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Organized Political Parties: Another Form Of Religion

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As the de facto historian of the blogosphere, it is important to recognize what our founders thought about political parties as we approach the coming holiday. George Washington, like many of his contemporaries, did not understand or believe in political parties, and saw them as fractious agencies subversive of domestic tranquility. When political parties began forming during his administration, and in direct response to some of his policies, he failed to comprehend that parties would be the chief devices through which the American people would debate and resolve major public issues. It was his fear of what parties would do to the nation that led Washington to draft his Farewell Address.  In his farewell address he stated in part:

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....

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 passion. 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.

The wisdom of Washington and many of our founders was reflected in many of their writings and speeches.  Washington and others also believed that organized religion would be a terrible threat to our form of government for the same reasons that he believed that organized political parties would be a threat to the union.  And the reason primarily is based upon what Lord Acton said in 1887: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” 

Both organized religion and political parties base their support upon groups of people who expect others to have a belief system that coincides almost 100% with their beliefs.  This “one size fits all” concept cannot work anymore in the age of the Internet and mass communication.  That is why organized religion and political parties are less popular today than ever before.  The country and the rest of the world are now demanding more independence than ever before.  It is my opinion that both organized religion and political parties have become corrupt in the sense that they now represent the powerful elite rather than the public at large.  That is what Washington suggested to us in his farewell address.

I am amazed at the wisdom of our founding fathers as we reach the anniversary of the founding of this great nation.  We need to demand more from the duopoly we have in the Democratic and Republican parties.  We also have to abandon the Electoral College for electing Presidents or at least change the winner take all concept, which essentially kills any 3rd party Presidential candidate.   There is nothing in the Constitution that prevents states from adopting the mathematically logical proportionate representation in the Electoral College.  In that way, the 2 political parties would lose their stranglehold on the electorate.  Furthermore, the cost of Presidential elections would go down dramatically in that there would  not be 50 separate state elections requiring campaigning in at least 25 of them.  The MSM makes obscene amounts of money from the political ads in each state and one does not have to wonder where the owners of media stand.

Concentrated power as Lord Acton suggested is the cause of corruption in government, business, and religion.  Changes in the breaking of concentration of power in these three segments of society would be the first steps in challenging the forces that both Washington and Lord Acton warned us about centuries ago.  When you all celebrate this 4th of July, think a little more about what our founding fathers really stood for when you celebrate the anniversary of the great American experiment.     

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Sheldon Drobny was the co-founder of Nova M radio and Air America Radio. He has supported many philanthropic causes. Mr. Drobny specializes in business and tax matters and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Tax Court as a non-attorney. Less (more...)
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