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.
And it has happened. Each political party is more concerned about the good of their party then they are about what is in the best interest of their nation. People have come to identify with the political parties more than they identify as Americans.
George Washington agreed, saying in his farewell presidential speech:
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. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent 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 purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
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; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.
The very evil about which Washington warned us is taking place. Washington explained that people would place party before nation and when this happened the discourse would become vitriolic and shrill. The public would look upon these actions or lack thereof with fear and disdain. The division, created by the parties, would bring about a time when the public would seek rescue and security in the form of an individual. There would be individuals, unlike Washington, who would take advantage of the consequential fear and anger for self-promotion. The despotic mind of that individual would bring about totalitarianism.
Washington did acknowledge that there is some truth in the idea that political parties would be a check on the natural excesses of government. By preforming this good deed, however, the parties would themselves take these actions to excess. What was a good deed would burst into a flame of excess power and destroy the very good it was trying to protect.
The insight our founders had, into the action of the individual and the action of the collective, is evident. We have seen the scenarios described by both Washington and Adams repeated throughout our history. The absolute danger, to which Washington speaks, is very evident today.
The ideal answer to avoid the dangers of the two party system would be to eliminate political parties. This will not happen and would infringe on constitutional rights. The only answer to avoid the pitfalls inherent in the two party system lies with the people. It is we the people who must insist we and the political parties always place country above party. It is we the people who must get control or our educational system to insure our history, the constitution , and civics are once again taught in our schools, from the early grades to and through college. It is we the people who must only support individuals for any office who are first and foremost people with character and veracity; individuals who will and do put nation over party.
Yes, as with all the problems facing the United States today, it is we the people who have total responsibility for correcting these problems. We correct these problems by electing individuals with the qualities of people like Adams and Washington; individuals who place the good of the country above the glory and notoriety of self and individuals with impeccable character and absolute veracity.