Post-Partisan America

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That’s me around the time I knew Basil, in a spontaneous class with a group of kids at a picnic… a portent of things to come.

Basil was a good friend of mine when I was in college at Southern Illinois University (SIU) in the 70’s.  We did everything together.  We studied together.  Played racquetball together. Played saxophone together.  We talked about women together.  We were partners for a year in a human anatomy dissection lab as a way to prepare for med school.  We had all the same scores and grades.   We were like brothers.  We applied to the same med schools.  On the first round of applications, Basil got into med school and I didn’t.

For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why.  I was happy for him, because I knew how hard he worked and I knew he would be a great doctor.  But, I couldn’t figure out what he did that I didn’t.

SIU had an Affirmative Action program that accepted Basil’s scores for admission, but not mine. I eventually got in after another try.  I’m still glad Basil got in when he did.  I have no resentment about it.  My point is to illustrate the on-going struggle every democratic society is involved in: finding the balance between Equality and Liberty.

One of the main functions of democratic goverment is to make sure the conditions needed for self-improvement are equally distributed.  If we are going to race, we have to start from the same starting line and finish at the same finish line.  This post is not about Affirmative Action.  But, Affirmative Action is a good example of the country wrestling with the balance between Equality and Liberty.   It’s an example of an attempt to level the playing field of opportunity for those who have been historically denied access to resources to advance themselves.

Equality is about equal conditions for progress applying to everyone. We can discuss whether Affirmative Action is the best way to achieve Equality.  We can debate if there are ways to fine tune the system, but the basic premise of needing to establish a level playing field should not have to be defended. Equality is a necessary “self-evident” good in society, as Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence.

Since government sets the rules that create the conditions we live under as we pursue our happiness, government is responsible to establish Equality in a democracy. Equality is a necessary good.  A healthy society requires it.  But, it is not an unlimited good.  At some point, a government’s intervention to create fair conditions in society will eventually infringe on the ability of some to rise on their own merit.  Equality, in the extreme, infringes on individual Liberty.

To say government is the problem in all circumstances is to fundamentally misunderstand the essential role government has in establishing equality.  So, on the one hand, we must have a social contract that provides for equal opportunity and access to resources.  But, on the other hand, we must be sensitive to government intrusion beyond what is healthy.

In my case with Basil, the government’s effort to establish social equality had a direct effect on my progress.  More exactly, it opened the door more easily for Basil.   (I’m fine with that.)  Some have argued that government  interventions like Affirmative Action are unfair “reverse discrimination” to “punish” those who are not from an historically disadvantaged group and withhold their entry into jobs, schools and social positions, due to factors they have no control over, like their race, religion, ethnic group, etc..  Others might argue that the sum of the advantages and privileges of the majority are such that to allow for easier access of the historically oppressed is an act of historic correction, and therefore, justifiable.

I’m not argung for or against Affirmative Action.  I’m simply raising the point that the discussion about Affirmative Action is a perfect example of a society trying to find the balance between the need for social Equality and the right to individual Liberty.

There is a famous court case, “The University of California v Bakke,” in which the Supreme Court decided in a situation, not unlike my own, that schools could have special preferences for accepting minority students as long it didn’t also infringe on the rights of majority students.  This is a great example of how a society should grant Equality to all, but in proportion to what is Just for all.  Equality is balanced by Liberty to create Justice.

It is when the pursuit of Equality is excessive that we see bizarre and tyrannical intrussions into our private lives.  Here’s a great example from my former home-state.  A U.S. District Court judge slapped a 500 dollar fine on a  Massachusetts fisherman for untangling a whale from his fishing nets.  The whale would have died without his intervention.  His crime?  According to the court, he was supposed to call state authorities and wait for them to do it.  The right of the state to regulate the equal access of the public to wildlife, however good that goal might be, was carried to excess by an irrational egalitarian law.

The point is made again with the British Petroleum/Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.  Good friends of mine own a series of hotels along the Gulf Coast in Pensacola, FL (The beaches are pristine and gorgeous!  Check them out on your next vaction: here).  In this situation the Liberty of a corporation to pursue its goals went without adequate safeguards of the public interest.

