Two small but artful and enterprising factions alternate leading the country. As one of the factions leads, they make the public administration the mirror of their own ill-concerted and incongruous projects, rather than have it serve as a factory of wholesome plans built for the American public that were developed through mutual interest and common counsel.
Although these two factions occasionally serve popular ends, they’ve become potent engines obsessed with the will of their party over the will of the nation, pursuing victory, and ensuring their survival at all costs. They’ve taken the democratic institution hostage by choosing representatives based on party loyalty instead of merit, enacting campaign finance laws that give them a financial edge, drawing district boundaries that will ensure votes, and hijacking the media institutions to promote their narrative.
As they alternately dominate each other by enacting their own partisan policy and dismantling the other party’s, they create a despotism that harms the American people, and they continually sharpen their natural thirst for revenge against one another. They split the country into geographical discriminations and force socio-economic classes to choose sides. The mischief that comes from the war between the two parties distracts our public councils and enfeebles our public administration causing gridlock in Washington and elsewhere. The people are infected with ill-founded jealousies towards the supporters of the ‘other party’ and show animosity toward one another in public — even in family circles. Occasionally, this animosity, spurred on by the official parties, boils into riots and insurrection.
This hyper-partisan battle breaches our political guard and opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds access to government through each party’s fanatical desire to win. Thus, the policy and will of our great country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
If the above sounds familiar… we have a problem.
Is this not the current state of American politics? If you align as Democrat, Republican, or Independent doesn’t the above sound similar to what we currently witness? If so, we’ve failed to heed our founding father’s farewell warning. The message composed above reflects that of George Washington’s farewell address. Read the portion on factions for yourself and observe the eerie similarities.
All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.
However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.
I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.
This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
Washington feared, with good reason, that although factions “may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government…” Before you cry out, “This sounds like the other party!”, silence your bias, and listen to your gut. Regardless of affiliation, deep down, you should be able see that objectively the description above matches both parties.
The two-party system makes sense when operating in conjunction with the national will. Unfortunately, the parties’ thirst for power has corrupted them. They value the party’s will more than the nation’s, and focus on destroying the other party instead of working towards public good. Think about it.
Both sides have used gerrymandering in which they redraw voting districts in order to get votes.
Both sides have halted progress through political loopholes, blocking nominations, and out of the ordinary filibusters.
Both sides have forced through progress using nuclear options, loopholes, and by changing the rules to the game.
Both sides have allowed nepotism when choosing their rank and file.
Both sides have voted based off party loyalty rather than what’s best for the country.
And both sides have allowed foreign influence to infect their systems for financial or political gain.
Do these sound like factions serving popular ends? I think not, and I believe the American people agree with me. During the 2016 Presidential election, both parties were caught off guard when their standard-bearers were stoutly challenged (and one defeated) by populist candidates who bucked the party norms. In the legislative branch, we see the discord as well. Approval ratings for Congress have never maintained such a low average. From 1974 to 2010, approval ratings for Congress hovered in the 20s to 40s. Now, in the last 7 years, they’ve stayed in the 9-20 range1. Despite this, we continue to vote too many of the same party cogs into public office where they’ll continue the hyper-partisan inaction. The two parties are continuing to get their representatives into government, but we, the American people, are not. It’s about time that changed.
We are in a historic time for America. The two-party system is crumbling from the inside out. Both parties have betrayed their own in unprecedented methods causing deep divides among themselves. Both parties have attacked one another so much they’ve all but destroyed their reputations with the voting public. I don’t believe the two-party system is doomed to fail, but I do believe the factions have been allowed to go about unbridled far too long.
The solution? Vote independent. No longer is voting independent a ‘wasted vote’ or a ‘vote for them’. It is now a vote to retake our government from the corrupted and force the factions back into their proper form. The more independents in public office that can force the two factions to work together the more representation the people will have.
Bonus Reality: Other Founding Fathers on Political Parties
Thomas Jefferson, in 1789, declared that if he “could not go to heaven but with a party, [I] would not go there at all.”
John Adams, in a letter to Jonathan Jackson in 1780, wrote “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”
Check out how we can redeem ourselves in part 2 here.
1 “Congress and the Public,” Gallup, Inc., 2017, accessed at http://www.gallup.com/poll/1600/congress-public.aspx on 23 July, 2017.