When the Constitution was written over two hundred years ago and George Washington was elected president, there were no political parties. The Founding Fathers had a distrust of political parties.
As George Washington said in his farewell address a political party system “agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another.”
Yet by Washington’s farewell address parties were already forming. Thomas Jefferson left Washington’s cabinet in 1793 to form his own party. Ironically, it was Jefferson who wrote a few years earlier “if I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.”
The problem that the framers of the Constitution had with political parties was that allegiance to the party would trump allegiance to the country. Eventually, the party would do what is right for it and not the country. As John Adams expressed:
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”
At a few times in American history that has become a serious problem. That is where we are at now.
The parties are gridlocked on the major problems of the day. Sometimes the best solution is thwarted because one side believes the other will benefit in the eyes of the public. The end result is that not even compromise is possible.
The polarization has become so great that some don’t even want to consider compromise. That is the position of Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock who defeated Senator Richard Lugar. After his primary victory Mourdock proudly went onto several news shows to proclaim “Bipartisanship oughta consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.”
Mourdock stresses on his campaign website the need to “respect the Constitution.” He rails against abortion, liberal judges and the powers of government as adverse to the intentions of the Founding Fathers.
For someone who claims to know the intent of the Founding Fathers, he doesn’t seem aware of their propensity to compromise. The Constitution itself is a patchwork of compromises lead by the Great Compromise that formed a House of Representatives and Senate to keep both the small and large states content.
It is because of people like Mourdock that moderates are being driven from elected office. As politics becomes more polarized, the polarization is heightened. It becomes even more difficult to find common ground when both sides have a gulf that neither dares step across. Democracies flourish when opposing sides give a little to accommodate the greater good. Wars and revolutions erupt when a faction has no hope of implementing its policies or even being listened too.
The differences between Lugar and Mourdock are the differences between the system that the Founding Fathers created and what rabid party politics has created. If Congress becomes divided by two parties of Mourdock-like thinkers, it won’t matter about the Constitution’s original intent. If Mourdock’s way prevails, the United States will become the political equivalent of a third world country. We will have a country that jumps from extreme to extreme with each side painting the other as an enemy of the nation. This is exactly what happened prior the Civil War. With no compromise and plenty of animosity, the end result is never good.