John McCain has just been officially nominated by the Republican Party for the 2008 presidential election. Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, has been officially nominated as his running mate. Riots are breaking out in the streets. Protesters sneak incognito into the Excel Energy Center and are quickly removed by secret service. Republican deligates are shouting U-S-A over and over again. I'm sitting in my bedroom with my roommates shaking my head at it all.
I believe that for the past eight years, George W. Bush has silently pushed America over the edge on the most seminal element of being American, freedom of choice. More than the money he stole, more than the soldiers and homes that were lost, George Bush desicrated the foundation of our nation. In a society that had been gradually polarizing for almost two and a half centuries George W. Bush became the catalyst for the biggest partisan schism of the U.S. population since the civil war. His all-or-nothing mentality has infiltrated our society. The result of Bush's cummulative failure is an America that has forgotten the meaning of democracy.
It is with a heavy heart that I make this claim, but it is excrutiatingly evident in this year's presidential election. Citizens are enraged. The majority of this election's voters will not be voting based on issues, but on the basis of party loyalty or party distrust.
In his farewell address on September 19, 1796, George Washington warned about the dangers a two-party system. He said:
"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."
He saw the threat to democracy early on. He anticipated society edging toward a more pragmatic two-party method, if conducted the way it is currently, can provide. No one else anticipated a George W. Bush in 1796, but Washington did. Washington anticipated a president that would throw out the basic principles of a party and he also anticipated party loyalists that would be willing to take the hit in order to save the party. But why? Neither the United States Consitution, the Declaration of Independence nor the Pledge of Allegience mentions anything about party loyalty. Our democracy was not intended to be dependent on the political parties and has no obligation to them. In a democratic state, if a party is inefficient, what reason do the Amerian people have to put up with it? What makes them hesitate?
What makes them hesitate is tradition, duty, money, many things I suppose. But this is not the kind of open-minded ever-changing mentality that we need to make a democracy work. The two-party system was developed as a shortcut. It is a way to help a representative democracy work a little faster. The parties make it easier to raise money and support for a candidate, but over time they can give voters tunnel-vision type worldview. They promote stock issues, uniform ways of thinking, and cause voters to lose sight of their own individual experience as an American citizen. Yes this individual thinking can slow things down, but a large-scale democracy is a complex system that requires complex thinking and complex solutions most of the time. Again I ask, what makes us hesitate to reform the two-party system?
Now I return to Bush. Bush's administration stressed compliance based on fear tactics. You all know this. I'm sure you were as scared as I was. But most importantly he promoted the idea that if you're not with us, you're against us. He started the first wave of McCarthyism in the twenty first century. Compliance or Guantanamo goes against the fundamental principles of democracy. Democracy does not work without opposing views coming together for compromise. Why would a democratic president (this is not a partisan label) want to instill these kinds of opinion limitations? To harbor more power than the founding fathers intended. Now I'm sure you know this too, but what I think goes unnoticed by most is that all these travesties against democracy worked. People made George Bush out to be a bit dull because his ideas were simple, but they were virtually fool-proof.
Bush's zealous, polarizing tactics are now evident in both parties. He was able to solicit the same type of behavior from the opposite party by insulting their intelligence. And instead of disregarding these provocations as catty banter the opponents allow their rage to build. He has done his own party a great diservice by leading them in a trivial direction. Right now the Republicans are so desperate to preserve a positive party image that they will cling to any paradigmatic arguement that will stick. Bush has also done the country a disservice by dumbing down the arguments of both parties.
It is important for me to mention, as my liberal biases tend to shine through at times, that I am not making a direct attack at a particular party. I have spoken with many Republicans who feel that Bush does not properly represent them or the fundamental ideals of the Republican Party. Because of his partisan ties, Bush has unavoidably done more damage on the right side, but the blood on his hands will plague the entire U.S. Government for years to come. He is not the enemy of Democrats or the Republicans, he is an enemy of the greater good.
I'll leave you with more from George Washington. This is what he predicted would happen in 1796 if one political party were to gain too much power:
"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. "Please remember your country in this next election before your party.