For over two centuries, the people and government of the United States of America have grappled with the power of political parties. Alexander Hamilton expressed this concern in The Federalist Papers when he wrote,
“[N]othing could be more ill-judged than the intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties.”
The founders’ efforts to insulate their new country from political parties failed, and parties manifested immediately. Today, we only have the ruminations of great men to act as a beacon against the corruption of parties, and the will of living people to act against them, or else fall in line.
The first major parties formed around Federalist and Anti-Federalist ideas. Stated simply, the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, wanted a stronger Federal government. The Anti-Federalists, led by Patrick Henry, wanted more autonomy for states. Over time, the parties changed names and positions and today the same fight goes on with the modern Republican and Democrat labels. Both modern parties have shown they are champions of states’ rights or increasing the power of the federal government when either objective becomes politically expedient. One needs only look at how little opposition there is to the growing spy state that has been empowered by administrations from both parties. Therein lies the inherent corruption of political parties, that they forge national allegiances to the party, not to the country.
Republicans, nearly every election cycle, sign loyalty pledges to the Republican party. The Democratic party’s political organization is arguably even larger and more sophisticated, with similar pledges being made by so-called “super delegates”, who pledge to support a specific candidate before the Democratic primaries even begin. Over time, government representatives— elected officials by citizens of the United States — pledge to support the partisan organizations that helped them gain power, turning the party system into a funnel for political office. This culling occurs across local, state, and federal elections and creates partisan candidates that work to support their party, perpetuating the system.
The effect of this party selection process reduces American political philosophy to two opposing and symbiotic centers of political power. We can’t dismantle or ban political parties by law, as they are protected under the first amendment. Instead, to combat them, we need to reject them. Ironically, the only way to reject them is to show up to the polls and vote for the best candidate possible, especially in the primary elections, and over time with high voter turn out, the volume of voters would dilute the parties, driving centrist candidates and thus centrist policies. However, Americans show up to the polls less than in almost any other democratic country for national elections. The numbers are even more upsetting at the local level, where an individual’s vote actually counts for more and the issues and candidates voted for will have a direct impact on the voters’ life. The economics underlying the political parties creates small, disinterested voting blocks, which become easier to mislead. The fewer people that show up to elect a new county sheriff, or US Senator, the easier it is for the major parties to control the pool of candidates for that office. This underpins a devastating reality of American culture — Americans are uninterested in running their government.
By not voting, Americans relinquish power that is happily gobbled up. Because of this, political parties will continue the war path to eliminate Americans from the polling booth as it directly increases their power and influence. To do this, both sides have held education hostage, and the trauma it has experienced is manifesting into real problems. There are 32 million Americans who cannot read, a staggering statistic which isn’t getting any better. 75% of Americans fall prey to false news articles, the full effects of which are yet to be measured. Along with basic education, civics is not taught in earnest any longer, stripping young Americans of the tools and perspective to learn how to be engaged participants of our republic. To break political parties, we need educated Americans, which leads to significantly higher voter turnout. In order to restore education, we need to take command of the political process. In order to take command of the political process, Americans need to vote. This vicious cycle grows more formidable with time.
Our government is a reflection of the people. Donald Trump was elected fairly — that is to say ballot boxes were not being stuffed with his name. He is a reflection of the real fears and anxieties Americans feel, not to say that there aren’t certain segments of the population that also share his feelings towards minority groups and women. Communities that supported Donald Trump’s empty promises to return industries like coal, which are being killed by economics, not politics, will suffer the effects of postponing the inevitable structural shift that is occurring. These same suffering areas reject education and health care reform, and put emphasis on single issues such as being pro-life or pro-gun which comes at the expense of everything else. This diminishes the capacity to effectively work on a litany of issues facing the United States. Over time, more and more Americans are being denied the educational and professional skills required to keep up with a rapidly evolving workplace and economy. This perpetuates the poverty cycle, and lessens voter participation. This empowers political parties, and further divides the country along partisan lines.
Separating ideas from political parties allows communities to cooperate and reform institutions like education and health care. This will protect and grow local economies, while still allowing individuals to maintain strong conservative or liberal values. Today, every political philosophy has been claimed by either a Republican or a Democrat, which holds those ideas hostage, then demands loyalty, destroying any hope for bipartisan action to solve problems plaguing Americans. Instead of liberal, pro-choice congressmen working with conservative, pro-life congressmen on education reform, the political establishment has claimed their identities and ideas as their own, holds our institutions hostage, and herds American voters in ever dwindling numbers to support the choices of the elite, perpetuating the quagmire and strengthening their political power.
A growing, effective, and representative local government that addresses the needs of its community is a benefit to Americans nationally, and counter intuitive to the stranglehold national political parties maintain by curating candidates for office. Effective local governments create politicians with a wealth of experience. Politicians who grow their careers in a bipartisan environment gain opportunities to craft legislation and become shrewd negotiators. It is impossible to have effective representatives who do not possess these skills. These same local politicians will take higher offices as they sharpen their skills and work to tackle bigger problems as their careers expand, bringing with them to the federal level the local culture of service that got them elected in the first place, which will effect how they lead, and how our country solves problems. We can only get to this future if those of us who are able vote every chance we get.