by Micah Veillon
George Washington tried to warn us. He knew the dangers of political factions. Towards the end of his second term, Washington experienced firsthand the disastrously blinding influence partisanism can have on even the best of us. His own Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, was practically stoned by a mob while walking into his own house, simply because of his views on a certain treaty. His cabinet almost imploded multiple times because of Hamilton and Jefferson. Eventually, Hamilton and Burr would go on to partake in a duel because of multiple conflicts (many being political), resulting in the premature death of one of the greatest economic minds in history. This duel is held by many to be symbolic of the conflicts between the Federalist and Democratic Republican parties. This led Washington to make an incredibly insightful claim in his farewell address, a forewarning: the worst enemy of this nation was not another country, but sheer loyalty to a party over loyalty to the country. We’re seeing the products of such loyalty in America today. The fruits of partisanism are rotten to the core. As it begins to tear this country apart, I cannot remain silent. To be clear, this is a critique of partisanism, not a critique of one party over another. Frankly, I’m not even sure how this piece will turn out. Will it be a structured argument about how political factions ruin us? Or, will it be a tirade against blind, indubitable political affiliation? Who knows? Nonetheless, I strive for the former; however, I find the effects of partisanism abhorring, so it's likely to be a mixture of both.
One integral point that I wish to raise is how partisanism blinds us to our own inadequacies, allowing us to falsely believe we have all the answers; thus, causing us to unjustifiably demean anyone who disagrees with our ideologies.
First of all, blind and unrelenting alliance to a political party means blind and unrelenting alliance to its agenda and ideas. We see this all too much. In 2016, the Republican Party made a laughing stock of Donald Trump’s campaign, until he became an actual contender for the nomination. Then, he became the next Ronald Reagan. Today, we watch as the Republicans refuse to criticize even his character. This is a morally impaired playboy who’s sitting in the office once held by Washington, Madison, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. The list goes on. I’m not saying this entirely disqualifies him as President of the United States or that he’s the worst President ever. However, we’ve gotten to the point in politics that we can’t even recognize the obvious because we are too caught up in our loyalty to our political parties.
This most certainly doesn’t stop with Republicans. We all watched the Democratic primaries. We watched Kamala Harris practically call Joe Biden a racist. We watched as she said she believed the sexual harassment allegations against him, and now, she’s running as his Vice President. Confusing? Very much so. We watch as Democrats absolutely fail to discuss Joe Biden’s mental incapacity. They won’t even mention it when it’s obvious. Being President of the United States is daunting to say the least. I’m not saying Biden is so incapacitated that he can’t fulfill the job, but because Democrats are too worried about their party losing the election, they fail to converse about the nation’s needs.
Watch how the media treat the candidate they support. I once heard the quote that the relationship of the media and the president should be akin to that of a dog and a fire hydrant. This couldn’t be more true. The job of a journalist is to ask grilling questions. The President runs the country for God’s sake, and we sit back and ask questions like “President Trump, what’s your favorite color?” or “Vice President Biden, if you could be any superhero, who would you be?” Obviously, I’m exaggerating, but not by all that much: Fox News grills Joe Biden and praises Donald Trump, and vice versa for sites like MSNBC and CNN. We’re so scared of our party losing that we dispel investigative journalism for the sake of the country.
This unequivocal alliance blinds us to the fact that we are human and fall short. We fail to recognize that we don’t have the answers to every problem, and that the issues we face are remarkably complex and require much thought. The Founders were keenly and uniquely aware of this problem of human nature and of their own inadequacies. In his book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Timothy Synder brilliantly states that the system of governance they created wasn’t one to glorify our imaginary perfection, but to mitigate the consequences of our imperfections. We need to be more aware of the fact that we are human and fall short. Republicans, I hate to break it to you: your ideas won’t solve every problem this country faces. Democrats, the same goes for you. We need both conservative and liberal ideas.
This failure to recognize our own inadequacies results in mistakenly demeaning anyone who disagrees with us. This part is actually what scares me. We’ve come to the point in America where we’ve begun to dehumanize anyone we disagree with. I’ve grown up in the rural mountains of northwest Georgia for all of my life, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “there’s no such thing as a good democrat.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard those on the left call conservatives evil, bigoted, homophobic, racist, etc… The President doesn’t do all that great of a job here either. His respect is extended to those who like him, and he tweets about those who do not. Why, you may ask, does this scare me? Well, in Soviet Russia, one of the first things that Stalin did was depict the wealthier farmers (prosperous peasants) as pigs during the Dekulakization. Creating this dehumanizing image of them made it easier to slaughter them. It’s hard to slaughter a human being, but it’s easy to slaughter a pig. It’s hard to dispel that which is like you, but it’s easy to extinguish that which you hate. This is why Karl Marx begins The Communist Manifesto with discussing the oppressor and the oppressed. This idea of identity politics and dehumanizing those who simply disagree with you is disastrously dangerous. It dehumanizes us, creating a narrative of one group against another with each believing the other is evil and seeking to destroy humanity. In his book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Timothy Synder also discusses how Kristallnacht came to be in Nazi Germany. At first, Germans weren’t too fond of boycotting and destroying Jewish companies. Hitler’s solution of this was to label companies that were Jewish. He simply put signs up stating that this bank or law firm was Jewish. Turns out, this is all he needed to do. He needed to create competing groups to play the game of identity politics. He then moved the Jews into the ghettos, associating them with filth. Why? Well, because human beings are disgusted by filth, and the eradication of filth requires ethnic cleansing. Soon, people found themselves doing unimaginable things because they couldn’t dare let the other group win. The result was the massacre of roughly six million Jews. Identity politics is a game, but it’s more akin to Russian roulette than that of Monopoly or Candy Land. It’s catastrophically dangerous, and it has tens of millions of bodies in its wake.
While I could say much more, I’ll stop here. I hope it’s now clear how dangerous unrelenting partisanism can be. The events I’ve described aren’t terrifying because they show us how evil the Nazis and the Soviets were. They are terrifying because they show us the atrocities that we as human beings are capable of committing. That you and I are capable of committing. Studying history should be like looking into a mirror. We shouldn’t think that these things can’t happen in America, because they most certainly can. I just ask that we stop putting partisan agendas over the greater good of the country. I ask that we stop focusing so much on the right and the left that we forget there’s an up and a down. I ask that we all take a minute to stop and recognize our own inadequacies. I ask that we stop dehumanizing those who simply disagree with us. We all fall short, we all mess up, and none of us have all the answers. That’s precisely why we need each other. We need diversity of thought. America is better than this. Blind partisanism is a slippery slope, and if you don’t believe me, check out the twentieth century.