If you were taking a stroll down the street and asked any average American to describe our government, it’s quite likely that they would hatefully bring up the rising debt, political deadlocks and hate-filled campaign seasons. They would also probably mention the splitting of voters and our country between the two political parties– Republican and Democratic.
Can we really blame the average American for thinking that way? Many people, whether citizens or not, especially millennials, put the blame on our political parties. They think If only the Democrats and Republicans could get along and hear each other out, we wouldn’t have these problems. They think If we eliminated political parties from the system completely, we would be better off and be more close to a real democracy. Kinda like ancient Greece. We do copy them Greeks on many things… When discussing his friends frustration on the parties, David Cole writer for the Odyssey says, I have many friends and acquaintances who are completely unaffiliated with politics, simply because they hate the parties and believe their existence is the sole reason our government can’t seem to agree on anything. When it comes to citizens, In fact, many people cite this famous George Washington quote:
However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things…by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion (Goodreads.com).
Pretty deep… Washington wanted our new nation to avoid parties altogether. Clearly, the man most Americans credit for the birth of our country and the man they worship for his leadership would know what he’s talking about.
If only we had listened to Washington… we probably wouldn’t be in this mess today, where nobody agrees on anything and the government can never get its act together! but is this accurate? Are political parties really to blame for our mess in the government? No.
Most definitely the founders of our amazing nation wouldn’t have wanted such a broken, divided system. What if I could prove to you that political parties are actually good for America? And not only that but the removing of political parties to clean the system would actually be harmful and it would be better for America if we strengthened their influence.
First let’s take a look at U.S. history from the beginning, specifically that George Washington quote mentioned earlier on. The modern political parties appear nothing like the parties that existed during Washington’s time. In the late 1700’s, Political parties were not built into the government system, like ours is today. Parties only arose as radical movements in European systems, like the British Parliament. Typically, they consisted of people who wanted to overthrow the current system of government, and replace it with a completely new one where they themselves were in charge. This dictative, rebellious type of political party was the type of political party Washington was warning against, not the modern kind that we have today, which had not yet been invented.
The constitution is pretty much America’s owners manual– it explains the procedures that elected officials in all three branches must go through to exercise their powers. It tells congress how to make laws, it tells the president what they cannot and can do, and it explains how the courts are to function. On the flip side, it says little about how we are to elect these officials. Political Parties are the “unofficial” institutions (kind of like your Mom telling you how to raise a kid properly because we all know theres not one manual that explains it all) intended to fill that gap, and connect the voters with the big league fellows in our nation’s capital.
If parties were nonexistent, there would be no way to connect the voter with Washington, especially in a country of 325.7million. Even the founding fathers agreed that direct democracy would never work in an area larger than a small village, as too many conflicting opinions would prevent anything from getting done. Which is beyond true. It’s also extremely hard for our representatives, some representing over one million voters per district, to be our voice accurately in congress. Political parties help to give us as voters the voice that would otherwise be lost in a sea of similar but diverse opinions. As people, if we want to see something changed on the federal level, it is natural to assume that we get connected to people who want to see the same change. Parties provide that direct line, and that network of voters who want to see similar change. These parties were so effective throughout U.S. history that they were given a special place in the electoral process: At their own conventions, party members were to decide and nominate candidates to run for president. This gave the average American person actual power that they could carry as identified party members. Throughout the 1800s and up to the turn of the Century, parties flourished.
During the progressive era of the early 1900s, many forward-looking Americans viewed parties as a breeding ground of corruption. Progressives decided to neuter them by introducing the primary system. Instead of deciding candidates at the respective conventions, parties were now to hold primary elections, in where anybody could decide to run for president, and in turn any identified party member could vote for that candidate to run in the general election against the other party. This took the power away from party leadership, and placed it in the hands of the average American: it was direct democracy at its finest. But as some things seem too good to be true, it did come with consequences.
Rather then decide at the conventions, the primary elections required prospective candidates to announce their campaigns far in advance. They also allowed anybody with enough wealth and influence to run for president, regardless of how the party leadership felt about them. This soon led to demagoguery and only those with enough money and power could run for president. Previously unknown candidates, also known as a dark horse for president are now next to impossible.
Without the monster sized power they once had, at the turn of the century, the existence of both the Democrats and the Republicans was threatened. The parties soon realized that the only way they could continue to bring people to their respective parties was to focus on ideology, and lay out a moral and personal cause for people to vote for their candidates. throughout the next few decades the conservative beliefs fell close to the republicans, and the liberals fell close with the Democrats. Due to the emphasis on ideology over direct policy is the issue, not the existence of the parties themselves. Another thing to consider is that it may be appropriate to blame the primary system for the demagogue political elites and loudmouthed billionaires (cough cough Donald Trump) who are currently running for president or elected presidents.
In conclusion, giving the parties the power to actually nominate candidates at their own conventions, rather than to automatically approve candidates without proper consideration as primary winners, would most definitely be a good start. Many Americans don’t realize that the parties were not necessarily built on conservative and liberal ideology, and were once just a vehicle for policy change and voter choice. Eliminating parties would do nothing but mute American citizen voice to express their concerns on a local, state and national scale yet conservative and liberal viewpoints would remain the same regardless. It’s the ideology and emotions that has us trapped. Not the Democrats and the Republicans.
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