Facts About Political Parties, Beginning Them, Sustaining Them, Or Should We Ban Them?
We all know that it was competition and diversity that helped give rise, in the early days of the Republic, to the two party system, the original parties, which we can call Federalists, and Anti-Federalists (Sound familiar?) were actually more personality and philosophy contests between individuals, The Federalists, who followed the ideals of Hamilton, strong central government, able to back and support merchants and military, and the opposition, the Anti-Federalists, which were also designated as the Democratic Republicans, which was led and created by none other than Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, developed ideas of strong states, agrarian society and a weaker centralized government. What made this system difficult, or troubling, was that, from the start, there was always a contest, behind the scenes, for actual support.
It should be recalled that George Washington basically walked into the Presidency, he neither solicited, nor was he required to do more than accept the unanimous election, which alleviated the burden of exactly who was in charge, but it left unanswered a number of serious questions which were to later,...and up to this day, prove vexing. John Adams, who was Vice President under Washington, realized that it was to be a fight to become the second president, because during the Presidency of Washington, the differences between parties and between individuals grew, Adams, although strongly affiliated with the the Federalists, was placed in a position to oppose the Anti-Federalist Party, despite the fact they had been, although grudgingly. allies and even patriots together during the war.
By todays standards, this election was unusual, in that it's candidates did not campaign, Adams and Thomas Pinckney, a South Carolinian, chosen by the Federalist leadership, and seemingly, without the approval of John Adams, did not even really leave home, and were reliant upon the belief that it was through their actions, record and merit to the nation that they sought to be elected by the true rulers of the nation, the voters. Thomas Jefferson, on the Republican, Anti-Federalist side, also stayed well out of the debates, and was seen as the only choice to have merit, but his running-mate, Aaron Burr, was actively meeting with electors, pressing his services as strongly as he could, creating the first actual prominent seeking of office by a candidate. I feel, at this point, it is also appropriate to dispense a bit of advice about ambition, pride and how the fact Mr. Burr was soon to be, in 1804, involved in a duel which would leave his rival duelist, Alexander Hamilton, the Federalist former Secretary of the Treasury, dead, and Burr, who did, in fact, gain Vice Presidency for one term, under Jefferson in 1801, but here, we discuss the second election, and NOT the third.
In the second election, it was the parties, with the exception of Aaron Burr, who did the campaigning, on the side of the Federalists, it was Alexander Hamilton who did a good deal of the networking, strategy, and, possibly, dealing in marketing, half-truths and innuendo to infer that Jefferson was a "stooge" of France, and that he had made "deals" to insure the election of Pinckney with Southern Electors. In the end, when all the political intrigue, personal battles and hair-pulling were over, it was Adams who won a comfortable margin, at 71, and Jefferson, with 69, who got Vice Presidency. Chances are that the events and problems of this contest added fuel to the fire of the Hamilton-Burr duel, which led , as said earlier, to the death of Hamilton, and the end of Burr's political career.
If there is a decent lesson in this, it should be on the promulgation and support of parties, which, even among friends, can be a divisive, rowdy, and corrupt affair, further, it has developed to the point that it has become a greater threat to the rule of law, ethics and, in fact, has always been a distasteful and hard to manage affair because so much depends upon, not facts, rules and order, but opinions, deception, and the necessity to govern by popular vote. It is the case that once elected, it is up to the elected official to define themself as adhering to the needs of the voter, the needs of the party, or to use their office to their own ends. It is that one part which we have failed, as a nation, to adhere to the stipulation that an elected official should, and is, in fact sworn to support their constituency, but then we fail to make them define that constituency, as to whether it is political party, voter and electors, or personal ends which determine their goals. In many ways, this failing has it's roots in the second election of President, the fact that we failed to define who was qualified to run, loosely made the position one which was determined as a role which could be "sold" as a campaign, left to strategize without regard to results or options, but rather "personality" and political leanings.
In short, it is neither the political parties, nor the politicians which have created the problems, but rather, that we have left them to do the work of statesmen, stateswomen, and legitimate lawmakers which govern us by "popular" vote, and not by skilled training, the "Ideals" put forward by John Adams, that the voters should follow the principles of choosing the official in terms of "merit, virtue and public spirit" have created the problem that we allow parties to define these terms in ways not connected to actual actions, but rather set them as lofty principles, which will never be used as realistic guides. The two-party system was originated as a means of holding different views, and values, maintain law and work in context to create a workable government of disparate members who can come together to do work that benfits all, and not to define themselves as belonging to an ideology or opinion. What we fail to recognize is that patriotism is a concrete idea of determination to be a part of a whole, and that government built upon that goal should strive to separate itself from participating in divisive, uninclusive, and partisan policies, procedures and laws. Creation of laws which segregate, manipulate, or disenfranchise liberty was, last time I checked, unconstitutional, and so, lawmakers who work against the elevation of equality, fairness, and seek to lessen the freedoms, values and liberties of one group above another neither understand the meaning of the Constitution, and are clearly breaking their vows to uphold it. The problem is, how do we make lawmakers abide by the promises they make?
Perhaps it begins with the creation of parties,...we have had many, and it is the basic fact that most parties, such as the original Anti-Federalists, which later became the Democratic Republicans, which later became the Jeffersonaian Democrats, which has mutated into whatever it is now, usually begins as an oppositional party to some other organization, and for what it is worth, It seems we now need an oppositional party to politicians in general, and I do not mean a bunch of disenchanted voters who feel abandoned by their party, who have seemingly developed overnight into a mindless throng of "Mad Hatters," aimlessly trying to follow anything in opposition. I refer to organizing, not along party or policy, which seldom, if ever, leads to the goal initially envisioned, but to organize along the lines of learning to be better voters, better electors, and finalizing the work that the Founding Fathers never felt they could organize and accomplish, to create a knowledgable electorate, which can make it's own decisions, and not be fooled by partisan pandering, moaning, lies, and disinformation. Until we try and assault the bastions of ignorance, and pursuade voters to think, act, vote, and involve themselves in the process, there is little hope that the shortcomings of political parties, which are little more than marketing and advertising for people who failed in business, were lukewarm or too shallow for academic life, or not able to pass as CEO's or just plain had too much money and ambition.