George Washington's Warning About Party Politics

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  1. peoplepower73 profile image90
    peoplepower73posted 11 months ago

    This is the script from Washington's farewell speed.  It is where he warns the audience about the danger of party politics and the detrimental effect it can have on the idea and experiment of our fragile democratic republic.

    It begs the question, is our party politics at the point where Washington says it is a danger to our democratic republic?  If nothing else, I find it to be an interesting read as it shows how insightful this man was about a newly formed nation and how fragile our democracy is, even today.  He talks about the danger from the power of one individual which I can relate to today as Trump. I have set that in italics.




    I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally. This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.

    The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.

    Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and the duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it. It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.

    Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another. There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true— and in governments of a monarchical cast patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose.

    And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest instead of warming it should consume. It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another.

    The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power and proneness to abuse it which predominates in the human heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern, some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them.

    If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit which the use can at any time yield.

    1. wilderness profile image96
      wildernessposted 11 months agoin reply to this

      Outside of the fear mongering over Trump, I agree with the sentiment here.  Our party politics has become a detriment to our country.  In addition to that, I feel that our government has grossly overstepped it's bounds and constitutional powers without ever going through that amendment process that Washington mentioned.  It has done so by way of purse strings, by way of courts looking at moral issues rather than law, by way of popular demand.  It should never have been allowed to happen, but it has anyway.

      1. Fayetteville Faye profile image60
        Fayetteville Fayeposted 11 months agoin reply to this

        I don't think I've seen politics of the past ever rise to the current level of division and hate. When we have people negatively labeled and characterized by their party affiliation, vilifying the other, name calling, media that misinforms/disinforms, when citizens view those of the opposite party as evil or degenerate,  when we have politicians continually spouting the faults of the other side rather than building a platform of their actual  ideas/plans we are in big trouble.  This is where we are in America.  Far too many Americans have more of a focus on hating the other than they do even on what  their own party is about. Hate and  opposition has seemed  to become the sole purpose of American politics. Politicians no longer talk about real solutions to issues in our country.  That's too difficult or maybe they've just realized that many  people respond to "othering", hate and division much more positively.  It's going to come to the point in this country that all you'll have to know about your politician is if they're red or blue. Nothing else will matter. I think we are well on our way.

        1. peoplepower73 profile image90
          peoplepower73posted 11 months agoin reply to this

          Thank You Faye and Wilderness:

          It's interesting that both of you are from opposite sides of the fence. And yet you both agree we are almost at the point where Washington said party politics differences can affect the well being of the country and our democratic republic.

          1. wilderness profile image96
            wildernessposted 11 months agoin reply to this

            Neither of us has fallen into the trap of hating the other side as the primary focus.  IMHO the majority of people, at this time, falls into this category.   

            I agree with Faye here, too, in that number of "haters" is growing daily.  One indication is the number of people to whom the most important thing in politics today is to hate Trump and harm him as much as possible in every way possible.  Their hate has overtaken thought and has a higher priority than our country, or it's people, has in their minds.

            There are others as well; all the single focus voters.  Those that only consider abortion, or guns, or the border or almost anything else.  No politician (regardless of their campaign) is that narrow...yet the vote goes for (or against) them based on that single issue.  Hate wins the day in those cases - that party that disagrees with that voter in their single issue mindset loses.

            Of course, the biggest single thing, IMO, is the absolute refusal to compromise.  Even when we pay lip service to it, we go right back to the same demands at the next opportunity, even at the news interview we announce the thing and congratulate ourselves for being bipartisan.

            1. peoplepower73 profile image90
              peoplepower73posted 11 months agoin reply to this

              Wilderness:  If you listen to Bob Woodward's taped phone conversations with Trump, you will hear him say that he delayed doing anything about the virus in January because, it was too soon and people would forget what he did.  So he delayed it until march and then he came up with Operation Warp Speed.  In the mean time thousands of people had died from the virus, but he presented himself as the hero. 

              I know you won't listen to the tapes on CNN, but Trump is only about Trump at the expense of others.  That's why I don't like him. Now he has millions of people and congressmen who believe the election was stolen.  That is precisely what Washington was talking about when he said this.

              The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.

              1. wilderness profile image96
                wildernessposted 11 months agoin reply to this

                Yes, I understand that you put Trump's insistence (and belief, I think) that there was massive election fraud into the category of "insurrection", "big lie" and "overthrow the government".

                I do not.  I think Trump believes it, which makes it not a lie.  An error, but not a lie.  Nor was there an "insurrection", and no one attempted or intended to overthrow the American government (except some of the rioters outside of DC that year).  These are simply gross exaggerations, useful in the war against Trump, but bearing no resemblance to reality.