Here, the idea of Liberty went amok.  Liberty is a necessary good.  It is your right to use your God-given talents and abilities in your pursuit of happiness. But, at some point, your pursuit of happiness is going to run up against someone else’s pursuit of their happiness.  So, while Liberty is a necessary good, it is not an unlimited good.  Liberty has to be moderated by the requirements of Equality: the need for protecting the “public commons” so everybody has the same shake in life.

BP was running its business in an under-regulated environment.  That led to hotels, like my friend’s in Pensacola, shrimping boats, restaurants and all manner of businesses having their Liberty to conduct business and pursue happiness infringed upon.  The excessive Liberty of BP led to the denial of Liberty to tens of thousands of others.

So, Liberty, while it is a necessary good, is not an unlimited good.  It requires the moderating effects of Equality to stike the balance of Justice. The balance a country strikes between the pursuit of Liberty and the conditions of Equality is that nation’s position on Justice.  Justice is the balance between these two necessary but opposing natural goods: Equality and Liberty.

In America, the protectors of Equality are those on the Left politcally, in party terms, the Democrats. The protectors of Liberty are those on the political Right, the Republicans.  Democrats want to ensure that the government protects the common space we all share.  They want to ensure equal opportunity for all.  Republicans want to ensure that each individual can rise to the heights they aspire to.  They don’t want any encumberances on their Liberty.

Once a Rigid Identity takes hold of the notion of Liberty or Equality, it is turned to its extreme: Egalitarianism or Libertarianism.  The more political parties become entrenched in either Libertarian or Egalitarian goals, the less are our chances of being able to achieve a Just society. So, the psychology of the Rigid Identity has a a social-political effect.

What has happened in this country is that those on the far Left and far Right have taken a necessary good (Equality or Liberty) and turned it into an absolute good exclusive of its opposite.  The result is an out of balance public dialogue that is tragically and unnecesarily conflictual and pushes the goal of a Just society out of our reach.  We have especially seen Liberty become worshipped at the expense of Equality.  “Drill-Baby, drill!” with little regard for public safety, for example.

In a kind of politcal fundamentalism, no consideration can be given by the far Right to any suggestion of government intervention to ensure the necessary balance provided by Equality.   So, we wind up with a privately “regulated” health care system that excludes over 40 million people.  That means we endurea real human cost and risk to the nation as inadequate health care and poor health drags on other public services and limits productivity and increases, innecessarily, human misery.  It is not, in the interests of a private corporation to provide care for all as its goals are to maximizes its Liberty to make a profit.  This is why government is needed to protect the public commons.  It is not in the interest of business to do so.

Historically, this is why the government has covered certain areas of our lives under the umbrella of “human services.”  These human services provide government support in critical areas of life to ensure that inequalities would not be created in society from excessive Liberty from the private sector that has no motive to protect the common welfare.  Education and health care are the two chief examples of areas of the public’s life under the umbrella of human services.

The current health care debate is an example of trying to get more people under that umbrella.  There has been a shift in government to curb the Liberty of health care corporations in order to expand the Equality of access to and quality of care.

When we have extremes from the Right or Left, the basic concerns of the other side become minimized or disregarded altogether.  For instance, from the Right we see little consideration being given to the possibility of government spending to stimulate the economy while we are in a calamitous economic recession, or to the public obligations of banks and millionaire private citizens to pay taxes.

A nuanced conversation on how to responsibly stimulate the economy and then work to reduce the deficit is not even on the table as rigid partisan positions prevent a comprehensive examination of possibilities to fit our current situation.   One-size-fits-all answers are all that can be entertained due to partisan rigidity.

Life just doesn’t work that way.  Each situtation has it’s own demands.  Partisan politics limits our problem solving approach to one prescribed answer to all illnesses.  In medicine, if a doctor prescribed the same thing for all patients no matter their disease, we would consider this malpractice.  You wouldn’t accept that from a doctor.  Yet, extreme partisans offer the same solution to every nuanced problem.  If we wouldn’t accept that from a doctor, why do we accept it from a politician?  If a doctor is guilty of medical malpractice if they diagnosis every person that comes to them with appendicitis and prescribes surgery as the treatment to everyone, no matter what the problem, why do we accept from politicians a rigidly simple diagnosis to every social ill and the same prescription to every complex problem?  Why is this not political malpractice?

