What separated these groups from white, male, mainline Protestant landowners in the 18th century was the sense of who had a "stake in the future of America, and that stake has to be tangible, which means that you've got to own a piece of the ground," Stoermer says. Landowners could be counted on to vote for the interests of the community. Others were of dubious loyalty: Women were seen to owe allegiance to their husbands, nonwhites to their employers and Catholics to the pope.
And yet collectively these groups – the "Benetton ad we have of presidential candidates," as Stoermer aptly puts it – will almost certainly provide the country with its next president. Indeed, of 30 prospective candidates listed at the blog Prez16, only two – Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul – could have been realistic candidates at the nation's founding.
Which brings us back to flexibility, adaptability and the founders' genius. How can anyone get caught up in trying to discern their original intentions when the system they designed has grown beyond the limitations imposed upon them by the times in which they lived?
"This is going to be unlike any other cycle in American history when it comes to presidential candidates," Stoermer says. "And I honestly think it's something the founders would have been thrilled about" because it demonstrates the expansion of self-governance beyond what they could even have conceived of.
Happy birthday, America.