In 1796, as President George Washington was preparing to depart the Presidency, he wrote a farewell address. In many ways, the topics he addressed in this document are eerily prophetic as we look around our world today.
One topic was the subject of political parties. It’s very easy to check the news and see the damage that polarization around party is doing to our country today. Since President Washington had a lot to say, I’ll cover his thoughts across several posts. This is the second post in the series. You can read the first part here.
We left off our last discussion with President Washington’s warning about political parties becoming so divisive that the people elect a strong man to remedy the gridlock. He continues:
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.
I have to say it – this is borderline prophetic. Look around right now. Look at the left and right wing protestors clashing in the streets. Look at the disinformation campaigns being waged intentionally for both political and monetary gain. Trace the money – and not just to one party. If you dig far enough, you’ll find foreign money flowing to both sides. Not only are these foreign parties trying to influence our politicians to receive a desired result, in some cases the same foreign party is intentionally funding both American parties simply to sow havoc and weaken our faith in the system further.
Watch our political houses at both the state and national level spending more of their time fighting each other than actually legislating. There is little room for nuance in politics any more. Parties have drawn up hard line platforms and expect their members to rigidly follow them, even if they personally disagree. The leadership of the party establishes this platform, and rarely are the best interests of average Americans represented. It is a vision established by the elite of what they think America should be. Those who cross the party can lose access to donor lists and the network that the party brings, as well as high-profile assignments to committees and other perks. Contributing money to the party buys you access and protection. Towing the party line does the same.
We as Americans cannot let this continue. The two-party system will only get more corrupt as time passes. It is not uncommon for elected officials to stay in office for 20-30 years in the Senate. As the President warned, our republic is being undermined by the parties who claim to represent us.
If this interested you, take a minute to subscribe to or follow our blog. President Washington had a lot more to say about political parties, as well as other modern concerns, and I hope to give them a solid treatment in upcoming posts. Thanks!