Good arguments can be made to limit government spending, corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthy.  But, we are in a climate where the need for spending to stimulate the economy and reform corporate and high end personal taxes are off the table simply for ideological partisan reasons.  Any time you see this absolutism one has to ask if one is following a dogma that prevents a comprehensive assessment of a problem.  The same, of course, can be said of the Left that refusals to consider unshackling entrepreneurs from unnecessary and harmful over-regulation and the wanton expansion of entitlements.

In a growing segment of society, we have a dogmatic-like worship of Liberty to the exclusion of Equality.  Therefore, by extension, the country  has a fundamentalist-like worship of laissez-faire free-enterprise as the system that is the social expression of pure Liberty.  (Just as Communsm is the expression of pure Equality)  So, many say health care, for instance, can only be managed by private businesses and not government, even though government is the only protector of the common playing field (and manages MediCare at far less cost and greater efficiency than insurance companies do, contrary to rhetoric to the contrary.)

On the far Left, the opposite situation reigns.  Government is seen as the sole arbiter of the economy and social life.   The answer to problems is said to only be found in government regulation and the expansion of entitlements to ensure Equality of conditions for everyone.   But, if left unchecked, the evils of excessive centralization raises its ugly head.  In the extremes, an Egalitarian society eventually becomes entirely centralized and tyrannical, like the Soviet Union.

Of course, the US is nowehere near this extreme, although those on the far right paint any move to establish Equality as a slippery slope toward Communism and a violation of sacred Liberty.  There is a naive assertion commonly heard that any effort at promoting Equality will inevitaby lead to Communism, as if people had no capacity to for balance and proportion.   In fact, the ideas of balance  and proportion are missing from our social and political discourse.  What is important is to assess the balance between Liberty and Equality, not to outright condemn any movement to expand Liberty as purely selfish and any movement toward Equality as purely communistic.  With an eye toward Justice, we can assess the value of both positions as each situation dictates.

To be sure, an unchecked pursuit of Equality results in ludicrous examples of government intrussion into the private lives of individuals.

When Equality has run amok, answers to problems that can come from the flexibility, ingenuity and initiative of individuals are squelched by layers of bureaurocracy and regulation.  The goal of achieving a level playing field can cripple the climate for growth and civility, the very things Equality is designed to protect and nurture.  Equality and centralization of power need to be checked by Liberty and the rights of individuals.

In America, the functions of Liberty and Equality, the Right and Left, have been relegated to political parties: Republicans and Democrats, respectively.  Does this have to be the case?  Can the discussion of the needs of Liberty and Equality happen without political parties?  I think so.

In fact, I think we could have more effective political discussions without the rigid stances of the parties that set up a conflictual false dichotomy between Equality and Liberty when we should be looking for balance between them.

Partisanship reduces complex issues to two sides.  Problems with multiple parts are wrongly squeezed into a duality that misses the complexity of the whole problem.  The opposing side’s arguments are entirely discounted.   This is disasterous when trying to create laws. HALF of the issues involved in effectively solving a problem can be entirely neglected in would-be solutions arrived at by a partisan legislature.  This can only lead to more problems and fanning more extremism.

The quality of a discussion that assumes that a balance can be struck between the demands of Liberty and Equality is far superior to one in which, at the outset, partisan sides have drawn up rigid positions with the intention of doing battle.

Remember, the Weakened Identity and the Rigid Identity create mindsets that defend bias.  In the survival mode of thinking they create, the mind is not open to view the world as anything but a threat.  So, easily resolvable problems are turned into complex battles.  Complex problems are overly simplified into opposite extremes with the expectation of a battle between the two.  We have assumed that this kind of conflict is necessary and even good.  We assume we are principled when w say we will only stand for pure Liberty (as a Republican) or pure Equality (as  Democrat), when in fact we have defined ourselves as rigid extremists.  Our goal should be Justice through the balance of Liberty and Equality as either of them exclusively lead to an unjust society.

It’s a good thing to allow differences of opinion to clash to find the spark of truth.  But, it is the narrow and biased thinking of Weakened and Rigid Identities when viewed through the lens of partisanship that prevents the search for the sparks.

