The question early on was whether we were going to be aware, smart Americans governing ourselves, or the mob, governed by the elite. Jeffersonian, Federalist, yadda yadda. The simple like a Czar, or perhaps the fearful would be more accurate. Classicalist ideals expected a highly educated, aware population to be, well, classical. We shall all don our togas and go to the local forum to debate politics and manage ourselves. It doesn’t seem to work out that way.
National defense certainly isn’t something you can leave to local governments, so war favors the Federalist and presents a foothold that often sticks thereafter. Lincoln (far more heinously than he is remembered...) in the civil war, FDR, solidification during the cold war, 9/11. Each time more of what we need done, and the money it takes to pay for it, shifts to Washington. Then there’s disasters, famine, flood... fear. When something needs fixin, we want Daddy to cut through all the red tape and just do it.
That doesn’t seem to change with our level of education as was expected. Just the opposite if the last presidential election is any indication. The one thing I think we hate more than an overlord is, well, each other. There is something intensely appealing about having someone “on your side” who is above everyone else. It’s very Godfather, American politics. “Don Obama, please, you gotta help, whatamigonnado?”
Which... is silly. We trade away our ability to govern ourselves by weakly fawning over a figurehead. And why? Because we secretly want a bully to impose our will for us. Sadly though, the farther from your front door you have to go to find the decision makers, the less control over them you will have. We nod along with silly campaign promises that aren’t even within presidential power quite often, just because we want to believe they are the All Powerful Oz coming to save us, or more accurately, rain doom on our peasant foes.
This attitude spans both parties, even third parties. LaRouche, Perot, heck, Teddy Roosevelt. Third parties aren’t any different. No party is taken seriously if they don’t have faces that can win elections, and the faces become the election. This is intensely important because when politics is about faces, political ideology, philosophy, become empty talk. That’s what the platforms of both parties are right now, talk. Neither Republicans nor Democrats in practice resemble their traditional definitions whatsoever.
Sadly, we don’t care. American politics is a big Kleenex box. We fall in love with a face, elect it, grow apart, pull out another one. Wash, rinse, repeat, all the while whole forests are needed to print the laws being passed we don’t even bother to notice. A few outrage us, cause us to toss our current Kleenex a little early, but it’s not true self-governance, it’s falling out of love with an icon.
It was the same in Rome, in the Bible, even. “Give us a King!!”, the Hebrews cry and God sighs wearily. It’s interesting what God’s reply is:
 And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.
 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.
 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.
 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.
 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.
 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.
 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.
 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;
 That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.
Maybe someday we’ll stop being spoiled children and learn to fight our own “battles”, and do everything we can as close to home as we can. Until then, the song remains the same. Elect a King, and he’ll put your asses to work.