George Washington, in his farewell address, warned citizens to “discourage and restrain” the “common and continual mischief” of political parties that “agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarm, kindles the animosity of one part against another” and “foments occasionally riot and insurrection.”
While the founders understood human nature and warned of the effects of “faction,” some argue our two-party system was an inevitable consequence of the electoral college and winner-take-all elections; both making the viability of more parties difficult if not impossible.
Would the U.S. benefit from different voting procedures? Maybe. With a more proportional representation system? Maybe. With a parliamentary system where the president is chosen by an elected parliament? Maybe. Citing examples of how politics “works” in other countries fails to acknowledge what are sometimes great differences in history, demographics and cultures.
Is our “political landscape” increasingly vitriolic and divisive because we are effectively limited to the binary choice of either the Democrat or Republican parties? We’ve had a two-party system for most of our history. Today, rather than more choices, we are witnessing a blatant attempt to secure the permanent domination of one party. Think Cuba, China, North Korea, et al (all authoritarian and left-wing, by the way).
Dare it be suggested that, despite political parties purposely kindling “the animosity of one” against the other, our social, civil, and political divisions have more to do with the sacrifice of individual liberty to the collective desires of some, and the continuing centralization of political power to that end?
Sixty years ago, Ronald Reagan said, “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness.” Reagan saw America as a “shining city on a hill,” for all to see.
It cannot be denied the ideals individual liberty, private property, and opportunity that underlie America’s founding have not accrued to all. It’s understandable those for whom the “American Dream” has been made difficult or denied might not see America as a “shining” city. Much remains to be done, but we shouldn’t deny that headway has been made.
In 2008, candidate Barack Obama declared we were “Five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” What did he mean by “fundamentally transforming?” “Fundamental” refers to basic foundational principles and structures. Was he rejecting America’s founding principles of limited government and unalienable individual rights? In a post-election interview, President Obama walked back his rhetoric, but still the substance of the “change” he envisioned remained fundamentally collectivist and therefore incompatible with America’s foundational freedoms.
History has borne out Thomas Jefferson’s assertion that “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.” Progressives will not see it as compromise, but our national political divisions would be lessened if we regionalized and localized most political power as, we should note, was the intent of federalism.
Instead of more parties, how about more options? Maintaining the Bill of Rights while decentralizing power to the states and local communities would allow each area to govern according to the wishes of the people in those locations. So-called “progressive” states and communities could implement their preferred social and economic policies, while those desiring to live by conservative principles and the institutions of civil society will govern in theirs.
Citizens would be free to “vote with their feet,” moving to areas more aligned with their ideals and beliefs. Progressives should agree. After all, it’s the “pro-choice” solution.