The solutions that come from an assumption of balance between Equality and Liberty are far more likely to actually solve problems.   We’ll talk about how the Compassionate Identity creates this balance in the following posts and in my upcoming book.

There are real limitations in the kind of solutions we can arrive at both in our private lives and politically when we argue from a Rigid or Weakened Identity, and by extension, the Left or the Right, as we see so clearly in the governmental paralysis caused by the partisan clashes of the day.  To seek compromise between rigid partisan extremes is not the same as a solution that comes from a comprehensive balance of all factors involved in an issue.

Our partisan system creates solutions to problems that perpetuate the problems we want to solve.  What is needed is a new post-partisan approach that seeks to create a movement of balance toward a Just society and not seek the impossible and highly dangerous extremes of a Libertarian or Egalitarian society.

The extremes we see in partisan politics in the US are preventing the natural and necessary discussion about how to balance the requirements of Liberty and Equality.  By insisting that any government regulation or intervention must always be resisted, the far right of the Republican Party and especially the extreme elements of the Tea Party have adopted a fundamentalist theology more than a politcal doctrine.

By refusing to allow an assessment of how to relax unnecessary government regulation, the far Left of the Democrats in this country indulges the same fundamentalist excess. Egalitarians and Libertarians both miss the point that Equality and Liberty must be balanced by the other.   The balance of Justice is made of the two “pans” of Equality and Liberty.

Washington alluded to this in his farewell address when he said that the “Sprit of Party” was the “greatest enemy” of a government, especially an elected government.   “It [partisanship] serves always to distract the Public Councils and enfeeble the Public Administration.”

We are grown up enough now as a country to have the discussion of the balance of Liberty and Equality without the shackles of political parties and rigid notions of Left and Right that lock us into extremes in our political discourse.  The false dichotomies political parties set up create in us the sense that there is no balanced whole in our national life.

We are forever feeling as if we must battle each other in our pursuit of happiness.  There is nothing inevitable and necessary about partisanship and the conflict it produces.  There is a better way.  Partisanship is a nineteenth century idea whose time has come and gone.  Political parties may have been helpful in the nation’s childhood to frame issues in the public’s mind.  But, to Washington, this benefit was outweighed by the negative costs of inefficiency, corruption and divisiveness.

I wonder if we might all benefit from a good look at Washington’s warning to us and find new ways to engage in the discussion of the dialectic between Equality and Liberty in the pursuit of the Just society.

Adolescence is about independence.  We have been through our adolescence as a nation.  Adulthood is about reciprocity and balance.  As a mature nation, perhaps we need a Declaration of Interdependence and a putting away of partisan ways to reach for a more whole and balanced approach to our national discourse.

We’ll start on the Compassionate Identity next with this post:  The Compassionate Identity: “What Sue Remembers.”

Related Posts:

George Washington:  Partisanship is the Country’s “Worst Enemy”

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All Rights Reserved, John Woodall, MD, Copyright, 2011

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Comments (11)

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  1. linda says:

    An excellent argument for discarding an antiquated system that has promoted divisiveness.

  2. John says:

    Hi Linda. Thanks for your comment.

  3. John says:

    I received some thoughtful comments by e-mail about the Tea Party.

    In part, the comments read: “The Tea Party consists of just those people who do not want the all or nothing, they simply want to return to basics and the constitutional basis this country was founded on. This is a far cry from the far left and far right, Dems and Reps. One might even refer to them as the “common sensers”.

    Having a desire to get back to basics and actually getting back to basics are two different things. The Tea Party Platform is manifestly libertarian in its formulation. There is nothing egalitarian about it. You can read it here:

    I understand the frustration with government that motivates many in the Tea Party. There is no question, however, that the way they have analyzed the core problems and the solutions they suggest are pure liberatarianism. Limiting the size of government, prohibiting budget deficits, limiting taxes are core libertarian positions. So, my comment stands as is. I would take exception with a political party as far to the left, or egalitarian, as the Tea Party is to the right.

    What would be more helpful is an analysis of the problems we face that makes an attempt to find a balance between equality and liberty, as difficult as that balance will be to strike.

