George Washington warned of the Evil of Political Parties

George Washington warned of the evil of political parties. Yet they sprung up quickly.

Today, many are proud to be Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, or Greens. Perhaps we shouldn’t be.

First, read this reduced quote of 4 paragraphs from Wikipedia about George Washington’s view of political parties:

Washington .. expands his warning to include the dangers of political parties to the government and country as a whole. His warnings .. the recent creation of the Democratic-Republican Party by Jefferson, to oppose Hamilton’s Federalist Party, .. which in many ways promoted the interest of certain regions and groups of Americans over others. ..

While Washington accepts the fact that it is natural for people to organize and operate within groups like political parties, he also argues that every government has recognized political parties as an enemy and has sought to repress them because of their tendency to seek more power than other groups and take revenge on political opponents.

Moreover, Washington makes the case that “the alternate domination” of one party over another .. have led to horrible atrocities, and “is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism.” ..

Washington .. argues that political parties must be restrained in a popularly elected government because of their tendency to distract the government from their duties, create unfounded jealousies among groups and regions, raise false alarms amongst the people, promote riots and insurrection, and provide foreign nations and interests access to the government where they can impose their will upon the country.

This reminds me of the saying by Lord Acton:

“Power tends to corrupt”

We see this in parties today, especially in the Republican party. Over the last 20 years, they’ve sacrificed all morality in the name of political expediency. They’ve spread lies, hate, even justified torture. Their narcissistic and dishonest candidate, Donald Trump, still justifies it.

The Democratic party succumbed in smaller ways. They kept Lawrence Lessig out of the debates. The party leadership violated their pledge of fairness and plotted against Bernie Sanders.

And both parties participate in gerrymandering, keep third parties out of the debates and refuse to pass legislation against corruption in Congress. And how does a small group stop Congressional progress? They threaten the party.

Parties represent platforms and politicians. They don’t represent people. We should not eliminate parties. We should take away the strangle-hold they have on political power.

PeopleCount’s position is that we should free politicians from being accountable to parties (and special interest donors) by making politicians accountable to voters instead. Please join us.

Party Unity above Morality

The struggle for party unity is central this election season, for both parties. In this Washington Post article about Republican National committee chairman, Reince Priebus from April, 2016, Dana Milbank provided several examples of where Priebus turned a blind eye to the divisive rhetoric within his party.

Donald Trump challenged Ted Cruz about his constitutional eligibility to run for president. Priebus then praised the candidate field as qualified and diverse. Trump, Cruz, and Marco Rubio joined together in a name-calling match during the February debate. Afterward, Priebus remained equally optimistic. He spoke of all three candidates’ “serious solutions to restore prosperity and strength in America.” In March, Trump publicly spoke about the size of his penis. In response, Priebus shared that Republican candidates were offering the kind of “course correction” voters wanted.

Turning a blind eye to subtle wrongdoing is one thing. But Reince Priebus wasn’t simply ignoring what was happening in his party. He was actively trying to overlook it. And he was hoping everyone else would, too. By refusing to condemn Trump’s or any other Republican politician’s unstatesmanlike behavior, Priebus preached party unity above morality.

Parties make party unity too important

In order for any political party to succeed, party unity is crucial. If leaders within one party are working against each other, there’s no way the overall party will be strong enough to defeat its opponent. Aside from Priebus, House Speaker Paul Ryan refused to publicly endorse Donald Trump for a long time. He denounced Trump’s comments about U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel as racist. But he stopped short of openly criticizing the candidate’s overall behavior or platform.

This seems to have been the preferred action of most establishment Republicans. Rather than take a stand for morality, they opted not to participate. Their actions spoke louder than their words. But it seems their silence hasn’t made much of an impact on voters. At the time of the article, Trump was leading Clinton by significant margins in several national polls.

Morality should be considered

Republicans who refuse to speak out against Trump’s egocentric and simplistic ideology have prioritized political unity over morality. There are 34 Senate seats and all 435 House of Representative seats up for reelection this November. Most politicians are focused on their campaigns. The idea of disagreeing with their party makes them fear for their positions.  Instead of stepping in to say that they don’t support racism, xenophobia, or misogyny, they’re simply keeping quiet.

Because of their silence, they may indeed keep their seats. But at the cost of integrity, and morality.