The American Revolution. The Founding Fathers. The Constitutional Convention. “We the People.”
Evocative phrases — so evocative, in fact, that the picture paints itself: A delegation of powdered wigs and established overcoats descends on adolescent Philadelphia. Perfectly packed is the Assembly Room at Independence Hall — then, the Pennsylvania State House — as now-famed aristocrats take their turn at lofty speeches, philosophizing on the key aspects of American self-governance.
Sitting at center, or in some well-kept corner, are James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, all the while notating best arguments in favor of a more comprehensive federal government. As well-mannered meetings come to a close with little controversy, Madison prepares his pen for production of the greatest political document ever written.
Of course, those images are pure fantasy, conjured up in high school history texts and the collective American mythos.
When the Framers first convened their 1787 convention of states, the idea of a new constitution was not even on the table. Their intended goal was instead to restructure and strengthen the Articles of Confederation that had initially established a postwar government for the former colonies.
The resulting dialogue was heated, with closed-door conversations ranging from slavery to centralization of the federal government. The debate raged on day after day, as stubborn, sweaty gentlemen refused to remove their overcoats in a sauna-like summer session described as “unbearably hot and humid.”
As great plans finally began to materialize in the dead of July, however, the convention met with its most major hitch yet. Hanging in the air with the heat and humidity was the future of the American experiment, as legislative representation took center stage.
Large, Southern slave states began to coalesce behind Virginia, whose delegates called for proportional representation — a population-based approach and an opportunity to leverage nonvoting slaves toward an overwhelming political majority. In response, Delaware and its small, Northern allies dug in their heels on an opposition proposal that would grant each state the same number of representatives.
Red-faced debate had returned to the floor, and from the fires of that crucible came the “Great Compromise.” Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut moved for a bicameral legislature in which one chamber operated on proportional representation and the other on fixed representation.
It was from there that Madison prepared his pen, for production of not the greatest political document ever written but the most controversial. So much uncertainty surrounded the document’s ratification, in fact, that Madison, Hamilton and colleague John Jay would also go on to prepare a series of 85 essays in defense of the new Constitution.
Only the centuries and a Civil War would testify to the enduring nature of our Constitution or, more importantly, the compromising spirit of its Framers.
Despite their supposed reverence for those figures, however, it would appear modern Republicans lack the compromising spirit necessary to create something enduring.
If the recent impeachment and resulting battles between Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia were good for anything, it is the repeat revelation that Republicans are too busy bonking each other on the head like a 1930s cartoon to see the Republic writ large slipping away.
After four years of Republican leadership in Washington, two of them majoritarian, the conservative movement has relatively little to show for it.
The late Arizona Sen. John McCain sacked a year’s worth of work on health care with a single hand gesture, reversible tax cuts passed in the months that followed and an economic boom was subverted by a pandemic and big government tyranny from progressives at the state level. The immigration system remains broken, the U.S. is still entrenched in foreign conflict and the judiciary has been remade with conservative judges who continue to allow the left ample opportunity to chip away at the Constitution.
Democratic President Joe Biden, on the other hand, has managed to reinstate globalism and sack American energy independence in just a few weeks. With a legislative majority, Biden’s sights are set on gun control and a slew of social justice policies he could easily accomplish by killing the Senate filibuster and “reforming” the Supreme Court — two radical left-wing ideas he has not only failed to condemn but outright supported.
D.C. cronies like Cheney are too concerned with ideological purity to care. They would rather see every last vestige of the Trump era uprooted than win another election.
Meanwhile, across the GOP political spectrum, sycophants like Greene grift every possible tie to former President Donald Trump. They would rather mirror the radical left’s aggressive, fact-free approach than risk nuance to beat it.
Of course, as those two cogs have at each other for control, the motor continues to smoke and the Democratic machine continues gaining ground — a reality that led Trump to crush rumors of a third party, much to his credit. The former president knew full well that continued infighting would only hurt those involved.
Party fractures are deep enough at this point that a full break would leave two sizable factions. Those factions could continue to argue over which is bigger, but it would be to their detriment. No matter the answer, the larger faction would never be big enough to defeat the Democrats.
And as another hot, humid summer closes in, the Republican Party emerges at a crossroads, with its values and policy goals in the balance.
Its members can always rage on, red-faced, in the Assembly Room at Independence Hall. They can file for divorce tomorrow, if they want, dooming the nation and nullifying everything they fought for in the conservative revolutions of the last decade.
Or they could pull for a Connecticut Compromise.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.