“All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.
However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
19th September, 1796
The Barack Obama campaign was hailed in most mainstream media as the promise of post-partisan, post-racial politics. But what does that really mean? Does post-partisanship mean the end of party politics? Then, does post-racial politics mean the end of race?
The two words must be interpreted carefully. George Washington, himself first chosen and later elected more for his work in the Revolutionary War, was a general, not a partisan politician. The partisan politics belonged to John Adams his vice president, Thomas Jefferson, his Secretary of State and Alexander Hamilton, his Secretary of the Treasury. The first American president saw himself as a mediator and ultimately the decision maker among his warring cabinet members who were themselves his founding peers of the new nation. As a decision maker he had wrestled with existential issues concerning the new nation. The viability of the country had mattered to him far more than the opinions of his cabinet. He viewed and judged those opinions and advice through the lens of keeping the state together. But he had an important point to make before retiring from governing.
Today’s United States is least concerned about its viability as a nation-state. It has become obsessed with the viability of governing ideologies, not merely for itself but for the rest of the world. The issues that really matter for the people are being seen through the lens of partisan ideologies, rather than using the forum of public and political life to resolve the issues. So, each side contends for power to shape the country per its governing ideology, no matter whether that has anything to do with what the country really is. The time may have indeed come to end partisan politics.
In a country that breaks down by zip code into red cities and blue cities, red counties and blue counties and red corporations and blue corporations, let alone red states and blue states, the partisan dysfunction runs pathologically deep. The country must be brought back to thinking about issues, not party platforms.
The Constitution that George Washington cites in his Farewell Address, gives every American citizen the privilege to run for elective office, except the presidency which is restricted to natural born citizens. It does not specify the political parties to which they must belong. It does not say what education they ought to have received. Yet, today’s politics reeks of de facto unconstitutional privileges for those who control power in the United States, no matter which party they belong to. Belonging has become more important than doing. Politics and citizenship have turned into a pecking order. Group governance has supplanted self-governance.
Power has become an entitlement of a chosen few ‘educated’ to lead. The burden of governance by the people by delegation to their elected representatives has been hijacked into becoming a condescending exercise in the conduct of democracy through a systematic process of structural violence by an anointed class in the name of meritocracy both in the government and in the media, dumbing down the citizenry instead of awakening them to their citizenship responsibilities. This must be changed if the de facto kings, lords and ladies of America are to yield power back to the people. Even His Excellency had turned down the crown while all those who have little to do with the country’s heritage are eager to claim it for themselves as a matter of intergenerational entitlement and inheritance, rather than every generation earning the privilege to lead.
As much as education reform is critical to make that happen to democratize the necessary basic education through college, two far more fundamental reforms must precede: the end of political parties and reforming campaign finances. Candidates for elective office must be asked to declare their individual positions on issues and gather some minimal support to be able to register their candidacy with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). They should be able to raise private funds from voting-age citizens through their FEC registration for political campaigns. No citizen should be able to contribute more than $10-per-day to any and all campaigns he or she is supporting. All corporate contributions must be disallowed. And all voting-age citizens must be automatically registered to vote. Voting rights can be implemented using a biometric national identifier to replace all other forms of identification to be able to vote both remotely and in person, with English as the only language of the government.
The structure of government itself needs to be reformed for it has become far too diffuse and redundant raising its overall cost to the tax payers: city governments, country governments and state governments, with overlapping responsibilities and political boundaries. The state legislatures ought to be able to govern locally within each state legislative district and send representatives to the Congress. All other local governments are unnecessary. Both the state and federal governments can be funded through a single tax structure imposed at the federal level with allowances made for the redistribution of those funds in proportion to state populations (based on the number of representatives in Congress) and state peculiarities.
The states must send representatives to federal commissions to set and update national standards on all issues for which such standards are needed for implementation at the state level once the standards are in place, education and health being first and foremost. The state legislatures and the Congress must formally open the process of deliberation to the citizenry as the laws are being made to burden the citizenry with the responsibility of participation. Political participation does not end with voter turnout on Election Day.
The United States was meant to be a direct democracy. And it is time to make that happen. It is a country with as many political parties as its citizens and as many ever-changing races as there are the world’s peoples.