My wife and I watched the Amazon Prime hagiography on George Washington, “The First American,” guided by the hand of Newt Gingrich, whose political views were imprinted on the show from start to finish. But it was well put-together and demonstrated both the strength of character of George Washington and the unique genius of the American system of government birthed by our founding fathers. Several things struck me from the show.
- George Washington put his entire heart and soul into the American Revolution, risking his life, his fortune – everything – for the vision of what would later be called the land of the free and the home of the brave.
- He showed extraordinary humility by giving up his commission at the end of the war. It would have been normal for a victorious general to assume the reigns of power and become the new king of America. It has happened all the time in history. The freedom-fighter becomes the oppressing despot. Washington went to Congress and resigned his commission to return to private life. No single act has done more to establish America as a republic than this.
- He could have been president for life and been referred to as “Your Highness.” He insisted on being called “Mr. President” and quitting after two terms. No subsequent president would serve more than two terms until Roosevelt and term limits were encoded in law after that.
In his Farewell Address, a 32-page handwritten letter he left after his second term in office, he broached many topics -geographical factionalism (he saw the North vs. South split coming) and the danger of betraying the constitution. It is amazing how current this 1796 document is. He devoted several pages to the danger of political parties, which were just forming in the nascent nation. Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican party had formed in opposition to the Federalist party spearheaded by Alexander Hamilton (Washington’s right-hand man). The money quote is from page 14.
However [political parties] 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.
To put it simply, George Washington saw the rise of political parties as a threat to the American republic and he was right! I have always voted Republican, until the last election cycle (when I voted independent). My views on most issues align with the Republican platform. I am strongly pro-life and believe in our constitutional freedoms. But I have come to believe that the words of George Washington in his Farewell Address were a prophetic warning to America.
This is what I now believe.
The great danger in our land is not the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, it is the Republican Party AND the Democratic Party. Political parties are destroying the American system of government and the best way to preserve the Republic is to love America and reject the Elephant and the Donkey.
We are told this is impossible, that politics is binary and we have to choose one or the other. It’s A or B, R or D. One friend lamented that he was accused of voting for BOTH Trump and Clinton last time around (see, independents get TWO votes!). Trump supporters said that by voting independent he was actually voting for Hillary and Hillaryites said that by voting independent he was supporting Trump. As long as we surrender to the bullying of the parties, the parties will rule. But if enough Americans say no to that intimidation we can break the death grip of power the political parties hold on this nation and we can, perhaps, return to a time when America came first instead of political parties. I am not optimistic that will happen but I do not intend to participate in the corruption that has become the partisan political system in the USA.
Look at some of the things the Father of our Nation said about political parties.
1. They foster disagreement and division.
…whence designing men may endeavour to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views.
He believed that the Constitution united Americans as one and that politicians were using parties and regional differences to create divisions where none existed. Political parties are required to create division to get us to vote for them over the other party. Often there are simple, logical solutions to issues, but the parties posture to turn them into campaign ads and wedge issues. They create division instead of solutions.
And yes, Republicans do it as much as Democrats do it. The fact that I AGREE with the GOP more often doesn’t absolve them of guilt for issue-manipulation.
2. They lie about the other side.
Democrats and Republicans have real disagreements and differences, yes. But the fact is the Republicans lie about Democrats and the Dems lie about Reps. It’s how the game is played in Washington. Facebook is full of so-called news sources that make up junk that Christians and other conservatives dutifully pass on (I know the left does it too, but I’m on the right so that is what concerns me), regardless of the fact that there is absolutely no truth in them. Stories are made up from whole cloth or so twisted as to be unrecognizable, but because Obama or Hillary or Nancy P is blasted, we hit share without conscience. Because we need to beat THEM. Truth is irrelevant as long as it blasts the Dems.
Washington, on page 12, said this.
One of the expedients of Party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions & aims of other Districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies & heart burnings which spring from these misrepresentations.
Did he have prescience about the creation of the internet?
He warned us to protect ourselves from these misrepresentations. Lying about the other party seems to be part and parcel of the party spirit. Can we have an HONEST political party? Seems that honesty in politics requires leaving the political party system.
3. They divide those who should be united.
Today, we see the terrible result of this. Americans ought to be united by a political system that had incalculable genius, but generations of abuse by political parties has rendered people cynical, unbelieving, and negative toward the American system. Still, on page 12, we read,
They tend to render Alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal Affection.
