On Parties and the Partisans

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, 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 & miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security & 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.” — George Washington, September 19, 1796, Farewell Address

As we watch the current uproar regarding the event of Benghazi, sadly and shamefully, this is the way Washington works. Regardless who occupies the White House, regardless who controls Congress, our elected officials are primarily about spin – spin to protect an ideology, advancing a political point of view, and setting the course for the next election.  With spin favoring manipulating facts, or even worse, lying, truth and integrity are two of the casualties. With many, if not the majority, of Americans aligning themselves with a preferential political party and relying on biased perspectives, who are the real winners and losers?

The recent IRS news is another example. Congress is jumping into the fray with various committee hearings, which are actually prime opportunities for predictable political grandstanding. Besides taking advantage of diversions to avoid critical issues, the committees probably will not address this key question: Do political groups fit the definition for 501-C4 tax exemption as an organization organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.

The answer: Absolutely, because they act in the welfare of most (if not every) elected official in Washington!

FYI: I wrote the above before reading these two good reads: a column by Ruth Marcus and this commentary from Roll Call.

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52 thoughts on “On Parties and the Partisans

  1. Aw, rats. I was hoping for tales from Trieste and World War Two partisans, not the circus clowns we have in DC these days! (Oh, wait, sorry – I gotta apologise to all circus clowns for comparing them to the crowd on the hill. At least the circus clowns know what they’re doing! ;) )

  2. Jefferson and Madison were opposed to political parties because they would render the legislature as a rubber stamp for the President if of the same party, or as political dysfunction if the other party. They warned of this over 200 years ago. We have never learned that lesson. Jefferson and Madison gave up their vision and then created the Democratic Republican party to take on the Federalists; and the rest is history. We are now stuck with a duopoly of political power masquerading around as balanced decision making. The current dysfunction puts us on the path of a banana republic. I favor an amendment to the Constitution banning political parties. In my state, offices at the local level are non-partisan. And it works.

    • Randel,
      Wow … I didn’t know that about your state! On a similar thought as yours, I’m appalled at municipal and state judges in my state run with party labels. Thanks for the good thoughts.

  3. I agree with you that it’s very difficult these days to hear the truth. There is so much deceit in politics and it seems there’s much that’s going on that is swept under the rug xx

    • Spiced,
      Conceal and deceive have been part of politics for generations, but with today’s electronic media, we not only notice more, by the politicians promote it even more.

  4. The quote from your first president seems worthy of consideration at all times. What a blessing that your democratic system has worked out so well over the years, despite certain difficulties along the way. To an outsider, the polarization of the political parties in America is sad, especially when hearing many small minded complaints. I believe that the many vicious attacks on the Bush administration set a tone which is bearing fruit in these days…

    • Shimon,
      I imagine other Founding Fathers agreed with Mr. Washington, and but they must have been the minority. Polarization during the Bush administration was prominent …. as it was during the Clinton years, which included a special investigation costing $60 million and yielding not much. Thanks for your perspective!

  5. Until these latest shenanigans I hadn’t considered the possibility I could actually be more disgusted. No one asks the questions that need to be asked. We’ve been watching the Netflix series “House of Cards” with Kevin Spacey, and the fictionalized version of how Washington operates disgustingly rings very true. The spirit of revenge is living and breeding and I think we are in very deep trouble. As always, I really enjoy your perspective and the articles you share.

    • Debra,
      I haven’t seen “House of Cards”, but I’ve heard similar comparisons as yours.

      Breaking News on the IRS Stuff: This is from a local news channel. In exclusive interview with a recently-retired manager from that division, she stated she 1) doesn’t believe a directive came from Washington, and 2) she has ideas who is responsible (but won’t say).

  6. Spin, grandstanding, and soundbites–how does anything ever get done? Oh yeah, they don’t do anything. sorry to hear things don’t change.

  7. The losers in this political one-upmanship are citizens like you and me. The important work that needs to be done isn’t getting done because of the incredible dysfunction. Honestly, everyone of the Congress ought to be voted out or impeached as a sign we’re just sick of all of this. Can’t even see any news about the sequester what with the latest “gotcha” news going on. I don’t think I could be more disgusted. I’ve reached the bottom of that well.

  8. I just do not understand the “scandal” of the IRS issue. I think that all organizations seeking 501-C4 status should be targeted for deeper scrutiny! As has been witnessed far too often, these are political organizations but yet receive tax exempt status. What a bunch of poppycock (pardon the language)!

  9. Sing it, Frank. I’m so sickened and disgusted by our politicians. It’s just so embarrassing and frustrating. When will it all stop, and when will they behave like adults instead of grandstanding, bloviating juveniles?

