jobs, less spending, etc. The Dems have never worried about "offending" with their horrible comments to send the "independents" to the Repubs. We are crazy to take the gloves off.

    15. elizabeth says:

      Everyone should go see the 2016 Obama documentary before the elections

    16. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      Romney's going to get a big bounce from the Republican Convention.

    17. Bobbie says:

      If the GOP did anything underhanded to Ron Paul, there will be distraught and disappointment! If there is anyone to bring this country back to her constitutional principles, that ONE is Ron Paul true to his convictions. I trusted the GOP to let things play out with integrity and dignity, always above the underhanded tactics of the democratic left! What happened? Was Mr.Paul's status played out fairly or was it unfairly helped by the GOP? Puts us in a very peculiar position!!

    18. Bobbie says:

      …and I'm very interested to hear what Mr. Romney supports as far as the 2nd amendment. It sounded like he implied this right to be a "special interest" in a clip! I put a lot of trust in those that represent the republican party. It would crush me deeply if I find out I'm misled as the boat seems to be rocking…

    19. Bobbie says:

      okay, my faith remains intact!!

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