While holding partisan opinions is part of our right of franchise, we must remember George Washington’s warning that it has the potential for destroying our national unity, making us vulnerable to our enemies beyond our borders. As we proceed into the 2014 election cycle, reflecting on partisanship and its role in American government would appear appropriate.
Let’s start with the assumption that the vast majority of Americans want a nation of healthy, prosperous, educated people, who are self reliant, law abiding and community oriented. The American political process then is the continuing back and forth debate between different approaches to bring this about. If we acknowledge the right to freely hold and express opinions, then we must also accept that there will be a great diversity of thought about how to achieve these goals.
Throughout American history, these opinions have tended to coalesce around two political schools of thought, which have been formally institutionalized in the Democratic and Republican parties. The Republican perspective has historically emphasized the importance of industrial and commercial expansion to promote prosperity, coupled with an emphasis on maintaining a national security policy based on military strength . The Democratic perspective has tended to emphasize the role of government as the equalizer in distributing economic benefits, coupled with the importance of negotiation and effective foreign policy as the means for achieving peace and security.
The thing to remember is that both parties only represent a perspective, which can easily be oversimplified. Good statesmanship will recognize areas of mutual interest and will demand the best elements of both perspectives in the formulation of policy. Partisan affiliation should never be used as a license to claim that these perspectives are mutually exclusive. Such a suggestion is the very definition of extremism.
As we approach 2014, let us welcome a vigorous and spirited debate of the issues but let’s keep reason, not emotion in the forefront. Bad public policy hurts us all. Taking the time to evaluate the merits of all perspectives in its development is an investment worth making.