We live in an age of acceleration. The pace of modern society is anything but leisurely. Between the responsibilities of work and home, and the overarching rush of technology, the pace is blistering. As such, the tempo of our politics have quickened as well. And in the age of “alternative facts” and an onslaught of daily breaking news bulletins, our attention can easily be pulled in multiple directions. But Wednesday’s terrorist attacks in London, England serve as a reminder of the nefarious actors that seek to destroy liberty both here and abroad. It also underscores the need for something we all take for granted: the federal government.
John Jay was among the first to argue that point in The Federalist Papers. In Federalist #4, Jay specifies the crucial role the federal government plays in safeguarding threats posed by foreign actors. This storied assertion was thrust into the spotlight this week, with a report by the AP tying Paul Manafort (former Trump campaign manager) to pro-Putin forces in Russia about ten years ago. It revealed his confidential plan to “…influence politics, business dealings, and news coverage inside the United States, Europe, and other former Soviet republics to to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.”
These findings raise a serious concern. It has always been taken for granted the fact that, generally speaking, our fellow citizens and leaders are united in their support of this country in the face of foreign adversaries. We are galvanized by our desire for liberty and peace. The Manafort revelations strike at the heart of that very principle. He was allegedly the architect of a strategy designed to manipulate public opinion of Putin here in the U.S. He was a proponent of a plan to shape U.S. opinion in favor of a former KGB agent with an unquenchable thirst for power.
This actually goes much deeper than our current welfare. What Manafort did, if true, was undermine one of the principles upon which this country was founded. The people of this nation are joined not by relation or bloodline. We are joined by an idea, a belief in the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, codified by our Founding Fathers. We place our consent in this government – this representative democracy – to ensure our safety so that we can enjoy those freedoms. We are a nation of immigrants; a melting pot of humanity. The only discerning quality between us is our commitment to this country and our consent to its constitution and rule of law.
In Federalist #4, John Jay warns us about the motives of foreign governments. He notes that sometimes, their interest in conflict is solely selfish in nature. He says, “It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations, in general, will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.” Thus, Manafort played right into Putin’s hand. And directly against ours.
Therefore, Manafort’s intentions, if true, were to chip away at the very unity Jay argued would ensure our safety. Efforts to change public opinion would undoubtedly seep into altering the views held by leadership as well. That would create divisions not only among the populace but among those in the seat of power as well. Some would stand unflinchingly with the truth, that Putin (and Russia) are our foes, and are only looking out for their own interests. But others would succumb to the campaign, and, for example, agree with the flimsy argument that Putin could be a reasonable ally, especially in our efforts to defeat ISIS in the Middle East. That is the very schism Jay wanted to prevent, and one that had been thwarted in the long history of our nation, until now. It is not certain whether Manafort’s plan was implemented, but it appears as though it may very well have been. It is what we see occurring today.
In the hustle and bustle of life – of the activities of our freedom – we often forget the courage and intellectual vision that brought us here. Our Founding Fathers instituted an experiment that not only endures but thrives. It serves as a beacon for the world. We must reignite our gratitude and hold fast to it. If the Associated Press reporting about Manafort is indeed true, it provides us with yet another example of those at the highest level of influence violating Jay’s principle. That everyone in this country is on the SAME TEAM; that our individual and collective safeties are shared. What Manafort’s ties represent, if true, is the antithesis of that principle. Advocating for foreign entities to the detriment of ours. It would directly threaten our safety.
We must not let this happen. We cannot allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security by our activities – and political echo chambers. In an administration that appears to view the truth (and facts) as subjective, our duty as citizens of a representative democracy is even more crucial. Manafort’s endeavors, if true, mean we must put party aside. When we view information, we should assess it on its adherence to the founding principles, rather than ideological ones. Policy can be debated, but facts cannot. United we stand, divided we fall. Just as John Jay predicted.