“All obstructions to the execution of the laws, 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; 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.”
The above words were spoken by George Washington as he gave a farewell speech after serving his last term as the first President of the United States. It was more of a warning than a goodbye letter; a counsel to a new nation about the perils that lay ahead if America gets hijacked by sectionalism. Less than twenty years after emerging from a revolution, Washington realized that factionalism was a clear and present threat to the new republic.
Washington’s advice fell on deaf ears, proving that all revolutions revert to the same tyranny that gives birth to them, the grand experiment in self-determination was destroyed by the cancer of political tribalism. Federalists, the first political party, rose to prominence in 1787 with the explicit purpose of forming a strong central government. In response, the anti-Federalists formed their own faction with the aim of limiting the role of the federal government and entrusting power to states and localities.
The Federalists and Anti-Federalists eventually morphed into today’s Republican and Democrat parties. Over the past 200 years, these two factions have seesawed back and forth as they jostle for power and fight a never ending battle for prominence. In the process, both parties have fulfilled Washington’s prophecy about the dangers of factionalism.
“[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.”
The shutdown before us is but a grotesque manifestation of Washington’s observation. Republicans and Democrats are willing to burn the nation to the ground in order to enhance the fortunes of their respective parties. The interests of the people and the wellness of the nation have taken a back seat to the well-being of the parties. Our current political system encourages self-absorption and greed because that is the nature of factionalism—politicians will always put the interests of their parties ahead of the needs of the people.
Sure they talk a good game, both Democrats and Republicans give rousing speeches about patriotism and love of nation, but their actions always belie their rhetoric. At every turn, each side of the aisle chooses self-preservation above loyalty to nation and commitment to humanity. The two major parties have formed a duopoly and effectively cornered the political market; the only way to succeed is to bow to the institutions and serve the needs of the establishment or else be chewed up and spit out by them.
“[Parties exist] 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.”
This is exactly what is taking place before us, the two parties have taken the United States hostage as they use governance as a bargaining chip in order to achieve the projects of each institution. Factionalism’s greatest danger lies in the desire of partisans to win at any cost, this myopic vision has made both parties beholden to the largess of corporations. This is, after all, what Federalists and Anti-Federalists were bickering about, their conflict was a fight between bankers who wanted to enslave all by way of debt and plantation owners who wanted to profit from slavery. The bankers won and now we have two factions of the same party working for corporatists who have shackled the world into capital bondage.
Washington’s warning were about political parties, but in reality his words go at the heart of what has truly endangered humanity throughout the ages. “There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.” Mahatma Gandhi once said these words when he was lauding the virtues of moderation and inclusion. Factionalism is the polar opposite of both moderation and inclusion, it rejects restraints and seeks power with reckless abandon.
The virus of factionalism that is the foundation of both parties has emanated outward and infected major institutions and fulcrums of power throughout America. The very idea of representative democracy has been inverted as group think and ideological purity are valued more than leadership. Media, academia, think tanks and political activists put on their tribal blinders and fight injustice through the lens of partisanship, what has been lost in the process are universal values and aspirations.
Yesterday, after Mitt Romney criticized the president over the weekend, Trump lambasted Mitt and accused him of not being a good team player. This is the one endearing quality that Trump has, there is truth in his narcissism. To a politician, both parties swear allegiance to their side and reserve their fire to their political opponents. This is why Elizabeth Warren is about to run two year campaign against the evils of Republican corporatism while keeping mum about the corporations that pimp the Democrat party on a regular basis. Factionalism requires continuous hypocrisy, putting country last and self-interest above everything.
Parties are an offshoot of tribalism, Democrats and Republicans are built on the ideology of hyper indulgence—preserving party is more important to them than serving the needs of their constituents. Both parties are able to mask this insidious germ of selfishness by successfully playing good cop/bad cop while point fingers at each other. Sadly, too many Americans have bought into this deception as the public unwittingly falls into the same factionalism that is being purveyed by the two parties. While America slowly descends into the gutters of nihilism, animosity and apathy, people are taking sides instead of uniting to fix an ailing nation.
Democrats and Republicans are a perversion of everything the United States Constitution stands for. A government of the people, by the people, for the people has been torn asunder and replaced with a government of two parties owned by the oligarchy. #Parties2Treason Click To TweetThe revolutionaries who fought against Great Britain would have happily submitted to King George if they thought that one day America would be lorded over by a ruling class that makes the Sugar Act, Tea Tax and Stamp Tax look like child’s play compared to the ways we are taxed to death while our savings are transferred to the neo-aristocracy.
Running for office is not a pathway to service but a gateway to riches. Both parties are populated by millionaires who enter politics already wealthy and exit after multiplying their ill gotten gains. America has a billionaire president who inherited his fortunes and enhanced it by gaming the system to his benefit and the leaders of both parties in the House and Senate are grifters who are worth tens of millions, and in Pelosi’s case worth more than a hundred million dollars. These are not patriots but profiteers whose duplicity is only exceeded by their avarice. What we have in Washington DC is not a representative democracy, it is the perfection of a kleptocracy.
The only way out of this death spiral that we are on is not through political parties but by rejecting them. Until we see each other as fellow citizens who share the same struggles in our walks and harbor the same hopes in our hearts, we will keep being fractured by factions and political opportunists who gain through our disunion. The fortunes of political factions come at the cost of the collective whole; operatives who sign up to serve a party do so by subsuming the will of the people. In this way, political parties are treasonous, their survival depends on the ruin of the nation they supposedly serve.
“There cannot be a more certain symptom of the approaching ruin of a State than when a firm adherence to party is fixed upon as the only test of merit, and all the qualifications requisite to a right discharge of every employment, are reduced to that single standard.” ~ Edward Wortley Montagu
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Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.