Inescapable factions and partisan self-interests
There is no escape clause in the Constitution
In response to my recent Facebook post of Donald Trump’s bullying tweet on May 20 that he would penalize Michigan for sending out absentee ballot applications, calling the very legal move, “Voter Fraud,” a friend of mine replied, “This is why political parties are a bad idea.”
I considered my friend’s conclusion, and while I agree that political parties are spawning grounds for malicious actors to hone their skills, they represent a much deeper problem, one that has been two centuries in the making.
The founders, in various Federalist Papers, warned against “factions” and the corrupting influence they may play (and did play even at the founding).
James Madison, in Federalist 10, defines a faction as “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”
In our current condition, in the iron grip of one of the most brutal factions this country has ever suffered — the Republican Party — we witness daily the adverse actions of that faction, and it will not soon release its grip, no matter the outcome of the November election.
Nor will we be relieved of our burden by any gains of the Democratic Party, which has its own “common impulse” and may be less malign than what we suffer now. But it is no less self-interested.
A democratic republic is a magic-thinking myth
Having worked in and with both parties in my political career, I often wondered how else we might structure a truly democratic republic form of government after becoming so entrenched in, and enamored of, the Gordian Knot of political parties.
It is easy to quote Lincoln’s “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” but it is not so easy to fabricate a practical plan to join together that which has become so debilitated and blind to the needs of the Lincolnian “vision” of a nation with its better angels, etc.
A house divided against itself cannot stand
I fear we have lost our way so much that no plan is possible to join that which refuses to bond. America has never been a fair nation; it has never been a decent and kind and fully-embracing country; it’s history has been written and rewritten by the victors, while those who lost at every turn — from Native Americans to “not-like-us” immigrants, to the poor and elderly, to the simply different — now stand forever in the shadows.
Our self-righteousness is dragging us down
Ecclesiastes 1:2 chastises us with “Vanity of vanities; all is vanities.” As if that was not enough of an admonition, the chapter includes: “I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.”(Eccl. 1:14–15)
Our white vanity and hubristic overseers’ attitudes, our stubborn inability to admit we never really let go of the idea of the divine right of kings and our insistence that “my land is your land, but only if it is really just my land” has dragged us down like anchors on the national soul. And we will not rise to the surface again even for a breath of new thought.
“Vanity of vanities; all is vanity” Ecclesiastes 1:2
There are those who now say we are at a crossroads in our history, a “tipping point” to use the popular phrase. They are wrong. We were at the crossroads, the tipping point, in the 1840s and ’50s. By the time of the inevitable Civil War, we had willingly, with malice aforethought, crossed our own Rubicon and ventured into the land of lost hopes and misbegotten dreams, with no hope of returning to a democratic Garden that never really existed.
We are witnessing America’s end game
Donald Trump is the sum of all our unequal parts; he is the malefactor — the hit man — sent by all our historical missteps to wreak havoc and discord and death upon our body politic. He is the rotting aggregation of all our misplaced “righteousness” when it comes to our inhumanity against all who do not look like us, think like us, act like us, pray like us, accumulate wealth like us, sneer like us, condescend like us, pity like us, hate like us.
It may be possible to remove Trump from office in November, but that won’t solve our problems; Joe Biden won’t solve our problems; a woman president won’t solve our problems. We are in too deep now. How ironic that we are now on our own Trail of Tears.