Is American Federalism being replaced by Democratic Socialism? The Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution of the United States to reconcile the liberty-power dialectic. This difference of ideas was argued by the federalists and the ant-federalists before the ratification of the constitution. After the constitution was ratified, the issues of personal liberty and federal power resurfaced as a power struggle between the Jeffersonian Republicans and the Hamiltonian Federalists. The present day over-sized and over centralized federal government includes more and more policies associated with progressive social justice issues. The federalist side of the dialectic is beginning to look more like democratic socialism as wealth redistribution becomes more intertwined into federal policy.The debate over having more or less centralized power at the federal level goes back to our country’s origins and was the cause of the first major split in the political direction of our founding fathers.
One group, known as the federalists, believed in a strong centralized federal government and the other group known as the anti-federalists believed in a smaller federal role, more authority at the state level and guarantees of personal liberty.
The Constitution of the United States was created in 1787 and ratified in 1788. The anti-federalists actually opposed the ratification of the constitution because they felt that it provided for too much federal power. They believed that too much federal power might allow for the rise of tyranny.
The impasse between the two groups was temporarily overcome by the addition of the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was introduced by James Madison in 1789 and was ratified in 1791. The Bills Of Rights amended the constitution to add guarantees for personal liberties and to limit the power of the central government over its citizens.
This resolution did not last long. Hamilton, who had been appointed the first United States Secretary of the Treasury by President George Washington, founded the Federalist Party in 1794. The Federalist Party favored a strong central governmental role and also favored strong central government institutions including a national bank.
In opposition to Hamilton’s federalist polices, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison founded the Republican Party1 in 1791. The Jeffersonian Republicans were deeply committed to the principle of republicanism, which they feared were threatened by the supposed monarchical tendencies of the Hamiltonian Federalists.
Stepping forward to the present, we have Democrats, heavily influenced by the modern day progressive movement, pushing for a large and powerful centralized federal government. The Republicans, influenced by the Tea Party and the libertarian movement, are opposing the rise of centralized federal powers. Incorporated into the democratic model are policies that support social justice by way of wealth redistribution. This latest expansion of our government seems to be trending in the direction of democratic socialism and away from the ideals of a free enterprise republic.
History has shown that the United States has always been a successful compromise between the ideals of federalism and republicanism. The present day, however, brings us a time where our federal government has become immeasurably overreaching and has accumulated nation crushing debt in the process. I would like to invite all of you to enter into a discussion on the differences and boundaries between federalism and democratic socialism. I am calling for this discussion because it is apparent that the distinctions between these ideologies and policies have become blurred in the eyes of the body politic.
1. Note: The early American Republican Party which came to be known as Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party is actually the predecessor to the present day Democratic Party.