To really understand the distain for political factions and organized parties that the Founding Fathers had, you need only look to the wording of the US Constitution as it describes the election of the President and Vice President. When they were drafting the Constitution, they knew that the most likely winner and runner-up would be of opposing factions. By placing both in government, they were expecting these to be worked out as part of the sharing of power.
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President.US Constitution — Article II, Section 1
So, as you see, the Founding Fathers EXPECTED there to be many more than two candidates. But we don’t follow this sage advice today. Today, we have abdicated our government to two political CORPORATIONS who run not in our best interests as representatives of the people but rather as competing warlord clawing for political advantage and power.
The Exclusion Crisis of 1679 is often identified as the point at which discernible political parties first emerged in England. Three Exclusion bills sought to exclude the King’s brother and heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, from the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland because he was Roman Catholic. None became law. Two new parties formed. The Tories were opposed to this exclusion while the “Country Party”, who were soon to be called the Whigs, supported it. One only need look at the names to see the long-lasting effect of this factionalism. Whig (Scottish Gaelic)—was a term applied to horse thieves, it connoted nonconformity and rebellion and was applied to those who claimed the power of excluding the heir from the throne. Tory (Irish Gaelic) was a term applied to outlaws and brigands and was applied to those who supported the hereditary right of James. In America the names have changed but the problem remains, political parties are run by brigands and horse thieves!
Our Founding Fathers had lived through the consequences of this schism in England. One could easily argue that the wars and economic privations in America prior to the American Revolution were a direct consequence of having two opposing factions in Parliament battling for supremacy and using the British and, by extension, the colonial populace of American and India as pawns in this warfare.
George Washington’s farewell address is often remembered for its warning against hyper-partisanship: “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.” John Adams, Washington’s successor, similarly worried that “a division of the republic into two great parties … is to be dreaded as the great political evil.” America has now become that dreaded divided republic. The existential menace is as foretold, and it is breaking the system of government the Founders put in place with the Constitution.
Now its easy to blame the voters for choosing the “wrong” party. You see this in all the political advertisements and in the rhetoric of the various factions who have demonized the opposition but it’s not that simple. Because there are only two options, the must be compromise candidate on both sides (would any sane person have chosen EITHER Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?). Such compromises are not what the Founding Fathers wanted. They wanted the disparate political voices to be heard.
The theory that guided Washington and Adams was simple, and widespread at the time. If a consistent partisan majority ever united to take control of the government, it would use its power to oppress the minority. The fragile consent of the governed would break down, and violence and authoritarianism would follow. This was how previous republics had fallen into civil wars, and the Framers were intent on learning from history, not repeating its mistakes. in a large republic, with more factions and more distance, a permanent majority with a permanent minority was less likely. The Framers thought they were using the most advanced political theory of the time to prevent parties from forming. By separating powers across competing institutions, they thought a majority party would never form.
The two-party system that America has today was the development the Framers feared most. The two parties are fully sorted by geography and cultural values, and absent a major realignment. Both sides are constantly battling for a permanent majority. It is destroying our democracy! Far from our strength, the American two-party system is huge liability. It keeps us from reforming our government through the electoral process. Neither party has it in their best interest to create political plurality within our country but that is what we need. We need MORE voices in government. Making one party (EITHER PARTY) dominant will make the problem MUCH WORSE.
So, what do we do?
- Get out of your particular partisan bubble. Its tough but if we endeavor to listen rather than over shout the opposition, we might find that our REAL differences are not insurmountable. Remember: BOTH PARTIES benefit from the conflict and NIETHER PARTY really wants to work for the best interests of America.
- Educate others on your point of view. They say we can’t talk about sex, religion, and politics in polite company. That’s wrong! Yes, we find these conversations create conflict but conflict is what creates change. Be true to your self but not offended by others who also express THEIR truth. If your self-identity is threatened by the conflicting self-identity of other then physician heal thyself…
- Ignore the “Talking heads.” Remember that the media has ALWAYS been biased. Sure, Fox News seems extreme if you are a Democrat and CNN is more liberal. It’s not their job to be objective, its their job to inform and INFLUENCE. Don’t be offended when they do that job. Freedom of Speech includes the right to not pay attention to some messages too. If you want unbiased news, get your news from multiple sources.
- VOTE. Yes, it’s a compromise and yes, they should both be thrown out but vote anyway. IF you fail to vote then you are conceding to be governed by the special interests. Don’t be afraid to vote for alternative candidates either. Sure, someone (generally the political parties) will argue that you won’t win and some will claim that failing to support them is supporting their opponent but that is not true. Our Founding Fathers wanted plurality in the election process so a vote for the someone other than a Republican or a Democrat is voting against BOTH parties and that’s okay.
- Hold your representatives in government accountable for their decisions, public statements, and behaviors. We elected them and we can replace them. Don’t be afraid to switch a horrible official for one that is merely bad.
- MARCH and PROTEST. Freedoms of speech and assembly are theoretical if we don’t exercise them. If does not take a majority to make a fundamental change in America. Abolition, Women’s Suffrage, and Civil Rights, are all a product of a consistent vocal minority making the case known. Sure, protests will be suppressed by the opposition, they always try; and you should keep your protests focused on the issues (riots and vandalism rarely cause change) but in America we have a long history (predating the settlement of the country) of protest.
- VOTE WITH YOUR POCKETBOOK. You have to remember that the current two-party political system only survives because of special interest money but government will never reign this in, its not in the best interest of the politicians to restrict donations of any sort. To make a change in the funding of political candidates, you have to go to the source. Stop doing business with companies that support causes you are opposed to. IF you are gay and you eat at Chick-fil-a or shop at Hobby Lobby, shame on you. If you are a conservative and you drive a Mercedes, shame on you. If you support a woman’s right to choose and you fly Delta, shame on you. Yes, its hard to know but once you do, deny them the money to spend on those causes you oppose and tell others why you do this. Otherwise, they will continue to fund our demise.
Is not just the “Big Lie” that’s destroying America, it’s the whole idea that one party is better than the other. “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.” We are a nation founded by throwing off the chains of tyranny. Let’s not allow ourselves to be overcome by yet another version of that tyranny.
On June 16, 1858, as Abraham Lincoln ran for Senate, he gave a speech to the Republican Convention in which he stated: “In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed. A house divided against itself cannot stand.” By allowing our elected government officials (whether they be horse thieves, outlaws, or brigands) to retreat to name-calling and fighting rather than serving as our representatives, we are attempting to keep a “house divided” from collapsing. We need to let them know this is no longer acceptable.