Steve A. Stone
Dear Friends and Patriots,
Our very first President was our wisest. I’ve thought that for most of my life, and in my sunset years I think it more than ever. If we, as a collective people, studied the writings of George Washington and deliberated upon his sage council, we’d have a far different and better country than we do today. We’d have an international reputation much like Switzerland. Is there any nation on the planet that seeks to make war on Switzerland? Can you think of any that ever did? Why not? Could it be because the Swiss have always tended to their own business and vigorously sought to stay out of the business of others? Could it also be that the Swiss are united in their beliefs against internal factionalism? Shouldn’t we be like that? Surely you understand the truth that we once were – for almost one moment in time.
George Washington was solidly against making treaties with foreign governments. He promoted free commerce with all nations, giving favor to none. He seemed to be that way about everything – dealing with people and entire nations equally. He considered no person as his enemy and no nation as the enemy of America. He wasn’t delusional. His beliefs were an expression of The Golden Rule, and it seemed to work for him and for the very young American nation.
Washington did have his problems, though. There was that Whiskey Rebellion thing. It’s always interesting to read accounts from that period to understand just how anti-government our people were in those days. Even though it was Congress that passed a law imposing an excise tax on distilled spirits, the most common complaint was of “… legislation without representation.” The rebellion lasted for about three years, altogether, and was pretty intense at times. It began in 1791 with the passage of the tax law, and didn’t end until a coalition of state militias formed, headed by President Washington. Washington led the troops in the field – the only time an American President has ever done such a thing. He later turned command over to Gen. Henry “Lighthorse Harry” Lee. The combined federal militia managed to cow the rebels into submission and the Whiskey Rebellion was done – in 1794. Understand something very important. The tax on distilled spirits directly affected President Washington. His estate at Mount Vernon ran the largest distillery in the nation at the time, making him the single most significant remitter of taxes on distilled spirits. It’s pretty safe to conclude when he organized the expedition to suppress the rebellion he wasn’t acting in his own economic interests. My… how times have changed!
One of President Washington’s pet peeves had to do with political parties. He saw them as intrinsically divisive and contrary to the entire notion of the new nation’s principles. Political factions had been forming since the very first Congress, and by 1794 they were already causing obvious dissent among the legislators. Washington did all he could to prevent the rise of the parties, but his best friends were the leaders of the two strongest and most adversarial factions. The differences between Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison were mostly philosophic. The faction led by Hamilton was known as the Federalists. They advocated for a stronger central government and close ties to Great Britain. Madison and Jefferson were allies in their belief that to survive as a republic the federal government should remain somewhat weak and allow the states to have superior powers within their own boundaries. They also believed maintaining the alliance with France should be our nation’s main diplomatic concern. The faction headed by Madison and Jefferson was characterized as the Anti-Federalists for a time, before formally adopting the name Democrat-Republicans. Washington’s second term in office was continuously marked by his personal efforts to keep peace between the strong-minded and strong-willed leaders of the two camps.
To illustrate his position and issue a warning to the nation Washington dwelled on partisan factionalism in his Farewell Address. The Address itself was initially crafted by Madison, then finished by Hamilton, with Washington ensuring the text was representative of his beliefs and intent.
There are two paragraphs that stand out to me today. These two paragraphs perfectly illustrate how prescient Washington was. He saw the dangers presented by partisan politics and wanted everyone in the nation to understand it as he saw it.
The first paragraph, excerpted below, warns of the increasing level of animosity that would be seen in factionalism. He foresaw the rise of powerful party leaders with strong and divergent viewpoints who would routinely vilify their political adversaries:
The last sentence points out a truth, that eventually such party factionalism leads to loyalties to party over principles of freedom and liberty.
In the second excerpted paragraph Washington implies that partisan politics only weakens the government, creates dissent among the general population, and leads to a climate of pettiness that can expand in dangerous ways. He reasons that the divisions among parties will be viewed by opportunistic foreign governments as a path to usurp our government and turn it toward their own intentions:
Gee, it makes one wonder if Washington spent a lot of time gazing into a crystal ball. He understood exactly what was going to happen. Everything he was concerned about has come true, and to an unimaginable extent.
