Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Spokane, Washington and Who were the Federalists

(Radio Flyer Park in Downtown Spokane, Washington.)

As I drive through the American West with my daughters studying history and literature, (Yes, I pulled them out of school to road trip and read books with me) we come to the Federalists.  What's a Federalist? You ask.... Oh, you came to the right place.
(Spokane is an amazing little city.  A quaint and perfect downtown.)

You see... Once Upon a Time, America was this wonderful fairy tale land full of political unicorns riding on rainbows and everyone wore a fancy wig and life was grand!  We dumped our tea in the harbor, kicked out the Redcoats, and were rocking with a brand spanking new Constitution.  Then the dude on the ten dollar bill, Alexander Hamilton, came and ruined it.  
(There is a waterfall and cable car and an old west feel.)

Hamilton formed the Federalist Party whose believers aimed for a strong centralized government.  This of course meant more taxes (Boo!) but helped pay for roads, bridges, and public schools (Yeah!).  It also brought a National Bank (Yikes!) and closer ties to Britain (More Tea!).  He was opposed by Thomas Jefferson (I'm on the nickel, ya'll!  Guess we aren't all created equal!) who formed another new political party called, get this, the Democratic Republicans!  Confused yet?  Right!
(I drove all night from Portland to be in Spokane at sunrise.)

One of the aforementioned unicorns in a wig that opposed this two party system was GEORGE FREAKIN' WASHINGTON!  He thought two political parties would cause great division in our country and that the Constitution's Right to Freedom of Speech and Assembly would be abused (he couldn't tell a lie). He wasn't far off!
(Standing here overlooking the bridge... thinking about the American West.)

This played out in the election of 1796 where Federalist John Adams (played by a smoldering Paul Giamatti, "No F-ing, Merlot!") narrowly defeated Democratic Republican Thomas Jefferson (played by a whiny Stephen Dillane of House Baratheon).  Northern States voted for Adams, Southern for Jefferson, it didn't take Miss Cleo the Fortune Teller to predict a Civil War on the horizon.  
(I'm heading into Big Sky Country.)

The Democratic Republicans believed in small government and pro-state power (which naturally becomes your party if you think the government is coming for your slaves).  Four years later, Jefferson defeated Adams due to an electoral college screw-up (we still have the electoral-college?) in which slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person in the census (which increased the population) but were not allowed to actually vote.  So... Jefferson wins!  Hamilton is later shot in a duel (I heard something about a musical... but I don't have $2,000 for a ticket), and we ended up with a two party system whether we wanted it or not.  
(Crossroads in Montana... which way to go?)

Of course, all of this is just history.  None of it really matters in the current freak and clown game show we're witnessing everyday in our current system... and I don't want to talk politics.  But I do want to talk about the West.  The American West has always meant a new start.  A hopeful grab at possibility.  People race toward the future, but I've always looked into the past to understand and guide me.  The mistakes made at intersecting lives and lines and their ripple effects.  These stories make the west what it is, the map of the American heart.

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