                Nor does Trump wish (IMO) to be King of America indefinitely.  This, too, is assumption, insinuation and exaggeration rather than reality.

                So...while Washington has a very good point, it does not point to Trump, except in the imagination of a small number of people that put nearly all the world's ills at his feet.  IMHO.

                1. peoplepower73 profile image90
                  peoplepower73posted 11 months agoin reply to this

                  Wilderness:  You are right about one thing.  Everything you wrote is your opinion and in my opinion what you wrote is not based in reality.

                  "I do not.  I think Trump believes it, which makes it not a lie.  An error, but not a lie.  Nor was there an "insurrection", and no one attempted or intended to overthrow the American government (except some of the rioters outside of DC that year).  These are simply gross exaggerations, useful in the war against Trump, but bearing no resemblance to reality."

                  "It makes it not a lie, but an error." That is some great weasel wording. 

                  The reality is those rioters were not outside of DC.  Trump asked security to disable the magnometers so that their arms would not be detected and let the people in. He even said: "They are not here to hurt me." 

                  They were the ones and the paramilitary groups who stormed the capitol and tried to stop the certification process.  In addition, there was a fake electoral slate that was on standby to replace the real one.

                  If you don't know that was an insurrection with the purpose of over throwing the government.  Then I don't know where you got your information from.  Those are all verifiable events that took place. That is the reality and the truth. And it was orchestrated by one man who couldn't accept losing an election. And has now convinced millions of people the election was stolen.  Thus, Washington was right.

                  1. wilderness profile image96
                    wildernessposted 11 months agoin reply to this

                    """It makes it not a lie, but an error." That is some great weasel wording. "

                    You may consider a simple error to be a lie if it is incorrect, but if so the majority of what you present as opinion becomes a lie.  I don't see it that way - a lie is an intentional effort to mislead - but if you do more power to you.

                    "The reality is those rioters were not outside of DC."

                    You misunderstand; the rioters that attempted to overthrow our government were those in Seattle that set up CHAZ.  It was those in Portland that burned federal buildings.  It was those that took over police precincts.  It is those that set up the "autonomous zone" in Minneapolis.  Not those idiots in DC that tried to "overthrow our government" with a flagpole and a fire extinguisher.

                    Your "insurrection" was an attempt to enforce voting laws - something I'm sure you are well aware of even as you exclaim there was no fraud and everything was kosher.  Again, your concept of motive is coming from your opinion on what was in the mind of those rioters in DC, not from what was actually there.

                    I stand by my statement; those rioters in DC were no different than those in Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis and dozens of other cities.  The only difference was that the rich and powerful were the ones that got scared, not the mom and pop store owners in other cities.  And, of course, it could be exaggerated into an attempt by Trump to overthrow the United States government, for no matter how stupid the statement sounds some will believe it.  Those consumed by hate, that refuse to look anywhere but wherever they think they can find something to damage Trump.

        2. wilderness profile image96
          wildernessposted 11 months agoin reply to this

          Exactly so; you have spoken it well.

    2. GA Anderson profile image90
      GA Andersonposted 11 months agoin reply to this

      Washington's words were wise then and have been proven to be just as wise across the centuries.

      Our politics do seem extreme now and given the multi[plier effect of our technology it might be the most dangerous times ever, but the extremism of the politics has been this bad almost from the beginning.

      But, that technology boost works for everyone, from the power brokers to the individual. As 'they' say, The sausage has always been made this way, we just didn't get to see it before.

      GA

      1. peoplepower73 profile image90
        peoplepower73posted 11 months agoin reply to this

        GA;  I don't agree with you about the extremism of politics has always been this bad.  There used to be some form of compromise as government did its job.  Now there is no compromise, just stalemates and log jams by putting party above country.

        1. GA Anderson profile image90
          GA Andersonposted 11 months agoin reply to this

          I would place your years, (the 'used to be' times), of realistic political compromise as the 1930s - 80s. The divide you speak of started when the internet became available to the masses.

          Pre-1930s, back to the first elections of the 1800s have plenty of examples of extreme party divide. It wasn't as obvious in the non-political public but it was in the minds and actions of politicians and the inside-the-beltway-type party members.

          That's my perception from past look-arounds. I'm too lazy to ask Google to refresh my memory. ;-)

          GA

    3. Sharlee01 profile image81
      Sharlee01posted 11 months agoin reply to this

      Interesting share. A lot to mull over. I am not sure how you feel this all equates to Trump.

      1. peoplepower73 profile image90
        peoplepower73posted 11 months agoin reply to this

        Sharlee:  This is what Washington said and it fits Trump to a tee..

        "The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty."

 
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