Alexander Hamilton, Da and the election of 2012

The centerfold map in today’s Times reminded me of childhood lessons from Da about the Founding Fathers, particularly his favorite, the Federalist Alexander Hamilton. Da felt that Hamilton (and Washington) had a better model for the new United States than Jefferson and his cronies, Madison and Monroe, with the federalist idea of a strong central government that encouraged people to become specialists. (Warning: this is a bit of juvenalia — not on Da’s part but on mine — that I’ve never properly reexamined). Da’s distrust of Jefferson was deep; he disapproved of Jefferson’s states’ rights positions and was infuriated with his insincerity and two-facedness on slavery.

The map shows that cities voted for Obama. (No, I don’t expect you to be able to read the map in this photo. It is in a special section on the election, pages 10 and 11 in the print version, but it is not online.) In my girlhood Hamilton vs. Jefferson lessons, Jefferson spoke for the farmer, Hamilton for city folk; Jefferson for states’ rights and Hamilton for a strong central government, even a central bank!

Obama portrayed the 2012 election as one in which people would choose between an effective and beneficent central government and a callous one weakened by proponents of small government who nonetheless wanted public sector jobs for themselves and a voice in the bedroom or at least women’s wombs. Nota bene, even the Economist, came out in support of Obama, although it saw his candidacy as the lesser of two evils. And what look like federalist voters mostly in cities came out to support him.

Sadly for this flimsy argument, the map also shows that New England, arguably rural, and the east coast parts of Southern states, arguably state’s rights proponents, also voted for Obama suggesting that I should have dropped the first thoughts I had of Hamilton and Da. But since I am off to see Da on Friday, he is on my mind. It’s been a long time (half a century) since he tutored me in early American politics. If we could have those conversations now, I would know what a central bank does. And he might push me develop a cogent idea. It’s too late in his life for that to happen.

I’ll close in thanking Democrats for their data-driven get-out-the-vote efforts so that I could spend the morning reminiscing about my father and his political science lessons instead of fulminating about four years with a president who could not let us see his tax returns. Hamilton advocated honesty in all affairs, according to Da.

  1. Thanks for this post. I never knew anything about Da’s thoughts on Hamilton or Jefferson–and, as you note, the time has passed for any of those discussions. Glad you have memories of these talks and are sharing them here.

  2. Roy said:

    Interesting comments about Hamilton and Jefferson. A reminder that outcomes during the early years of this country were not preordained, nor are they today. That said, I think some important understandings have been reached with this election and over time will support more fully your father’s thinking, which I agree with. Hamilton’s advocacy for honesty is the only way to conduct business. Enjoy your time in Philadelphia.

  3. Sharry said:

    Duzer! Here’s raising a glass to that final thought – and a big sigh of relief that I won’t have to spend four years gnashing my teeth to stubs.
    I thought your photo of the beach houses very disheartening – and I thought about your geothermal energy plant in the basement taking on water.
    Nice to think about your Da (and when I read that diminutive, I hear Robert Shaw saying it…and I don’t know why!) We gotta talk – are you coming to NY??

  4. John Natali said:


    Hi this is John Natali, Elena Mekhova’s husband. I really enjoyed what you wrote.

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