Guest op-ed: Faction — The Founders’ original sin
It has long been a truism that the strength of the Republican party lies in its head and the strength of the Democrat party lies in its heart.
The Republican mind says that democracy can only be maintained when the nation preserves liberty and safety for persons and property and promotes economic initiative. It does this by administering the great preponderance of government close to the needs and wants of the people and by deregulating commerce. This happens in the home when parents supervise children closely while also allowing as much freedom for them as they can responsibly handle.
The Democrat heart says that democracy can only be maintained when the nation enfranchises the opinion and talents of all and uplifts the weakest elements among the people. It does this by providing a safety net for the educational, health and social needs of poor, minority and wayward citizens. This happens in the home when parents dedicate extra effort and resources to a struggling child. The Founders agreed with both of these priorities and designed a system to implement both.
Today, the two parties have lost a sense of the whole picture and instead insist that their own partial platform is the nation’s only salvation. Consequently, Republicans have taken personal liberty and wealth accumulation to absurd lengths, and Democrats have forced compassion to the level of uniformity and central administration.
For the past 150 years or more, Republicans have been steadily decreasing the amount of personal wealth they are willing to share with the broader society. They have championed lower and lower maximum tax rates and are grudgingly producing lower and lower levels of philanthropy. At the same time, they have been steadily increasing the degree of financial exploitation of the lower and middle classes, by means of skyrocketing interest rates legally allowed on credit.
For the past 100 years or so, Democrats have been steadily moving the financing and administration of health, education, welfare and criminal justice programs from localities to Washington, D.C., and placing power over them in the hands of party bosses, a handful of legislative leaders and the president.
Democrats are now proposing a massive national welfare program the size of which exceeds the GDP of our entire nation not long ago. They have proposed a four-legged chair consisting of mandatory paid parental leave, child care subsidies, universal free pre-K education and an enhanced child credit against income taxes.
Republicans are now insisting they cannot allow any increased taxation of income, assets, inheritance or corporations.
Rather than rediscovering the holistic mind and heart of the Founders, the two parties are each dead-set instead on converting the country from a two-party system to one-party rule. Each would be happy to find a populist tyrant within their midst to rule as long as he/she can.
Today, we are seeing the end-game of the problem of “faction” identified by the American founders so long ago. They wrote a constitution designed to prevent fatal factions and a consequent default to autocracy. Our Constitution still mandates that the “police power” — the power to enact, finance and regulate human affairs — be placed on the state level and also mandates policy making by the democratic majority within each state boundary, thus ensuring compassion for all.
Unfortunately, usurpers interested only in wealth (some modern Republicans) and usurpers interested only in power (some modern Democrats) have taken turns thrashing the Constitution so that many of its most important sections have been ripped from its pages.
Robert Kimball Shinkoskey is the author of a constitutional history of the American presidency, entitled “The American Kings: Growth in presidential power from George Washington to Barack Obama.”