When George Washington was persuaded to become the first president of the American project, he expressed concern the spanking new republic could soon become a punching bag for warring parties rather than the vessel for liberty for which he had fought. Washington’s concerns were soon confirmed as he was pulled into and contributed to the maelstrom of factional politics.
Washington became a Federalist and was allied with Alexander Hamilton, Samuel Adams and others who supported a centralized federal government. Opposing this view were those who wanted smaller government with more power reserved for states and individuals. These were the Republicans who were led by James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe.
Elbows sharpened immediately following Washington‘s inauguration. Old alliances ended and new ones formed. Friendships concluded with growing awareness of political differences. Founders became politicians despite reluctance to be so even as our now familiar system was establishing itself by act, precedence and experiment.
This new democracy was shaped by assertive men willing to put their views forward but who also knew the country’s unity hinged on a degree of cooperation. Utter divisiveness could lead to party interests becoming more important than the needs of the people or the health of the nation. Because Washington understood that, national survival, somewhat in question, became reality as the world watched.
Equality of opinion, a new notion then, was protected constitutionally but also by wide public acceptance. “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it,” was born. Some of us still believe in that principle; some no longer, if ever. Perhaps its weight is too much. Maybe conformity of thought on the left is so complete any opposing view is seen as a threat.
While political differences are nothing new, what we are seeing today is, in my opinion, a progression toward total indifference to any contrasting view. There is seemingly no open mindedness or willingness to compromise on anything. Revenge. Come-uppance. Power. Selfishness. These are the tools of partisanship and the means to an elective end. It’s too bad but here we are.
This point could not be more evident than the left’s unfolding effort to hang an impeachment albatross around the president’s neck. A legitimate and necessary constitutional check has become a tool for retribution in the wrong hands. When justice is replaced by political tactics this evident, modern politics has roamed into that muddy field of crippling partisanship most feared by George Washington.
Beating Trump by distracting from his purpose and accomplishments are the real reasons for this ridiculous exercise in democratic distortion. Putting the president in his place and scoring the next election has replaced respect for the electorate and our systemic design. It’s shameless, but are we surprised considering the source?
Sometimes one becomes partisan out of self-defense. Manner of voting is hereafter predetermined.
Larry W. Anderson is a retired educator.