Political parties put the good of the party ahead of the good of the nation and the good of the people – examples of this are numerous. I could regale you with examples of the Democrats doing this and you would applaud, but the GOP’s intransigence on immigration has not been about solving an issue but about inflaming the base and getting out the vote. A
Any attempt at compassion, sensibility, or reason has been met with accusation and demagoguery by many conservatives. This is just one example.
4. They create an inability to hear and accept reasonable solutions.
We have not left George Washington’s twelfth page.
Will they not henceforth be deaf to those Advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their Brethren and connect them with Aliens?
Need I say that when he speaks of Aliens, he refers to foreign governmental powers? His point here is that political parties in their partisan bickerings tend to cause people to turn a deaf ear to sound and wise counsel and makes them susceptible to influence from forces hostile to the interests of the USA. In other words, by serving their own interests above those of the nation, political parties create a climate in which people become disinclined to listen to reason.
Why are people so quick to listen to fake news and pass along fiction? Why do we glom onto that which is nonsensical (like the idea of rounding up 11 million illegals and sending them back to their countries, separating children from parents, or sending young people who have never known anything but America since being brought over in their childhood back to countries where they are truly foreigners – there is much more than immigration at stake here but the GOP’s ridiculous and irrational stands on immigration are low-hanging fruit) and refuse to work toward rational solutions to real problems? Because winning elections is more important than solving problems.
5. They subvert the will of the people to the will of the party.
Remember Renee Elmers?
She was elected to the Congress from North Carolina as a family values, pro-life Republican. Then, when it looked like there was a genuine chance to pass a “partial birth abortion” bill in Congress, she sold out the pro-life cause for political gain in other areas. That has happened over and over again. I’ve been voting for Republicans in opposition to abortion for 40 years and they have been selling me out for party power for just about that long.
Yes, they have appointed a few good Supreme Court justices along the way – the only argument that anyone can make against my thesis that holds any weight as far as I am concerned. Other than a few good SCOTUS appointments, The GOP has been PLINO – pro-life in name only – as a party. Anti-abortion has been in the platform since Reagan and the Moral Majority but it has not been in the hearts of the leaders of the party and they sell us out for power at every chance.
On page 14, Washington made these statements:
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 enterprizing 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 councils and modefied by mutual interests.
They (political parties) 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, & to usurp for themselves the reins of Government; destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
They replace the will of the nation with the will of the party and they allow unprincipled men to subvert the power of the people and usurp the reins of government. BOOM!
When political parties are the center of government, power over trumps principle. Winning always comes before doing the right thing. The will of the party and its success always comes ahead of the will of the people and its benefit.
6. They create a perverse form of despotism.
He makes an interesting argument on pages 17 and 18, which I will include in full so you can read his logic. It takes more than a snippet or two to follow his argument.
For Washington, the greatest political evil was despotism. He had every ability to become the King of America and acted intentionally to see that America did not replace one despot with another. He wanted a representative republic and he saw the power of political parties as the enemy of democracy.
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.
He is saying that when parties alternate rule, one over the other, and when we begin to say things like, “you have to choose one or the other” it gradually leads to a form of despotism. People seek “security and repose” in the absolute power of the individual and of the faction – the political party – over that of the other faction. Republicans defeating Democrats or Democrats defeating Republicans becomes a form of alternating despotism.
Wise people, he enjoins on page 18, will discourage this and restrain it.
I have been a Republican all of my life. If I didn’t feel that the GOP had betrayed conservative values, family values, and decency, I’d probably still be one, so I am open to a charge of hypocrisy here. I am arguing from principle here but it took betrayal to make me see the light. I now believe that even a good political party is not good for America and America has no good political parties.
In Washington’s day, we didn’t divide into partisan cliques and insist that only binary choices existed. I don’t know exactly how we get from where we are to where we ought to be, but the political party system is a mess and the Democrats AND the Republicans are enemies of the America I want to see – a constitutional republic of the people, by the people, and for people.
I am as pro-life as I’ve ever been. I am a conservative through and through. It is my values – my belief in the Constitution of the United States and its principles – that has led me to this point. I may vote Republican if I believe a GOP candidate is worthy. I doubt I will ever vote for a Democrat – pro-death candidates don’t get my vote. I may vote Independent and I may choose to leave some slots blank if there are no worthy candidates.
Politics is personal. I make my decisions. I state them and try to persuade them that they are right. If you choose to remain a card-carrying Republican, I won’t judge you. If you are a card-carrying Democrat, sorry, I’ll probably judge you a little, but I understand that is your choice too. But I am becoming more convinced that both our parties are irretrievably corrupt that they do not have the best interest of the country at heart. They choose power and party over the good of the nation – both of them.
You may see things differently, but I’ve made my choice.