Over and over again, when talking about the importance of an alternate party (or as most people call them these days, “Third Parties”), someone will say, “Let’s JUST GET RID OF THE PARTIES!”
Almost without exception the person who says, “Get rid of the parties” will always reference George Washington’s Farewell Address:
“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.”
They usually end with that paragraph. HOWEVER, Washington goes on in the very next paragraph and recognizes the likelihood of parties:
“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.”
Washington prophetically adds:
“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."
"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 find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passion. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another."
"There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchial cast patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose; and there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”"
There is no doubt, “political parties” have become everything George Washington feared.
NOW, it is tremendously interesting that George Washington enlisted the assistance of James Madison (who formed the “Democratic-Republicans Party” with Thomas Jefferson) to write the first rendition of the “Farewell Address” as Washington thought his first term would be it. Obviously, Washington did a second term, so set the “Address” aside. But even more interesting is that Washington enlisted the help of Alexander Hamilton (who created the very first political party, “The Federalists Party”) to help him with the final version of his “Farewell Address.”
What’s REALLY peculiar about Madison is that on November 23, 1787, he published “Federalist Paper #10”, which really deals with the topic of political parties, though primarily referenced as factions. In Federalist 10, Madison says:
Madison starts off the discussion in the first paragraph with:
“AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a well-constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction.”
“Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.”
(NOTE: I suspect you can point to a few, recent examples of this)
In the same paragraph, Madison goes on to talk about what happens with factions and it has certainly has come true today:
“It will be found, indeed, on a candid review of our situation, that some of the distresses under which we labor have been erroneously charged on the operation of our governments; but it will be found, at the same time, that other causes will not alone account for many of our heaviest misfortunes; and, particularly, for that prevailing and increasing distrust of public engagements, and alarm for private rights, which are echoed from one end of the continent to the other. These must be chiefly, if not wholly, effects of the unsteadiness and injustice with which a factious spirit has tainted our public administrations.”
Madison believed that while “Factions” were inevitable, there would be so many different factions that it would alleviate their overall effect as exampled by the following paragraph:
“The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.”
As expressed by Madison, here is the conundrum:
“It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.”
In other words, because of LIBERTY gives rise to the capability of factions. And as evil as factions are thought to be by Madison, it would be a far greater travesty to abolish that liberty for the sake of eliminating this evil. It is that proverbial “catch 22” of “damned if we do, damned if we don’t.”
Still they understood that implementing a constitution and a government does EXACTLY THAT - - > LIMITS LIBERTY. But they further understood the necessity of a government and the rule of law.
I believe that Madison [naively] wrote the conclusion of Federalist Paper #10. He thought the Constitution would be enough to compensate for the work of factions (or parties). It’s certainly has played out differently than he concluded.
“Does the advantage consist in the substitution of representatives whose enlightened views and virtuous sentiments render them superior to local prejudices and schemes of injustice? It will not be denied that the representation of the Union will be most likely to possess these requisite endowments.”
While it is true that for the first part of our early American history, Madison was right. But when those who were elected as Representatives no longer held “Enlightened Views” or “Virtuous Sentiments”, his argument completely falls apart.
And this is greatly disappointing to me about this lack of understanding on this particular topic. Our Founding Fathers were notorious about their understanding of the evil bent to human beings and did an awesome job in creating a government with CHECKS AND BALANCES, but then failed to plan against “factions” which have circumvented the conventions of the Constitution. Take the appointment of Supreme Court Justices for instance. You know that [currently] it will be either a “liberal” or a “conservative” Judge that will be appointed depending on which [Party] is in control.
Madison, himself makes this observation within Federalist #10:
“It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.”
And yet, this “Father of the Constitution” did not provide for factions within the context of the Constitution itself.
“If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution.”
BUT, there is NOTHING within the context of the Constitution to deal specifically with factions, regardless whether or not they are in the majority and thus, allowing for Political Parties to make up their own rules.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER
It wasn’t hardly a couple of years after the ratification of the Constitution that the very first political party, the “Federalist” was founded by Hamilton and that the second was founded by Madison and Jefferson in response.
Both Washington and Madison recognized the truism, “BIRDS OF A FEATHER, FLOCK TOGETHER.”
“...they are likely, in the course of time and things…” ~~ George Washington
“The inference to which we are brought is, that the CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS.” ~~ James Madison
Both of them recognized the evil that is perpetrated upon the people through factions and yet, neither attempted (as far as I know) to “control” factions through the Constitution. THIS, is the weakness of the Constitution (IMHO) -- > it did NOT provide for the eventuality of political parties.
It’s not that we have political parties that is the problem, IT IS THAT WE ONLY HAVE TWO!!
“Birds of a feather DO FLOCK TOGETHER. It is just the nature of animals and human beings. So it does not matter whether you call the “Political Parties,” “Political Action Committees,” “Special Interest Group,” “Club,” or whatever, people of like-mind WILL get together to exert their influence.
Because the framers did not make a provision within the context of the Constitution to deal with this truism, it allowed for the parties to make up their own rules. They saw what happened in 1860, with Abraham Lincoln and started implementing laws across the nation to prevent a “minor party” from having undue influence again.
I AM A STRONG ADVOCATE OF A MULTI-PARTY-SYSTEM! I believe it is the answer. While not perfect, it would allow for a much more representative government. In the political arena of political thought and ideology, how is it possible for real representation. IT IS NOT!
In fact, this is demonstrated by those within the Republican Party, when they use the acronym “RINO.” As “Conservative” as I am, if I were in the Republican Party, I WOULD BE A RINO. I do not hold to the neo-con tenants of the Republican Party. Both Parties scream and yell that there should ONLY be two parties and that we must submit to one or the other ideology to be a true American. I CAN NOT TELL YOU HOW EVIL THIS MIND SET IS!!
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE for a two-party-system to represent the political ideology of Americans. IMPOSSIBLE ! ! !
It has made it possible for the one of the primary “Communist goals” that Cleon Skousen postulated in his book, “The Naked Communist” to be fulfilled, “Capture one or both of the political parties in the United States.” (Goal number 15)
What we have now, is a façade of a two-party-system. It has gotten to where the lines between the two major parties as so blurred as to not really know who is what. It is more like a TWO-PARTY-DUOPOLY. Which is actually twice as bad as a monopoly.
THE BOTTOM LINE
“Let’s JUST GET RID OF THE PARTIES!” While I don’t entirely disagree with the sentiment and it would certainly seem to fit the admonitions of Washington and Madison, the reality is that Political Parties are here to stay.
We need a multi-party-system!
The failed two-party-system has had its day. It is time for something new.
A multi-party-system would provide much more competition (which is a major factor in eliminating corruption). It would make it much more difficult for those controlling the two major parties from having so much influence in the everyday lives of Americans. In addition to the Republican and Democrat parties, there should be the Constitution Party, the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, and others. AND LET THEM ALL HAVE EQUAL STATUS!
No more having the two major parties have special/easy status in getting their candidates on the ballot. For instance, in Illinois, the Republicans and Democrats only need 5,000 signatures to get their candidate on the ballot, while “third parties” need 25,000. The justification is “We need to make sure to keep the field of candidates, clean.” OK, then make it 25,000 for everyone, or 10,000. I don’t care what the number is, just so long as it is an equal playing field. Let competition rule the day.
So, while I don’t disagree with the sentiment of getting rid of the parties, the fact is that they are here to stay, and instead of a two-party-system, we need a multi-party-system.