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Let’s cut to the chase. Our Founding Fathers were obsessed with a concern of foreign nations interfering with our elections and influencing our domestic political discourse.
In President George Washington’s farewell address, he could not have been clearer regarding this issue when he said, “…against the insidious wiles of a foreign influence, I conjure you to believe me, fellow citizens, the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”
John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1787 the following: “You are apprehensive of foreign influence. So am I. The danger of foreign influence recurs with every election.”
Our Founding Fathers were keenly aware of world history and took the time to study the weaknesses and failures of past systems of government. The best example of this was James Madison’s, “Notes on Ancient and Modern Confederacies.” In this work, Madison illustrated the failures of past systems, giving special attention to bitter domestic divisions that were exploited by hostile foreign powers.
As a student of U.S. history, I found the Federalist Papers most illuminating. Especially relevant is a quote by Alexander Hamilton: “Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approach from more than one querter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”
In short, Russia’s Putin did not come up with this idea on his own. It is as old as our Founding Fathers! There is no argument that multiple Russian operatives, at the direction of the Russian dictator, Putin, sought a direct impact on the 2016 election cycle for the president of the United States. It is also crystal-clear that this Russian campaign was to see that Donald Trump would be the winner.
Trump’s election to the presidency of the United States was supported by a foreign power — something our Founding Fathers most feared. Even as this is being written, not only is Russia working to do the same in our 2020 election cycle, other hostile nations are joining in to destroy our democratic from of government.
Now we are faced with a president who has sought out the assistance of a foreign power in order to maintain an edge in his effort to remain in power. Never in our history have we seen the office of president sink this low.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote that in the future, one day, “…shake a rod over the heads of all, which may make the stoutest of them tremble.” He also wrote, “I hope our wisdom will grow with our power and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.”
To quote Jeremi Suri of George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts and Science, “The widening gap between power and values produced President Donald Trump, elected to promote raw power above all. He is the final fall of the founders’ presidency — the absolute antithesis of what they expected for the office.”
Edward “Ned” Walsh of Princeton is a retired Baptist denominational worker who served as executive director of Johnston County Habitat for Humanity from 2004-08.