The American fascination with Jefferson is understandable - the deist, slaveholding inventor who played a hugely influential role in shaping U.S. government should be greatly lauded, but what about James Madison?
Wood's article categorizes Jefferson as a "radical utopian" in contrast to Madison, a "pessimistic, analytical" type who was far more skeptical of Jefferson's idealistic concepts. Madison's tendency to doubt, to question, to be critical of human nature and the extent to which it can reign when left unchecked made him an undoubtedly less popular man than his contemporary. This fundamental difference in nature shaped their approaches to government and their worries regarding the power of the electorate vs. the power of the people: Jefferson was concerned over whether elected officials would accurately represent the views of their constituents while Madison worried what was popular would be represented all too well. Madison was far more skeptical, ever wary of power vested in the hands of the majority. Although Jefferson has been recognized to a far greater extent than Madison, I believe modern America could use a reminder of Madison's beliefs and concerns - can we still rely on the majority to best make decisions and to what extent are elected officials representing those views? Furthermore, Madison's willingness to reform the ineffective Confederation Congress can be learned from today - when institutions are powerless, they ought to be reformed, changed, or abandoned. We suffer from (arguably) ineffective programs and groups even today, both internally and internationally (i.e. the United Nations).
Our political culture has become polarized with time, the two party system, and the influence of the media, so it could be argued that Madison lived in a simple time when less thought had to be given to reelection or party ties. This is true. But Madison also understood that a politician's true duty is to do what is best for the people, not for one's own pride or power. Our political system has shifted, retaining Madison's skepticism but little of his dedication to proper, effective governance over popularity and public recognition.
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