Thoughts and Perspectives

Political parties and their followers represent the antithesis of the golden rule.

Political parties and their followers, as they currently function in the United States, represent the antithesis of the golden rule. They simply don’t treat each other the way they would like to be treated. 

George Washington warned that political parties were dangerous long ago in his 1796 farewell letter.

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. 

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical 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.

So in other words, if you identify–especially if you identify strongly–with a political party, you are part of the problem to some degree. Both the Democratic and Republican parties are guilty of taking sides selectively based on money, power, and occasionally, grassroots pressure.

And the “side” people are on matters more than anything else. More and more over the years, members vote automatically according to party line. Followers, likewise, base their “opinion” on the official platform(s) of these parties. 

For example, seeSee Congress polarize over the past 60 years, in one beautiful chart and the chart below from this article. There is less and less compromise and more sharp boundaries between Democratic and Republican officials. There has also increasingly been less and less geographic variation in the two parties during this time.   journal.pone.0123507.g002.0

Additionally, notions of true opinions and morality–morality is also relative, of course–are simply almost not involved any more in any process of the political game.

What a politician or his/her followers and constituents really think, believe, know, and need have no place in our current society. 

Political parties also violate core notions of democracy – parties don’t allow for every breathing soul to have inalienable, unquestioned rights – rights that aren’t voted on, rights that aren’t debated. Followers–especially the multi-billionaires–are frequently guilty, too: They don’t want others to have the same freedom and equality they do, and they use political parties to sanction their behavior. 

And we must remember that today’s Democratic and Republican party aren’t that different. Both are generally very conservative in political orientation. Both are also controlled way too much by the ultra rich.  

See also: A Century and Two Great Ages of Consensus: Politics and History Repeating

3 replies »

  1. I really liked this article and read the related post on pol. parties which included the words from Geo Washington. The chart on polarization of parties since the 90s was so interesting I read the explanation/analysis of the chart you had included. I re-learned something I had kind of known in the back of my mind for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

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