First it was the original crazy Palin-wannabe from Minnesota, Michelle Bachmann, who quoted Jefferson’s call for revolution.
Now, tea party nut job Sharron Angle is using the quote in support of “second amendment remedies” and “to take Reid out”.
But what neither of these right-wingers thought was that maybe – just maybe – Jefferson’s suggestion that every generation have a revolution was not a French-style violent overthrow and death to kings and tyrants, but more of an evolution in government.
Jefferson was celebrating a change in political leadership when he made that statement about revolution – and he felt every generation had a responsibility to rededicate themselves to the causes and principles that started this country. We shouldn’t become too complacent in letting the political elites run the country without accountability, and that each generation’s “revolution” can leave its mark on the nation without bloody upheaval.
And we have done that. Jefferson’s generation cemented the new nation and fought off the invading British. Jackson’s generation cemented a new populist form of government – Democracy – with the advent of universal (white, male) suffrage. Lincoln’s generation broke the shackles of slavery. Teddy Roosevelt stormed a hill and ushered in a Progressive era of political reform amidst a faltering Gilded Age. Franklin Roosevelt offered a New Deal out of the rubble of the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression while the nation stared down the twin threats of fascism and communism. JFK and his brother Bobby taught the nation to believe in itself and big dreams, and helped realize Martin Luther King’s Dream of an end to racial discrimination. Ronald Reagan trimmed the excesses of liberalism while ending the Cold War.
Now, we have an opportunity to move the country forward, out of the Lost Decade of scandal and disappointment, war and pettiness.
On this, our Independence Day, let us reconsider Jefferson’s call. And let us rededicate ourselves to the causes and principles of the American Revolution – a revolution that lives on in us all.