founding fictions

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Power Point presentation of Founding Fictions, Author Jennifer Mercieca.


  • 1. Jennifer Mercieca
    Associate Professor
    Department of Communication
    Texas A&M University
  • 2. Apathy, Disengagement, Civic Withdrawal
    Aristotle, The good citizen must have the knowledge and ability both to be ruled and to rule; the state is a kind of partnership in which citizens promote the security of their community, defend the constitution, and work for the common advantage. (Politics, 3: 1276b-79a)
    Citizens are officers of the government, not mere members of a political community.
    Citizens have responsibilities and obligations, but what can citizens do?
  • 3. The Rights & Freedoms of Citizenship
    • Freedom of Speech
    • 4. Freedom of Assembly
    • 5. Freedom of the Press
    • 6. Right to Petition
    • 7. Right to Vote?
    Amendments: Fourteenth (Equal Protection), Fifteenth (Race), Nineteenth (Gender), Twenty-sixth (Age) & the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
    We do not have the right to vote for president, that right is retained by the statesthe Electors of the Electoral College are technically the only ones who vote for president.
  • 8. Voter Turn Out
    • Between 1945 and 2000 the United States had an average voter turn out of 48.3%, which ranked us 114th out of the 140 nations in the world who hold free elections. (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance
    • 9. 2008 Election: 58.2% turn out, which would rank us # 99, right behind Tunisia. Even with all of the excitement about Barack Obama,18-24 year olds were still the least likely of all age groups to vote: 44.3% turned out in 2008if they were a nation, they would rank 125thequal to El Salvadorin turnout.
    Table 1. Reported Voting and Registration, by Sex and Single Years of Age: November 2008:
  • 10. Other Indicators of Civic Engagement:
    Photo Credit:, March 25, 2009
  • 11. Founding Fictions Research Questions:
    How have we imagined a government based upon the will of the people?
    How have we imagined American citizens?
    What do our historical debates about the role of the citizen tell us about how citizens can act in the government today?
  • 12. Rhetorical History
    Founding Fictions is a meta-rhetorical history that examines how the structural elements within textsthe arguments, tropes, and figurescontributed to building the political fictions that permeated and dominated the contexts of which they were a part.
    I studied political theory, American history, the biographies of the major figures and their friends and colleagues; I also studied the authors that the Founders were known to have read, the Founders published and unpublished papers, newspapers, public and private correspondence, literature, journals, public deliberations and the pronouncements of deliberative bodies. I moved back and forth from texts to contexts and back againall with the goal of understanding the constitutive discourses of American citizenship.
  • 13. PoliticalFictions
    Founding Fictions goal is to take political theory out of the realm of unquestionable elite discourse and re-place it in the realm of the public.
    Political theory is a simulacrum of dialectic: it is a rhetorical fiction that appears faithfully to describe political reality while it is also used to create political realities.
    Political fictions are narratives that political communities tell themselves about their government; like formal constitutions, they have a constitutive role in political discourse.
    We find political fictions in just about any textual artifact that describes or is premised upon that nations view of its government.
    There could be a monarchic fiction, oligarchic fiction, aristocratic fiction, theocratic fiction, republican fiction, or a democratic fiction.
  • 14. Differences between Democratic & Republican Political Theories
    It is easy to confuse democratic and republican forms of government because in both the people are sovereign.
    The difference between them is in answering the question who rules and how those who rule administer or make decisions in the government.
    In pure democracy offices are drawn by lotnot awarded by electionand every citizen makes binding policy decisions on all questions of government the government of all over all.
    In republics decision making power ranges from assenting to the original constitution and then taking no further part in government to giving binding policy decisions to representatives who must faithfully mirror their constituents views.
    In democracies all citizens are equal; republics are hierarchical.
  • 15. Republican Political Fiction
    Plato described a democracy as, a state in which the poor, gaining the upper hand, kill some and banish others, and then divide the offices among the remaining citizens, usually by lot. (Republic, Book VIII, 557a) Likewise, in the US democracy connoted turbulence, chaos, leveling of the hierarchy, and mob rule.
    For the first generation of Americans democracy meant:
    The rule of a rude insulting mobLetters in Answer to the Farmer
    Turbulence and contentionJames Madison, Federalist 10.
    The government of the worstGeorge Cabot, 1804.
    Perhaps prudently, the Founders created a republic, not a democracy. The US has embraced more inclusive practices of citizenship over its history, but it has never achieved equality or ever permitted the government of all over all.
  • 16. Citizens as Romantic Heroes
    Despite this negative view of democracy, the Founders of the Revolutionary era imagined citizens as romantic heroes.
    According to Hayden White, romantic narratives are a drama of self-identification symbolized by the heros transcendence of the world of experienceit is a drama of the triumph of good over evil, of virtue over vice, of light over darkness, and of the ultimate transcendence of man over the world. (Metahistory, 8-9)
    Romantic citizenship: citizens were imagined to believe that he or she was a hero who would conquer adversitywhether the adversity was the gun of a British regular, the corruption of luxurious British goods, or the tyranny of Parliament and the kingand act in the republics best interest to ensure a safe, happy, and prosperous America. Romantic citizens were enabled to act for the common good.
  • 17. Romantic Citizenship
    Ought not the people therefore to watch? To observe facts? To search into causes? To investigate designs? And have they not a right of JUDGING from the evidence before them, on no slighter points than their liberty and happiness? John Dickinson, 1767, Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, VI, 37)
    King George was the chief officer of the people, appointed by the laws, and circumscribed with definite powers, to assist in working the great machine of government, erected for their use, and consequently subject to their superintendence While those bodies are in existence to whom the people have delegated the powers of legislation, they alone possess and may exercise those powers; but when they are dissolved by the lopping off of one or more of their branches, the power reverts to the people, who may exercise it to unlimited extent, either assembling in person, sending deputies, or in any other way they may think proper. Thomas Jefferson, Summary View of the Rights of British Americans, 1774
  • 18. Citizens as Tragic Victims
    Even before the Revolution was ove