The current debate between Republicans and Democrats is the exact kind of faction-based republic the Founders were concerned about. George Washington in particular believed that a system of political parties would lead to the downfall of America. A close look at the current political system justifies Washington’s concerns. A perfect example is the passage of the Affordable Care Act; it was passed on an entirely partisan vote, and the fight regarding its implementation has largely been partisan as well. But didn’t the Founders, Federalists specifically, believe that a large republic would deter factions? In retrospect, that is one forecast that was dead wrong.
Federalist 10 is arguably the most famous paper written in support of the Constitution. A concern of both Federalists and Anti-Federalists was tyranny. In terms of factions in a large republic, the Federalists were more concerned about the majority party tyrannizing the minority party. James Madison theorized that there were two ways to control factionalism. The first was to control the causes of it. Controlling the causes would entail elimination of liberty essential to factionalism, or giving all citizens the same opinions. Both of the former options were antithetical to American values, and were not even considerable. The second option was to control the effects of factionalism. Madison argued that a large republic would combine so many interests that it would be difficult for factions to form.
An ironic fact about Madison’s argument is that he wrote from a faction to say that in the new political system there would not be any factions. As a general observation, both camps of the Constitutional debate should have realized that factions were forming. The difference of the Constitutional debate was that the ends were the same; the means were the area of disagreements between the two camps. In the 21st century, we are dealing with two completely different ideological camps, and neither have the same ends nor means.
The place that America currently stands is very important and unique. Throughout most of American history, there have been two primary political parties. The past few election cycles have shown a different movement, one that could be far more dangerous. That movement is towards a one party system. The Tea Party has coined the term “RINO’s” or “Republican in name only.” What we find is many members of the Republican Party seem to be aligning themselves with members across the aisle. In terms of eliminating partisanship, this may appear to be a good thing, but the movement is not the kind of bipartisanship that is for the good of America. This is an alignment of the progressive movement, or the move towards becoming Europe.
Party lines have become meaningless. Either one believes in freedom or government. There has become no middle ground anymore. But in the midst of what appears to be a spiraling America is a glimmer of hope. Conservative and Libertarian leaning Senators like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are breaking news almost every day by fighting the progressive movement. Quite frankly, the establishment Republicans are terrified of these rising stars. These few figures have received almost as much criticism from the Republican Party as they have from the Democrats. The establishment Republicans are starting to realize that not everyone will comply, and that certainly many will not give up without a fight. If the Republican Party as a whole continues in the direction towards progressivism, there very well could be a new party, or faction, that splits off.
In the long run, what we still would end up having is a party system. Contrary to Madison’s predictions, factions formed in the republic, and they have created a large array of problems resulting from partisanship. The fact is that the formation of factions is a part of human nature. People tend to flock towards others who share the same beliefs, ideas or values. The only thing that could theoretically end political parties would be a Constitutional amendment that would ban alliances based on any ideology, name, religion, etc. Of course, the current Congress would never vote for such an amendment, so such a change is more than unlikely to ever happen. But should any radical change in the federal government ever happen, would you support a ban on political parties?