June 20, 2003

Political Parties and the Founding Fathers

Brett Marston points out that part of the problem in the judicial nomination process is the existence of political parties--the formation of which was something the Founding Fathers weren't too keen on. I agree with him in part (no pun intended).

I agree that the Founders spoke derogatorily about parties (or "faction"). However, I disagree that the they faced a radically different political reality than we face now. It was different in degree, but not in structure.

I have long argued that the one thing that the Founding Fathers got wrong was the issues of parties. Parties are, in my opinion an automatic outgrowth of representative government and legislative policy-making (an opinion that can well be backed-up empirically).

Even if we go back to late 18th century America, the presence of faction is clear. For example, look at the Philadelphia Convention:

  • Small States v. Large States
  • North v. South
  • Those who wanted centralization v. those who wanted to maintain the confederacy.
  • Slave v. non-Slave
  • and so forth

    Each represents a “party” (in the traditional definition of the term as a “part” of the whole (see Sartori 1976, for example)). And, of course, there was the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, i.e., the pro-Constitution and Anti-Constitution parties, not to mention the nigh-immediate formation in the Congress of the Federalists around Hamilton and the Democratic-Republicans around Jefferson.

    I would argue that is as close to a political science law as you can get to say that legislative bodies produce factions, and hence parties. Really, one could extend that to any situation where multiple persons will be voting on an issue. Unless there is unanimity, there will be a “pro” party and an “anti” party. And if voting on issues becomes routinized, e.g., in a legislative body, those parties will begin to institutionalize. There is no representative democracy in the world that does not have political parties.

    And back to the issue of whether politics then was different than politics now in the area of judicial nominations, all one has to do is look at the political conflict between President Adams and President Jefferson that manifested as Marbury v. Madison to illustrate that power struggles over nominees is nothing new in American politics.

    Although, I may be misinterpreting Brett’s argument, if he is of the opinion that James of OTB has summarized his views correctly.

    Regardless of Brett’s position, I do think that the Founders, who had, in my opinion, some true political geniuses in their number, blew it on the question of how “faction” would affect politics, at least in terms of the manifestation and role of political parties.

    Although I would argue that weren’t unaware of it. The design of the Congress takes into account the idea that different factions (large and small state) would necessarily come into conflict, given that the large states could dominate the House, and the small the Senate. If one reads Federalist 51 it is clear that Madison expected narrow interests to be present in the new government, and that separation of powers and checks and balances were there to reign those interests in. He also references the division of the Congress into two chambers as a check on unbridled political ambition as well.

    Posted by Steven Taylor at June 20, 2003 08:04 PM | TrackBack
  • Comments

    Faction seems to be a normal situation in any non-one man rule state. Sometimes, in effectively one-party states, such as the old solid south, there were still divisions on both geographical grounds and political leanings of moderate versus conservative versus conservative one-issue types. In true one party states such as the Peoples Republic of China or the old USSR, there were, and in China's case, still are, obvious divisions between "hard-liners" and "modernists" factions. In essence, the only non-faction ridden society is one of a total tyrant. This should have been obvious to the Founding Fathers, given that quite a few of the group were well read in the subject of history and some could well be said to be quite worldly in the ways of Europe. So the question remains, why did they attempt to purge faction from the political life of the country? I am not sure that it was ever a real hope on anyone's part, save as part of the universal fervor to hang together. Certainly no one seemed to pay it more than lip service, as soon as First Congress met pratically speaking, giving President Washington a slight pass even though he came down on the side of the Federalist at heart.

    Posted by: Leroy at June 21, 2003 12:44 AM

    Well, OF COURSE I summarized correctly. Gee whiz.

    Posted by: James Joyner at June 21, 2003 08:09 AM

    Challenge Party Influence.

    I believe that political party influence should have no place in elections. Any and every person seeking to hold public office should be from the party of WE THE PEOPLE. Since the 1800s political party influences has severely damaged the very fabric of this nation with its vast differences in humane party influence.

    We must rid our nation of this disease in order to rid of the abuse and influences of both the Democratic and Republican having controls of her America. The founders as read did not imagine that political party would subvert the constitution and run the nations by electing members sworn to uphold the bylaws of its club. In order to remedy this we should rewrite the constitution or call a constitutional convention to do just that.

    I think in every state and in every election the major of confederate states should relinguish those prejudicial beliefs and stay out of local, state, and federal elections since the majority of members can't separate their prejudices. We know that nationally people of color or race can't not get the support they need as American to make a different. To me it is a private club who has over the years supported the only views of the party and it have only elected those to public office that supports its party membership. The parties do not represent all the people as WE THE PEOPLE in the United States and the courts should once and for all find the courage to ban Democratic and Republic party from interfering all national, state and local elections.

    You can't even run for a political office without seeking the permission of state, and local parties because they are the only majority party that the election department heads recognize. We should not have parties nominating presidents, senators, congressman and if you utilize this vehicle once elected you should come out of the party and be called a statesman. As an individual I know you don't have a chance to run and win an election with these majority party, but they have had 100 years to monopolize all elections, its a monopoly? And we should challenge party interference based on that premise.

    Let's return all elections back to the people and let's leave these representatives to stand up for the people's interest and not special interest.

    Posted by: Rubin Young at December 10, 2003 08:21 PM

    Challenge Party Influence.

    I believe that political party influence should have no place in elections. Any and every person seeking to hold public office should be from the party of WE THE PEOPLE. Since the 1800s political party influences has severely damaged the very fabric of this nation with its vast differences in humane party influence.

    We must rid our nation of this disease in order to rid of the abuse and influences of both the Democratic and Republican having controls of her America. The founders as read did not imagine that political party would subvert the constitution and run the nations by electing members sworn to uphold the bylaws of its club. In order to remedy this we should rewrite the constitution or call a constitutional convention to do just that.

    I think in every state and in every election the major of confederate states should relinguish those prejudicial beliefs and stay out of local, state, and federal elections since the majority of members can't separate their prejudices. We know that nationally people of color or race can't not get the support they need as American to make a different. To me it is a private club who has over the years supported the only views of the party and it have only elected those to public office that supports its party membership. The parties do not represent all the people as WE THE PEOPLE in the United States and the courts should once and for all find the courage to ban Democratic and Republic party from interfering all national, state and local elections.

    You can't even run for a political office without seeking the permission of state, and local parties because they are the only majority party that the election department heads recognize. We should not have parties nominating presidents, senators, congressman and if you utilize this vehicle once elected you should come out of the party and be called a statesman. As an individual I know you don't have a chance to run and win an election with these majority party, but they have had 100 years to monopolize all elections, its a monopoly? And we should challenge party interference based on that premise.

    Let's return all elections back to the people and let's leave these representatives to stand up for the people's interest and not special interest.

    Posted by: Rubin Young at December 10, 2003 08:21 PM
    Post a comment









    Remember personal info?