The subversive power of political parties

This post first appeared on Pied Type back in February 2011 under the title “The Prescience of George Washington.” With the increasing absurdity of our current presidential campaign, election day still months away, and Washington a hopelessly gridlocked partisan disaster, it seems an appropriate time to resurrect Washington’s observations about political parties. He saw the danger back in 1796, before America even had political parties. And yet here we are.

“They [political parties] 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; 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 counsels, and modified by mutual interests.

“However combinations or associations of the above description 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.

“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
from his Farewell Speech, 1796


8 thoughts on “The subversive power of political parties

  1. It would certainly seem that Nastradamus did not have a lock on predicting future events. This country could sure do with a little ‘George’ right about now… 🙁

  2. “If we will not be governed by God,we must be governed by tyrants.”~William Penn
    “Let the people think they Govern and they will be Govern’d,this can not fail if Those they Trust,are Trusted.” ~ William Penn
    I would not trust our Politicians as far as I could pick them up and throw them!

    1. Nor I. Big Money owns the government and everyone in it. The Citizens United decision was the nail in the coffin. Frankly I don’t see how it’s ever going to get fixed.

  3. How any one in Washington D.C. would elect a candidate who would make a unqualified person as “Commander In Chief” as their choice as President Of The United States Of America is totally baffling.

    1. We’ve had a number of presidents with no military experience to back their “Commander in Chief” position. And I’m not convinced a peaceful nation must always have a warrior president. Diplomacy and war call for different mindsets. I don’t think lack of military experience would necessarily make a candidate unqualified to be president. Of course we have some candidates out there now who seemingly have no relevant experience whatsoever — military, diplomatic, or otherwise.

  4. It is NOT Hillary’s inexperience as a qualification for her role as Commander In Chief while she (is) President,rather it is her total disregard of US Government protocol and US military rules/regulations for sending/receiving e mails while serving in the capacity of a government agent. She is not above the law.

    1. I didn’t realize you were talking about Hillary in particular. I agree her handling of the entire email debacle is ample demonstration of a totally unacceptable attitude toward security and protocol. She certainly is not above the law and I’d like to see her prosecuted for what she did, but as corrupt as things are in DC, I doubt it will ever happen. Too many politicians there are too busy scratching each other’s backs and covering for each other.

... and that's my two cents