    For instance, every successful business borrows money to build itself. It’s the same with governments, including ours since the time of our founding. At various times in an economic cycle it is important to reign in or expand the borrowing capacity of the government so it can keep the economy moving. If we say the only answer to all economic problems is not to be able to borrow money at all, we have fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the economy and crippled our ability to be flexible in difficult times.

    A great example just happened this week. The government financing (pejoratively called a “bailout”) of Chrysler has led to the company turning a profit and the government negotiating the sale of its shares of the company to Fiat for a profit to the American taxpayer. This is a great example of the government spending money to keep the economy moving when the private sector is hurting. The alternative was the company going out of business and millions losing their jobs. A similar story is taking shape with GM. If the government STAYED in the auto business, we would have a form of socialism as far left as the Tea Party is to the right. This would be an imbalance from the left as serious as the Tea Party imbalance is from the right.

    There is no question that we need to reign in the deficit. But when? How? If it is done too soon or with the wrong cuts it can cripple the very expansion we need to grow out of the worst recession in 70 years. A sudden cut in taxes and spending in 1938 led to a worsening of the Great Depression. During times of economic contraction, the government needs to step in to keep the economy liquid, as with Chrysler. When the economy is expanding, the government can decrease its place in the market and let the private sector do its thing.

    My point is a partisan stance does not allow this flexibility. If, as a physician, I diagnosed every patient with appendicitis and prescribed surgery, I would badly treat most of my patients. I would be guilty of malpractice. Yet, for some reason, we accept political doctors who tell us that every probelm we face as a country has one diagnosis and one prescription. This is political malpractice.

    For those with a partisan bent, the only answers when things get bad is to become more extreme in partisanship. Ironcially, this move to the extreme is called a, “return to basics.” But, the “basics” they return to always leave out 50% of the facts. The Left “returns to the basics” of pure equality. The Right “returns to the basics” of pure Liberty. The Left leaves out the requirements of liberty. The Right leaves out the requirements for equality. So, the return to basics is not that at all. It is a movement to the extremes.

    Basics would really include a non-partisan examination of the facts, a consideration of the demands of liberty and equality and then an application of the best strategies that meet this assessment. Starting from a partisan stance be it Democratic, Republican, Tea Party or Bull Moose prevents this from happening in a thorough way, if at all.

    Partisanship, including the Tea Party Platform, are forms of political malpractice. They offer one unchanging diagnosis and one unchanging prescription for every problem. Why should we do this to ourselves? This inflexibility is bad politics just as it is bad medicine. We would never accept this from a physician and would avoid the doctor who practiced this way.

    We can address the needs of liberty and equality without any parties at all. That, by the way, would be in keeping with our constitution which makes no provision for any political parties.

  4. Deborah says:

    No where does the Tea Party insist on eliminating the government entirely. In fact, they believe the Federal government is extremely important to the sovereignty of the country. I believe you and I are in agreement regarding the two extremes. I believe if the Tea Party were Libertarian, these people would have joined the Libertarian Party, not create a new party with the same platform as the Libertarians. Even the Boston Tea Party wasn’t suggesting eliminating all the taxes, only when taxes became so burdensome did the tea industry and other businesses during that time began to sink under the ever increasing taxes the King imposed. “The Tea Party was the culmination of a resistance movement throughout British America against the Tea Act, which had been passed by the British Parliament in 1773. Colonists objected to the Tea Act for a variety of reasons, especially because they believed that it violated their right to be taxed only by their own elected representatives.” Wikipedia. In other words, they wanted more local control where taxes were more likely to be used for the benefit of city and state and not by another country. The Tea Party is not advocating an extreme position against the Federal Gov’t., just the out of control spending and deficit we are currently experiencing. My point is merely that including the Tea Party as the only example when many “parties” and political organizations exist on the right and left is making a statement that takes away from the universal language I was under the assumption you were using to get away from those extremes. Again, I am not a Tea Party member, but my position still stands, I undoubtedly do not believe they are performing political malpractice as you may believe or that they are radical in nature as the mainstream media would have the country believe. I believe these people are made up of hard working people who would be more likely to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps as lean on the government to provide for their basics unless it was to protect their right to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and bring justice to those who impose on those rights. There is no simple solution and I will let the Tea Party define their own platform, however, defining a platform should not automatically, particularly one that promotes balancing our national budget, label them as a form of “politcal malpractice”. There is no question Libertarians like the Tea Party because it steers away from “progressive politics” which has infiltrated both the Democrat and Republican Party. If you were to ask them, their opinion would probably be that progressivism is politcal malpractice. Sticking with universal language helps from muddying the waters, much like this discourse between us, may do.

