In his comments, Powell displayed a lack of historical understanding and was making the same mistake as other pseudo-conservatives such as David Frum and Jennifer Rubin who seem to relish putting down other conservatives and tea party activists; he makes no distinction between philosophy and execution.
On one hand Powell is correct, the founders did compromise, but only on execution issues not basic philosophy. The philosophic points were decided by the Declaration of Independence. Maybe it has been a while, so let me suggest they brush up on this part of the Declaration:
Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
The founders were revolting because Britain was overruling the will of the people, because they were usurping local government and individual rights which affected the happiness of the people.
The Declaration of Independence explained the “big picture” objectives of the revolution which was for the colonists to regain their individual freedom, Independence was the strategy, and the Constitution provided the executional components.
The entire reason the Articles of Confederation failed was that it didn’t prevent the tyranny that comes with a Government out of control. The state governments were growing bigger and trying to increase their rule by imposing their will on their neighbor states.
The founders pictured that the federal government formed by the Constitution would act as an umpire between the states, to guarantee liberty from internal and external threats. And as every baseball fan knows that when you realize an umpire is involved in the game, he is too involved in the game. That was the reason the founders put in all those checks and balances in the constitution, our founders wanted to make sure the wheels of the federal government would move slowly so it would never be able to overwhelm the rights of the people.
The Constitutional Convention did argue, fight, and compromise, but it was all about the best way to avoid tyranny and keep government off the backs of the people. Even the compromise on the legislature was designed to avoid tyranny. The small states wanted to avoid having the will of the big states imposed on them, hence the Senate. The Senate was not designed to represent the people, but the sovereign State Governments with the hope that by giving place, especially a deliberative place in the national government, they would slow things down so the majority would never be able to overwhelm the minority .
There were plenty of other compromises made by the founders, but never on the basic philosophy of limited government, only about the best way to keep the government tamed. What Colin Powell the rest of those pseudo-conservatives don’t understand is along with the progressives, they aren’t proposing a compromise on execution, they are proposing we abandon the very philosophy our founders agreed upon in the Declaration of Independence, too much government power leads to tyranny. If we compromise on that basic philosophy the foundation of this great experiment we call the United States of America will collapse upon itself and cease to be the land of the free.