Robert 'Frank' Jakubowicz: Centuries on, founders' warning on factions still proves prescient

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PITTSFIELD — Not reelecting President Donald Trump to a second term will put an end to his incompetent, divisive and ruinous leadership of this nation, but it will not necessarily put an end to the dysfunctional government in Washington, D.C.

"United" is the key word in this nation's name. John Adams warned against attempts to divide the nation. In a 1789 letter to Jonathan Jackson, he wrote that: "There was nothing I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerning measures in opposition to each other."

President George Washington, in his 1796 farewell speech stressed unity of the nation as the main pillar of its real independence, tranquility at home, peace abroad, safety, prosperity and liberty. But, despite the founders' warnings America is now a divided republic with two great parties engaged in opposition to each other.

The founders apparent solution to prevent political parties from disrupting the government they were creating was not to mention them — "factions" as they called them — in the Constitution as part of the electoral and governing system. But the founders in their campaign to have the country adopt their proposed federal government formed factions to lobby the public to adopt the Constitution. Such political activity by these factions played an important role in the creation of what eventually became our current two major party political system. Ironically it was all done without the mention of parties in the Constitution but it became an accepted major part of America's political system as if it was written in the Constitution.

Beginning in 1792, these early political factions nominated presidents which enhanced their political power. Eventually, political party bosses emerged to create a political spoils system. Party presidential conventions became political marketplaces for these bosses to trade, behind closed doors in smoke-filled rooms, for the votes of convention delegates in exchange for promised shares of the spoils from the presidential nominee if he was elected. These and other corrupt practices by the bosses led to a public demand for reform that led to the establishment of a change in the electoral system. The electoral system was reformed so that rank-and-file party members voted in party primaries, to nominate presidents. But political parties otherwise remained in place.

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In the absence of the old political party bosses, party members, especially right-wing Republicans, began forming voter blocs to control the nomination of candidates in the primary elections. To appeal to these voters, party candidates for office and those in office seeking reelection began opposing rather than agreeing or compromising with Democrats in governing the nation. The result was a dysfunctional government in Washington. This state of divisive politics escalated sharply with the election of Barack Obama as president.

According to a book written by Robert Draper, it began on the eve of Obama's inaugural celebration with a group of Republican leaders meeting in a Washington restaurant to plan a no-cooperation legislative strategy in dealing with Obama. The Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell later made political news headlines by talking about his and his party's main goal to make Obama a one-term president. This policy was strictly followed by congressional Republicans. For example, Republican lawmakers who had supported legislation in the past, opposed it when Obama proposed it. McConnell refused to allow a senate hearing for Obama's nominee Merrick Garland to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court caused by the death of Antonin Scalia. Republicans also engaged in a constant push to repeal Obama's Affordable Care Act. They are still trying to do this. The Republicans claimed they could not realize their objectives unless they controlled Congress and the White House. In the meantime, with few exceptions, McConnell and his majority of senators allow President Donald Trump to continue with his incompetent national leadership to deal with just about everything else in governing this nation.

The Republicans have now weaponized their political party. They have stood the core constitutional separation of power principle on its head by not using it to share political power but to prevent Democrats from being involved in governing this nation. To paraphrase Lee Iacocca, America must be governed the GOP way or there will be no way, resulting in a continuing dysfunctional government. Republican majorities in either congressional branch can and will use their power to prevent a Democratic president from running the country based on democratic policies. Not reelecting Trump will not solve this Republican all-or-nothing governing strategy.

What this country needs at this point as a start for a return to a functioning federal government is to elect Democrats to control the White House and both branches of Congress in the upcoming election. This will result in the unity of the government and it would be a political lesson to the Republicans to stop the divisiveness and to get back to working with the Democrats to govern. This would be a big step to return this nation to the compromising way both parties functioned in the past.

Robert "Frank" Jakubowicz is a regular Eagle contributor.


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