  5. John says:

    Thanks for your comments.

    The platform of the Tea Party is libertarian in philosophy. Since Jefferson, political philiosophies got embodied in political parties. Both Washington and Adams appealed to the nation to not do this. They felt that political philosophies could be debated without the limitations and evils created by political parties (their words, not mine.) That is the bottom line of my post. We can have the discussion about political philosophies without the limitations imposed by parties, any party.

    My blog post includes a comment on the libertarian philosophy behind the Tea Party and its platform. It is not a partisan comment. It is not a divisive comment. It is simply a fact. Minimizing the size of government and devolving government to the local level are the hall marks of the libertarian philosophy. This is simply a statement of fact. That is what libertarianism is. By the Tea Party adopting this perspective, they are by definition a libertarian movement.

    This philosophy of libertarianism is in opposition to an “egalitarian” philosophy that would place more emphasis on government providing more services in an attempt to level the playing field to give people an equal starting point and make sure that the same rules apply for everyone. Libertarianisn is the opposite to egalitarianism. The Tea Party is clearly not egalitarian. It is libertarian. Again, this is not a critical comment. It is simply fact.

    I am making an essential distinction between political philosophy and partisanship. I am not making a comment about a specific political party so much as saying that all partisanship, ALL partisanship, is political malpractice because it narrowly diagnoses the nature of the problems we face and narrowly prescribes solutions.

    Your comment on what the Tea Party is for makes my point. The problem has been defined by the Tea Party as a too large government and too many taxes. This assessment (correct or not) comes from a libertarian perspective. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. It just is libertarian. That is the political philosphy behind a statement like that. Specific solutions that come from this perspective will now be narrowed by this perspective. That is my point. This narrowing is not only unnecessary, it is harmful. Since it is unnecessarily limiting both the diagnosis of problems and the prescription for solutions, I call ALL partisan approaches to solving complex social problems “malpractice.”

    This is not intended to insult anyone. Well intentioned people can be led into avenues of political activity that are not in their best interest. I am writing this precisely because good hard working people who want to see their government work effectively and who want to be proud of their country need to be aware of the severe limitations of partisan politics.

    There may be times when the nation needs a more libertarian emphasis in government. There may be times when it needs a more egalitarian emphasis. More often, a balance between them is required. Parties of any sort prescribe one only solution for all situations. For this reason they are guilty of political malpractice, just as a doctor would be guilty of medical malpractice for prescribing the same medicine for all illnesses.

    It is exactly true that government needs to be limited. But it is not the whole truth. Government also needs to protect equal access to resources and opprtunities. It has to be sure a privileged few don’t run away with the economy. This point of view is “egalitarian.” So, my sense is, that many who ascribe the the Tea Party also want these things. But the Tea Party is NOT for those things, as it’s platform does not mention them. That is because the Tea Party is libertrian. There is no effort in its platform to include egalitarian concerns, no matter what Tea Party members or supporters might want.

    The same issues would be true of an egalitarian party. ( There isn’t one in existence now that matches on the left the far right position of the Tea Party. But, a stance that says that the government should be more involved than it is now to solve ALL the problems we face, and then automatically prescribed more taxes and more regulation as the solution to ALL problems would be as far to the left as the Tea Party is to the right. I would have the same objections to this egalitarian (you use the word “progressive”) approach as it would show that partisanship from the left had limited the discussion about finding the balance between liberty and equality.

    This is my point. Well intended people can be mislead by partisanship. Partisanship excludes the other half of the discussion no matter what party you belong to.

    I mention the Tea Party in the post exactly because it is prominant in the news and precisely because spokespeople for the party have crafted a platform that is clearly and unmistakably libertarian. My point in the article was to simply state this fact.

