The most often stated qualification of John McCain as a Presidential candidate is his ability to reach across the aisle and solve problems in a bi-partisan manner. This supposedly has great appeal to independent and moderate voters. The evidence given for this is usually campaign finance reform and energy legislation co-sponsored by McCain and Democrats Russ Feingold and Joseph Lieberman. Many if not most voters, weary of the Congressional wars of the past few years, seem to welcome this as a definite positive.
During the campaign, McCain has been preserving his ability to work in a bi-partisan way by studiously avoiding any specific criticism of Congress. In attempting to identify the root causes of the financial crisis, for example, he blames “Wall Street” and “Washington”. These broad terms are not sufficient, and only add to the animosity felt by many people against “the rich” and “government”. Obviously, not everyone connected to Wall Street and not everyone in Washington is Corrupt.
Wall Street is simply a “label” used to designate our financial markets. Only certain members of those markets are responsible for the current crisis, those who deal in sub-prime mortgages. Among those, the most culpable are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Both of these institutions are government sponsored and operate subject to the guidance of Congress. Both have been run primarily by members of one party for years, the Democrats. This is a well documented historical fact that cannot be denied by anyone other than blatant partisans.
During the campaign, McCain often uses the politically safe, “Washington is broken” cliché to reinforce his “reformer” image. At times he may even go so far as to implicate “Congress”. However until this past Thursday, he has avoided mentioning any Congressional wrongdoers by name. It could be that he is simply following the advice of Jesus to “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitation”. (Luke 16:9) In case he loses the election he, no doubt, wishes to return to the Senate and resume his role as the “maverick” with the ability to “reach across the aisle”.
This bi-partisan image may serve his needs in the Senate, but it is costing him the election. If he wins it will be due to voters rejecting Barack Obama and not because of a strong desire for the leadership of John McCain and certainly not because of his bi-partisan image. Throughout its history America has always had a fiercely partisan government. That’s the way the Founders set it up, either intentionally or unintentionally. It may be unpleasant to many, but it is necessary for our government to function as intended.
In studying the literature of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries there is no doubt the Founding Fathers would have preferred a non-partisan government. They often warned against the dangers of “factions” or partisanship. However they established a government that requires a partisan political system.
The system of checks and balances required by our Constitution is perhaps the single most important factor in our becoming the strongest, and one of the most enduring governments in history. In the arena of elective politics it is our two party system that preserves the system of checks and balances that keeps the government functioning for all the people. The partisanship of each party prevents, or at least, lessens the excesses of the other. Our unique method of electing the Chief Executive through the Electoral College rather than a straight majority vote of the electorate preserves the two party system.
More than two strong political parties would transform our government into a de facto parliamentary system rather than a republican system. Since the election of a President and Vice President requires the majority vote of the Electoral College a multi-party system would more often than not throw the election of the President into the House of Representatives, resulting in a Chief Executive elected by the Legislature rather than the people.
In America the balance of power has always been between government tyranny and individual liberty. For the first hundred years individual liberty held sway. During the twentieth century the pendulum of power moved decidedly to the side of government tyranny thanks to the socialist policies introduced during the reign of Franklin Roosevelt. Pure democracies always lean toward tyranny, either through the tyranny of the majority, or more likely through a ruling class of aristocratic elites, which is why we were setup as a republic.
In our own history, the Democratic Party has always been the party of government tyranny, grounded in its ideological beginnings in the Federalist Party of Adams and Hamilton. For a hundred and seventy years it was the party of slavery and segregation. Although the organizational history of the Democratic Party is generally traced to the one founded by Jefferson, there is no doubt it is the ideological descendent of the Federalist Party founded by Alexander Hamilton.
Just as the Democratic Party of today shares the big government philosophy of the early Federalists, the Republican Party, particularly the conservative wing, shares the love of liberty and the Constitution, espoused by Jefferson’s republicanism. You can think of the political life of America as a continuum with republicanism, liberty and constitutional government on one end and democracy, socialism and tyranny on the other. We are today somewhere between the center and the socialist side of that continuum. If America elects Obama in November, we will move dramatically closer to the socialist side, based on his campaign promises.
If by chance we elect the McCain-Palin ticket, we may have a chance to slow down the advancement of socialism. The last thing we need however is a President working in a bi-partisan way with the socialist wing of the Democratic Party. The contest between Democrats and Republicans is a contest of ideology and principles. Bi-partisanship is based on compromise, and principles can never be compromised and survive. In the instances where McCain has attempted to work with Democrats in the past, the result has always been a net loss for the American people and the Constitution.
Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have made it clear over the past two years they are never willing to compromise until they have been soundly defeated, and then they merely withdraw in order to regroup and try again. It would be good if we did have a non-partisan government that always put the good of the country above the welfare of the party. Until someone invents a new kind of politician however, that is not going to happen. Until then we need a President and Republican Senators and Congressmen willing to stand on the side of republican principles, the people and the Constitution; and not be taken in by the myth of bi-partisanship.