Is the party over?
By Bruce Walker
Do we need political parties? Perhaps a better question might be: Did we ever need political parties? Most of the Founding Fathers thought that political parties or "factions" were a serious danger of representative democracy. Conservatives who endured the Republican hegemony from 1995 to 2007 might agree. Federal spending, including big slabs of greasy pork, exploded, under a Republican Congress with majority members infatuated with re-election.
Conservatives later groaned when President Bush nominated Harriett Miers to the Supreme Court. We winched when George W. Bush wistfully informed us that Islam was a "Religion of Peace." Conservatives watched while in despair as Republican control of the Senate translated into committee chairmanships for Arlen Specter and John McCain, men with a lovesickness for leftist praise.
Even worse, principled conservatives have endured the unprincipled machinations of pseudo-conservatives like Ralph Reed and Duke Cunningham, whose commitment to anything greater than personal gain was masked in the robes of religion or the mantle of military heroism. Their crimes smeared good men and women who were honestly trying to preserve the blessings of America.
Since Reagan, Republican presidential nominees have been bureaucratic careerist George H. Bush, penultimate Washington insider Bob Dole, likeable conserva-lite George W. Bush, and then a senator who had built a career on bedevilling conservative ideas and swooning at the flirtations of the left. None of these men were wicked or corrupt or idiotic. Three were genuine war heroes. None, though, truly believed in the foundational principles of the Republic.
George Washington, perhaps the purest representation of the blessed spirit of our country, declared this truth: "Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." What conservative would not agree with that? The Father of Our Country warned often against the dangers of parties: 'Let me … warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party … in [governments] of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.' Washington was right. Parties and factions thwart much of what the Constitution intended to maintain.
Spoils and loot, promised offices, supercilious defense of the indefensible under the false banner of party loyalty – all that and more flow naturally from the organs of political parties. Consider the almost supernatural abomination that is Obama health care. What gifts of our money were proffered to politicians for their votes? What threats of reduction in rank in party hierarchy were hissed? The obscenity of such grand arm twisting and public bribery is so ordinary to us that we just assume that this is the way our government was supposed to operate.
But that is so very mistaken. Many of those men who wrote the Constitution also signed the Declaration of Independence. The purpose of government, they knew, was to preserve liberty. Political parties were as contrary to that purpose as political parties would be in the jury room of a trial. The absence of interest, the focus on the rule of law, the neutrality of government – these were the values which the Constitution was intended to cherish and to nurture. Parties sneer at those noble ideals.
What would politics in America be like, if we could make the political party a stigma of shame? Candidates would have to campaign on what they personally believed. No one could do what Obama does now, for example, and campaign endlessly against a former president and his party. The dreary warnings of the left against "Far-Right Extremists" or "Ultra-Conservatives" would mean nothing if candidates ran as themselves. Specific positions on particular issues would be demanded of candidates.
Is this an impossible dream? Could anyone win election without the support of a party? In an odd way, Proposition 14 in California may create a system for testing the reality of nonpartisan candidates. If passed, this state measure would end primaries (or, rather, party primaries) and have all candidates compete in an election. If no candidate got a majority of the vote, then the top two candidates would run against each other in a second election. Democrats are smiling on Proposition 14, a fact which makes everyone else in California nervous.
But this measure is rising because of the almost palpable disgust of Californians with the kleptocratic cabal in Sacramento. The people are sick of business as usual. They are, in fact, sick to death of it. Men and women who sought office with an utter rejection of party affiliation might – just might – elect a number of truly independent minds and free consciences to govern their state. What worked in California, and right now almost nothing is working in California, could easily migrate to other states and then seep into the crevices of Washington as well. If Americans said "the party is over," then America might become America again.
Bruce Walker is the author of two books: Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie and The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.