  10. Despite the worsening state of the world (home and abroad), we have a bunch of average, ordinary people in office.
    We could use some greatness.

    (You should found the blogger party, Frank.)

    • Guapo,
      Well … I wonder if great leadership can make it through the system! As for the Blogger Party …. well, I imagine the hard-core partisans would make their presence known.

  11. If it’s any comfort to you, the younger generation are eschewing party affiliation in greater numbers than ever before (http://www.people-press.org/2012/06/04/section-9-trends-in-party-affiliation/) — If they stick with it, we may eventually see a slow corrosion in party power.

    On the IRS scandal, I found this article very interesting, though it doesn’t give me any more confidence: http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/15/muslims-to-tea-party-welcome-to-our-world/

  12. Oops, I just commented, and apparently included enough links that WordPress flagged it as spam. You may want to check your spam folder (there are always some good laughs in there anyway!)

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  14. Thanks for including the column by Ruth Marcus and the commentary from Roll Call. Both assail the “disastrous 2010 Citizens United decision” and point to it as key to the questions concerning the presently unfolding IRS scandal.

  15. Frank. This is an excellent article. What really causes me to be sick to my stomach is that I believe the core of these “scandal” attacks stem back to Mitch McConnell’s slip from the onset durng President Obama’s first days in office that his primary goal was to make the President a one-term president. (The Republican’s hatred for this man is palpable.) When that didn’t happen, and especially after such a stunning loss for the second term, I believe that there are groups within the Republican party that will do whatever it takes to try and drum up a scandal(s) to frustrate the President’s agenda (one of the reasons a Repub. Congressman said the gun background check failed) or to get him impeached, as well as stop Hilary in 2016. The only person the Republican’s hate more than President Obama is Hilary Clinton.

    I agree with another one of your commenters: What was so wrong about scrutinizing groups who requested tax-exempt status when they clearly have a partisan political mission statement and not a “help the poor and destitute” mission statement? The IRS methods were clumsy but not scandalous, and I remember black groups (NAACP, Black churches, and Black community groups) being targeted by the IRS for the same thing in my activist days, and I don’t remember the Republicans having a fit–in fact, they cheered it. (FYI-when the Black Panthers were sporting rifles as part of their show of strength, the Republicans were all over gun-control legislation–as they should have been. Isn’t that ironic?)

    None of the tax-exempt groups were turned down except a democratic group from what I’ve read. The motives of the “haters” in the Republican party stink to me, and I am furious that they would try and hold our country ransom while they play dirty pool. Did anyone even notice that the deficit was going down? No good man or woman will want to be President in the future. God help us!

    • E-Tom,
      Although I angry with the Republicans, I can’t say that I’m cheering the Democrats on either. I think I’ll summarize your thoughts this way: Too many in Washington are more interested in their interests than the interests of the country.

      • Yes, Frank, I agree with you to a certain point. But living here and seeing these folks up close and personal, I’d say the Tea Party arm of the Republican party bears the lion’s share of the chaos. Both parties have extremists that should not be tolerated, but the stringent arm of the Republican party prides itself on being obstructionist. What did one prominent member say: “Don’t govern–obstruct!” There will be no governing which must involve compromise from both sides until the Republicans grow a pair and reign in the destructive forces within their midst who think government is “evil” unless they need it. (Case in point: Oklahoma Republican Congressman voted AGAINST Hurricane Sandy relief but voted FOR Oklahoma tornado disaster relief and when asked why the duplicity, his response was that “this disaster was different.” Really?!)

        • Just so you know, I am being very measured on my response because I am staying within what I feel are the confines of the post. After all, there is plenty of blame to go around and no shortage of examples of whatever point anyone wants to make.

          Meanwhile, for the record, the entire Oklahoma Congressional delegation voted against Hurricane Sandy relief …. well, all except one – who happens to be the representative in the district containing Moore.

  16. I am so tired of the spin I have a headache most days. The inaction in Washington is a growing embarassment. I simply wish we could crush the parties and take money out of politics. In my humble opinion, the IRS was doing its job.

  17. Pingback: America’s Political Future: Where Will the Next Generation Take Us? | abtwixt

  18. Frank. No explanations needed. I knew you were being measured and I wouldn’t expect anything less. I also caught up on my reading and realized how many senators and congressmen had voted against disaster aid for OK. Hopefully, we’ll learn from this tragedy (married with Katrina and Sandy) and build a separtate fund for emergencies like these disasters that will be beyond politics–a fund we can draw from in a time of need for all our citizens. Who wants to hear from politics when your house and everything you own in it have been blown to smithereens. Cheers!

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