“I can only say that I have contributed towards the organization and administration of the Government, the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable.” ~ President George Washington, from his Farewell Address
Can you ever imagine an American politician in today’s rancorous, partisan political climate making such a statement?
Today’s politician, with very few exceptions, is someone rarely reluctant to see just how far the halls of power will take them.
Today’s politician only rarely answers a question put to them, and usually deflects said question toward a person of the opposite political persuasion, or simply answers the question with a question — thus, never answering the question at all.
You could say, without fear of remonstration from me, I am down on partisan politics. W-a-a-a-a-a-y down!
If you are looking for someone to blame for the political climate in Washington, where precious little gets done and there are half a dozen sides to a two-sided argument on even the most mundane of questions, that will do you little good.
Politics can’t get out of its own way. And, like the father of our country, I lay that blame on political partisanship.
Everyone that resides in the land of the free and the home of the brave need only look to his or her neighbor, and into a mirror, to see who also is partly to blame.
The voting and the nonvoting public, that’s who.
George Washington, who outlasted and beat a far superior British Army during the American Revolutionary War, warned us long, long, long ago what was coming.
Collectively, we didn’t listen.
In 1789, when Gen. George became the first president of the United States of America, there were no political parties.
There were no slick TV ads, no multi-million-dollar organizations with lobbyists trying to pull and tug at Americans to come over to some self-serving point of view.
In 1788, Gen. Washington was coaxed out of retirement to become our first president, and was elected after receiving all 69 of the electoral votes cast.
In 1792, Washington was re-elected, receiving all 132 electoral votes.
Seems hard to imagine any politician on these shores being elected twice, by virtual acclamation.
But in the first halting days of our grand democratic experiment, there were no political parties. And, Americans were blissfully ignorant of what would soon transpire, transporting us from those early days to this day in 2013.
In 1789, the Constitution was a novelty, to us and to the entire world.
Candidates were either Federalists — meaning they supported the ratification of the U.S. Constitution — or Anti-Federalists, who opposed ratification of same said Constitution.
These groups weren’t established political parties. There were no Democrats or Republicans. There weren’t any Know-Nothings or Dixiecrats, no Libertarians or Whigs or Progressives. They were just newly-minted Americans.
Wow, what a concept!
In Washington’s own words from his Farewell Address to the nation, we get the ultimate prophecy:
“ ... 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 finds 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.”
To paraphrase a piece by Dennis Jamison in the Washington Times, this nation’s first president warned that political parties would distract government from its required duty to the people, and lead to the eradication of the freedoms established in our founding.
He goes on to say that America is at the mercy of two powerful political parties, and if a strong candidate wants to be elected to office in this country, one needs to be affiliated with one or the other.
From history past, third-party forays are limited in strength and only serve as spoilers, and many times are far worse than the powerful two.
It is my opinion that were George Washington to suddenly step out of a time machine onto Pennsylvania Avenue and into the nation’s Capitol building, he would hear the venom pouring from the mouths of today’s politicians and immediately step back into history past, when things were simpler and government tried to come together for the good of America, and not for political party.
Sadly, the genius of a George Washington would return to 1789, and shrink from the service of a country he scarcely would recognize.
Christy is news editor at the Enid News & Eagle. Go to his column blog at http://enid news.com/historicallyspeaking