Political parties = death of the Republic

The founding fathers did not fight for our right to be ignored

The founding fathers did not fight for our right to be ignored

Will Rogers famously said, “I am not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat.”   Hahaha… what a laugh, but no one’s laughing.  Would that the American political system was dominated by disorganized party coalitions, shifting and moving election to election, constantly responsive to the needs of the electorate.  That is of course what political parties used to be, back in the dark ages when we lived in a representative democratic republic.   And it is of course what the founders intended.

Early in the republic, political parties came and went, rising and falling and being reincarnated as their pet issues or signature concerns faded away.  Who can tell what the Whig party stood for?  Or the Know-Nothings?  And even after the coalescence of the Democratic and Republican parties, those parties were actual coalitions.  And political party conventions were actual conventions and not just theater for the coronation of the presumptive nominee.  After all the 1968 Democratic Convention is famous for the protests that surrounded it, the 1980 Democratic Convention featured a serious floor fight,  and the Republicans that same year chose their Vice Presidential candidate at their convention.

Political parties serve a purpose, an important purpose of providing organizational strength and “strength in numbers” for ideological commitments.  At least that’s what they should do.  And none of this is supposed to interfere with the primary responsibility of Congress to represent their constituents.  However more and more, political parties are failing miserably.  Mickey Edwards writes convincingly:

Loyalty to party undermines the very essence of representative government, which depends on entrusting members of one’s community to act in one’s stead as an evaluator of legislative policy…

Parties choose which candidates can be on the November ballot, and do so in primaries and conventions that cater to the extremes. Parties reward fealty and discourage independence.

It is because of this fealty that Congress has such low approval ratings and why Congressmen are increasingly avoiding meeting with their actual constituents. It is a sad and scary thing when representatives are afraid to represent.  More importantly, it is a danger to the republic and an indication that what was the most glorious experiment in large scale representative democratic and republican government is rapidly on the decline.

The fact is, Congress should be passionate in defending its prerogatives against the encroaches of the Executive Branch, regardless of who the president is.  The division of powers is meant to provide natural checks and balances against the formation of a ruling aristocracy that enforces its will on the populace, but unfortunately the two party system has devolved to the point that our legislators see themselves as lords and ladies and the president fancies himself some sort of benevolent monarch, ruling not by divine right, but rather by media anointment.   They do not respect and they do not fear the people they are meant to represent; rather they despise them.  They pass legislation they have not read, vote for health care plans to which they themselves are not subject, vote pay raises for themselves, gerrymander legislative districts to ensure their continued dominance and write legislation effectively restricting the competition to which they are subject.

The American political system is NOT a two party system.  It is increasingly a system of aristocratic governance; a royal court complete with salons, sinecures, and purchased ambassadorships.  And Obama?  He is merely the latest incarnation of a presidency that sees itself as inseparable from the state


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3 Responses to Political parties = death of the Republic

  1. The real problem lies in trying to find a way to break the stranglehold the party system has on politics without creating a bunch of unconstitutional laws or other stupidity. One way would be to change the way people donate money to politicians and the party by no longer allowing people to give as much as they want to the party and only a limited sum to a politician. So if you can only give a politician $2000 you could only donate $200 to a party, this will take a lot of money away from a political party and lessen their power. I would also consider allowing more money to go to a politician such as up to $5000 that way a politician has to rely on the people and not a party for campaign funds.

    • Good ideas, but how would we get around the “limiting of free speech” argument that would inevitably ensue? I think it would help if the presidential election was required to be held on a non-partisan basis and political parties were restricted in some way from participation in presidential elections. People would have to raise money outside of the party system, or perhaps they could campaign to receive the endorsement of this or that political party but would not be able to access their organization or funds.

  2. The “limiting of free speech” argument is valid, I didn’t like McCain-Feingold for that reason, plus I think it ended up causing more problems then they thought it would solve. And I don’t like public funding because it withhold funding from smaller parties steals money from the taxpayers and would basically just prop up the two-party system anyway. See the think is they already get away with limiting donations to politicians so why not to political parties as well (although I would say neither is really constitutional)? I know you could argue that with a party it’s different since you could say it’s just like giving money to the United Way, or Red Cross but a party isn’t a charity organization. I think it would take a constitutional amendment to fix, but I really don’t trust our current crop of elected morons with that one.

    I think very short term limits for all elected officials might be the best way because it would break down the strangle hold the incumbents have over the newer members of Congress and over the party so the party would lose the power because there wouldn’t be the incumbents to leach of off and “own” or try to keep in power just because they are a member even if they don’t really do much for the party except vote with them most of the time. The change would happen over night but I think it would be the best start for breaking up party power. And since there would not be long standing incumbents the new members of Congress would have to follow they would become more independent.

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