Monday, April 15, 2024

Op-Ed: America’s divide within its political divide

by BIZ Magazine

By William Haupt III | The Center Square contributor

“I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” – Will Rogers

In 1796, as he neared the end of his second term, President George Washington was facing attacks from opponents for his policies so he decided he would not seek a third term in office. In an effort to unite the nation, he drafted his farewell address. In this document, he told the nation to stay unified, resist the rise of political factions and avoid influence of foreign powers.

Congress did not approve the 22nd Amendment limiting a president to two terms until 1947, but Washington saw the writing on the oval office wall. He was ailing and felt if he died in office the people would think the presidency was a lifetime appointment. Instead, he stepped aside, proving to future generations and his critics that he was committed to democracy and not to power.

Washington told the people not to put regional and sectional interests above the nation. “You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together, the Independence and the Liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes. Your Union is a main prop of liberty and the love of the one ought to endear you to the preservation of the other. The ‘Worst Enemy’ of Government is loyalty to a Party.”

Some of America’s top political scientists are expressing grave concerns about the future of the American republic. Their research has identified strong parallels between the U.S. today and those in the 1850s that ended in a Civil War. There is distrust in elections, disinformation campaigns, and a rising secessionist movement. Did we learn anything from the Civil War?

Over the years, the American electorate has increasingly exhibited tendencies associated with failing democracies. About 40% of each party now considers the other party to be a threat to our democracy. Nearly 30% have reached a point where they believe they will see increased political violence by political factions across America. And roughly 70% of both parties believe that our democracy only serves the interests of the wealthy, the powerful and special interests.

“I vote but I don’t think that any political party represents my point of view.” – Rupert Sheldrake

Several measures show Americans are growing more divided. They indicate that the U.S. is polarizing faster than other democracies, with members of Congress ideologically farther apart than they’ve been in five decades. One Pew survey suggested many Americans would like to split the country in half and that either red states or blue states should secede from the union.

Five decades ago, we had moderate Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats working in union for the good of the nation. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was authored by House Republicans who worked with segregationist Senate Democrats. But today, the ideological overlap between the two parties has all but disappeared, with the rise of safe districts with partisan supermajorities.

While activists in both parties have long been polar opposites, but the ideological gap between them has widened in recent decades. With the news media moving further left and sensational postings on social media, our nation is no longer debating facts about politicians and the nation. With all media censoring anything they wish, this has empowered the radical political factions.

Each party has split into groups of zealots who put their agenda before the voters. This forces others within the party to appease them, which results in failure to debate key voter issues. The question is how far left or right these divisions will go, and how long will voters put up with this?

“Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.” – Henry Kissinger

Americans aren’t divided into two camps; far right and far left. That’s why many have become independents. Democracy works best when there is trust between political factions. When that trust erodes, even if the majority prefers democracy, they’ll look for an alternative government.

Factions within the political parties have further divided the two party system. A Black House Republican, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), is being denied membership into the Black Caucus because of his political beliefs. Yet it was the Party of Lincoln that ended slavery in America?

“I am a black American that happens to be a Republican so they won’t let me in.” – Byron Donalds

The Freedom Caucus members are among the most conservative of House Republicans. With several falling on the far right end of the spectrum, it doesn’t publicize its membership. Pew Research Center identified 49 House members or 22% of House Republicans belong to the Freedom Caucus. They ganged up on Kevin McCarthy when he was running for Speaker of the House. With a slim majority in the House, this riff in the party is dangerous for the GOP.

A Reuters review of progressive positions found they have moved the party sharply to the left. Two-thirds of progressives want “Medicare For All,” teaching CRT and LBGTQ sex in schools; free college tuition, liberal prosecutors, less law enforcement, and an increase in federal spending.

Progressives also want all mail-in voting and to take control of elections away from the states.

With over 100 members of Congress admitting that they are self-ordained progressives, this is moving moderate Democrats further left. And with 22% of House Republicans claiming to be members of the Freedom Caucus, we have two divisions within the two party system. This has made bipartisanship a thing of the past as moderates in both parties try to appease all factions.

The University of California at Berkeley conducted a study of both parties and how they react to the others’ perceptions of government. Republicans thought many Democrats would subvert democracy if they had a chance while Democrats retorted all Republicans would do the same.

It may seem impossible to imagine the government without its two political parties. But in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention, delegates purposely omitted reference to political parties in the Constitution. Today we have two political parties and factions with each one dividing them.

Sun Tzu said, “A kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being.” Politics and factions are making it impossible to govern America. If voters continue to elect “factions” instead of statesmen to run Congress, our government will become another African republic. Chaos will displace constitutional law, and America will fade into third world placidity.

The ideology of our founding was man could govern man. And our founders gave us a union of independent states. This lasted and endured during good times and bad. But today, the nation is run by political party factions. Do we really want to give our republic away to these factions?

“In a world divided, we must remember that unity is our greatest strength.” – Audre Lorde

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