SPRINGTIME FOR ROUSSEAU
Late in November 2000, three weeks into the postelection election, Representative Jerrold Nadler, a liberal Democrat representing the West Side of Manhattan—one of the bluest of what political America would soon be calling the blue counties—sniffed the atmosphere and made a noteworthy charge. “I don't think I've ever called anything else like this before, but I will now, ” Nadler said. “The whiff of fascism is in the air.”
Why would he say such a thing? The trappings of traditional fascism, in or out of power—riots, book burnings, death squads, monster rallies—were nowhere to be seen. If Nadler looked at the desultory marching and yelling that both Democrats and Republicans were sponsoring in Florida and Washington, D.C., and saw Brownshirts, then his sensibilities were arguably too tender for the ordinary rough-and-tumble of political life. The Founding Fathers were made of tougher stuff. In summer 1795, six thousand New Yorkers (out of a total population of about forty-five thousand) gathered at the intersection of Wall and Broad Streets to denounce a treaty that the Washington administration had negotiated with Great Britain. Former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton and Senator Rufus King, who supported the treaty, tried to address the crowd; they were stoned, and one rock hit Hamilton in the head. (Imagine Robert Rubin and Senator Charles Schumer confronting a mob, or a mob bothering to stone them.) Later that day, in small-scale arguments with treaty opponents, Hamilton was challenged to two duels. The aggrieved parties managed to resolve their differences short of pistol fire; it would be nine years before Hamilton was shot and killed by a political adversary, the vice president of the United States.
But if one looked beyond the merely raucous and made-for-television crowds in Florida and elsewhere and instead listened to what they and their