On September 17, 1787, a majority of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention approved the documents over which they had labored since May. On June 21, 1788, the Constitution became the official framework of the government of the United States of America. If one reads that document, nowhere does it mention anything about political parties. In fact, the first political party didn't start until 1792. That fact alone shows our Constitution, and our government, was never meant to work with or for political parties.
Americans have policy opinions based on their party alignment. We are categorized by immigration, race, sexuality, religious affiliation and what the role of government should be in society, which all align along party lines.
Political parties were supposed to play a role of informing people on major decisions, like the sensibility of going to war, the best policy is for addressing climate change or if people should be required to purchase health insurance. Right now, we live in a time of vast polarization. Additionally, this is a time when negative intent is ruling politics in state and national elections. A voter forms opinions around a dislike for a party they don't support rather than passion for the party or individual. This drives parties and their supporters to be more polarized. This polarization is reinforced by media echo chambers organized around each side to be nothing more than propaganda machines. Where people live, what they listen to, what they read and the parties of their friends can always predict how they will vote in national and local elections.
Because the American political system does not give popular majorities power, it requires constant compromise between parties to function; the American political system grinds to a standstill the more polarized the parties are. This division is incompatible with the original American political framework and thus causes stagnation, anger, and violence.
A recent Pew Research survey found that 36 percent of Republicans thought that liberal policies are "a threat to the nation's well-being." 27 percent of Democrats feel the same way about conservatives. Many of the more extreme partisans refuse to work with the other side. The result is the two parties have the nation's capital, and many state capitals, in a death spiral. This level of hostility is a cause of gridlock. The same Pew Study found that over the last thirty years the nation has grown more divided and Congress has become less effective. Each side becomes more extreme, and each bases their agenda on demonizing the other side. Each side engages in partisan gerrymandering and manipulating the rules of Congress to get their way.
This was not out of the blue. We were warned by the founders against parties to begin with.
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. ~ George Washington, Farewell Address, 19 September 1796.
[The spirit of party] opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. ~ George Washington, Farewell Address, 19 September 1796.
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. ~ George Washington, Farewell Address, 19 September 1796.
Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction, and division of society. ~ John Adams, Letter to J. H. Tiffany, 31 March 1819. In: Charles Francis Adams (ed.), The Works of John Adams, Vol. 10, Boston, 1856. pp. 377-8.
"However 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. "GEORGE WASHINGTON, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796
The framers of the new Constitution wanted to avoid the divisions that had tore England apart in the 17th century. Many of them saw parties, or "factions" as they called them, as corrupt relics of the monarchical system that they wanted to get rid of in favor of a democratic government.
George Washington's family had fled England to avoid the civil wars there, while Alexander Hamilton once called parties "the most fatal disease" of governments. James Madison, who worked with Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, wrote in Federalist 10 that one of the functions of a "well-constructed Union" should be "its tendency to break and control the violence of faction."
When Washington stepped aside as president, he warned un in his farewell address of the divisive nature of factions on the workings of democracy: "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."
When Abraham Lincoln said "a house divided against itself cannot stand," he wasn't talking about the kind of divisions common today. Americans may differ on issues like immigration and abortion, but there is no single issue that divides the country in the same way slavery did in the 1850s. Then, the U.S. was so divided that many feared it would break out in civil war. A fear that Lincoln unwittingly stoked.
The now-famous "house divided" line, which is drawn from the Bible, was part of a campaign speech delivered at the 1858 Illinois Republican State Convention. Lincoln, then an unknown, had just won the nomination to run for U.S. Senate against one of the most important politicians in the country, Stephen A. Douglas.
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