    Finally, the point about malpractice is not directed at people. It is about arbitrarily constructed political parties. Political parties are, as George Washington said, the country’s “worst enemy.” Washington’s words, not mine. I completely agree with him. We owe it to ourselves to understand why he said this so we can gain from the wisdom of the Father of our Country.

    John Adams, our second President and major architect of and spokesperson of the philosophy behind our democracy, warned against political parties in his inaugural and asked that Americans not, “lose sight of the danger to our liberties if anything partial or extraneous should infect the purity of our free, fair, virtuous, and independent elections.” We have gone in exactly the opposite direction.

    The founders did not want political parties to “infect” our political life. James Madison, who wrote most of the Constitution and authored many of the Federalist Papers describing the philosophy behind our government and the intention of the founders, hoped that the separation of powers between the three branches of government would limit the pull toward partisanship which all the founders felt would corrupt the government and imperil our society by allowing the government to be controlled by interest groups with power and money.

    Here is the irony. Many in the Tea Party likely would agree that special interests and extremism are hurting the country. But, the platform the leadership of the Tea Party have put forward for the party is decidedly and emphatically far right. It is libertarian. As a result, it will never focus on these egalitarian concerns. So, the best intentions of people are tragically being directed toward an extreme that will only worsen the problems. This is because those concerns have been pushed through a partisan filter. My hope would be that these well intended people would not look to ANY party for answers.

    We are now so used to political parties that we can barely imagine our government without them. This is despite the fact that they were seen as dangerous by our founders and they were expressly left out of the Constitution. Challenging the validity of political partisanship is not an attack on people. It is the opposite. It is a defense of the people from vested interests that parties represent. I am with Washington, Adams and Madison.

  6. Deborah White says:

    My purpose for bringing the point of naming names, in particular the Tea Party, to your attention is the possibility that doing so may label you, by your audience, as partisan. If that were to be the outcome, then I believe it obfuscates your main point, which I completely agree with, and that is the tendency for human nature to identify with extreme positions, in this case political positions, which you have so eloquently identified, while undergoing a personal or collective transition from a catastrophic event.

    I am not trying to argue with you about the nature of the Tea Party per se, only that by identifying them and singling them out in your hypothesis, correctly or not, puts you and your efforts behind a filter whereby you can now be classified, again correctly or not, as somewhat partisan.

    I don’t think that is your intention, particularly since you are advocating distancing yourself from this measure and returning to original intentions that relied on a more universal, truth filled language. i.e. Washington, Adams and Madison.

  7. John says:

    Thanks for the thoughts. I’m willing to take my chances if after posting two blog posts on post-partisanship and writing on the evils of partisanship and then posting extensive comments on the non-partisan nature of my posts using historical and political philosphy to back up my comments, if someone still reads my comments as partisan because I name political parties, then they either have not read my posts, or they have such strict standards that there is likely nothing I can say that both keeps the integrity of my points and satisfies them. Naming the Tea Party as libertarian is not a partisan comment. It is a statment of fact. If someone wants to label me a partisan for doing so after all that has been explained, then they are free to.

  8. Deborah White says:

    Point taken. I agree that after thoroughly clarifying your position on post partisan America and the Tea Partie’s platform as political malpractice you have expelled any thought of yourself as partisan

  9. Deborah White says:

    The work you and your colleagues have done for the suffering all over the world is to be commended. Splitting hairs over political comments absolutely does not take away from your good works.

  10. John says:

    Hi Frank. It doesn’t seem to be on this end. No music was programmed into the site and none is playing when I am on it. It doesn’t seem to be affecting at least one other user I’ve checked with. I’m not sure what is going on that would result in you hearing music. Maybe you have two windows open at the same time and one has a sound track?

  11. Hooshang says:

    Partisan politics now has poisoned publics world view and attitude generally, gun control is obvious example, be warlike and tough is another. Of course history of US and its civil model should be considered, (Jefferson had 300 slaves). I suggest governments around the world should have a non partisan committee of judges to decide on passing of legislation when parliaments bog down in tug-of-war situations. In Swiss they ask the nation to vote on acts of parliament. Don’t forget promotion of values in general and the ones you speak about and their affect on peoples mentality and attitude is only possible through a modern religion like the Baha’i faith which is based on the principle of oneness of mankind,

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