We sometimes ask: “Have you read anything good lately?” A wise piece of advice I read lately in a magazine’s book review section suggested that for every modern book we read we should also read an old one. The reason? Because in the old days they had time to think about what they wrote.
In that spirit and in light of the current upheaval and chaos in our political world in which Democrats and Republicans seem to completely disrespect each other, and partisans either hate or love the President, it seems that some sage advice from the past is in order.
In his farewell speech to Congress, George Washington advised against his contemporaries forming political parties. Below is an excerpt from that speech which was largely intended for reading rather than listening since the President was not a great orator. Its text soon appeared in newspapers for the edification of the general public. Early in the speech, Washington describes the dangers of geographic sections of the country establishing factions opposed to other sections. What immediately came to my mind was the present proposal to combine Colorado’s electorial vote with other compact states and in doing so potentially nullify Colorado’s result.
Quoting from Washington’s text:
“I have already intimated to you the dangers 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 roots 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 rankness and is truly their worst enemy.
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 horrible enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purpose of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
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, but in those of the popular culture, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged.”
At this point Mr. Washington explains what is necessary to avoid the fracturing of the nation:
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion, and morality are indispensable supports. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
My reaction to President Washington’s advice is to drop my allegiance to a particular party and re-register as an Independent to get some fresh blood into office. If enough voters did so it would force the entrenched incumbents in both major parties to quit their sniping and come together for the good of the country.
Surely, as an alternative, there is a spectrum of minor party candidates who could satisfy our political leanings and break up the monopoly of the intransigent Democrats and Republicans. According to the Pew Research Center “the share of Americans who say they believe members of Congress behave unethically either “some of the time” or “all or most of the time” is 81 percent.”
How about a balanced budget rather than spending more than they take in every year; term limits of two terms in the Senate and four terms in the House; prohibition of transferring from Congress to professional lobbyist when terms are up; less power for committee chairmen who at present can and do refuse to even allow discussion on legitimate issues; prohibition of transferring from Congress to professional lobbyists when terms are up; and Medicare and Social Security for Congressmen rather than gold-plated programs upon retirement as the wolves in sheep’s clothing receive now.
How would today’s Congress stack up against the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence? Signing it meant a death sentence by hanging if captured; yet the last paragraph in the Declaration says “We mutually pledge to each other our lives, fortunes, and our sacred honor.” It seems that the only thing sacred to many, if not most, of our national leaders is to be re-elected.
Paige Meredith shares this column with fellow conservative Stan Badgett.