I’m a Republican. I’ve been one all my life, since way before I could legally vote. I can’t explain it. Maybe, like most my age, I just liked Ike. When I was a kid Ike was “IT!” Ike’s own Farewell Address is another great example of superb understanding and prediction. I can think of only two Presidents since him that I’d rank higher. One was the great Ronald “Ronaldus Magnus” Reagan, and the other was the only one I think has a chance of challenging George Washington as the GOAT – Donald Trump. No Democrat comes close. There are many who speculate that John F. Kennedy could have, but he wasn’t allowed to continue competing. That’s just history.
Donald Trump is at least the second greatest President. The metrics alone substantiate that. His administration accomplished more in one term that any other administration since Washington’s. He kept most all of his campaign promises. The list of positive achievements by his administration is incredible to contemplate. Trump was turned out of office, but now he’s running again. This treatise isn’t meant to dwell on the 2020 election. It’s meant to illustrate my complaints about partisan politics – particularly as played by Republicans – and how destructive it is to the nation as a whole.
Don’t for a second think I’m going to let Democrats off the hook here. If Republicans are bad – and they are – Democrats are far worse. Theirs is the party of Marxist communists, socialists, and authoritarians of every stripe. They’ve become corrupt to a demonic extent. But, I’m not concerned with them. There’s nothing I can do to change them. I never identified as one of them, and I see no point in doing other than pointing out what and who they are. Today’s Democrats are the enemies of all that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton stood for. The partisan differences in the 1790s were over foreign policy and the extent of federalism. Today the differences are “supposedly” over Constitutional rule and whether or not we can continue as a free and sovereign nation. The differences of 1790s were mostly philosophic and over the direction the new nation should head. Today the differences are truly over our right to exist.
As I’ve stated in print before, I may be a lifelong Republican, but I’ve never been as unhappy with my party as now. They are living up to the worst predictions of President Washington. It’s a party dominated by self-interest, intrigues, infighting, and not one that seems to care at all about the people of the country. If ever there was a time when people should step up and do things that are right, it’s now. I see than in a handful of elected officials, yet, that’s not what I’m seeing from Republican Party itself.
We are nearing the 2024 campaign season. In times gone by it was expected for the Republicans to rally around their standard bearer. By rights, that standard should be carried by Donald Trump. The party is struggling with that. The party stalwarts – the establishment Republicans who believe they own the party – don’t want Trump to run. They certainly don’t want him as the party’s nominee. Those party stalwarts – those are the despots Washington was talking about – are acting in their own self-interest, not the interests of the nation. Instead of bowing to the will of the body of the party they impose their own will on the party. They occupy the positions of power within the party and they intend to run it as they choose. They’ll only rarely admit to their enormous dislike of Donald Trump. After all, they hope to survive anything that happens between 2024 and 2029. Even if Trump ends up winning, the party stalwarts don’t intend to let that reality perturb their own interests – they fully intend to just outlive him. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, they are all busy feathering their own nests and plotting the many initiatives they intend to pursue to deny Trump an honest chance to garner the party’s nomination.
At the heart of all the Republican Party stalwarts’ angst is a common feeling – Trump is not one of “us.” They don’t like him. He doesn’t court them. He doesn’t need them. He wants to run on their party’s ticket, even though he sometimes admits he likes them only slightly better than a Democrat. The Republican Party stalwarts like the assigned political philosophy of Trump as a “populist.” When one of those people uses that term they use the very same definition used by the Democrats – they like to emphasize that populists have an essentially authoritarian nature and always tend to claim their mandates are from the people, not from any party. Is that the truth? If Trump is the nominee of the party next fall, that’s the true question we’ll be voting on. Whose candidate will Trump be – the Republican Party’s or the people’s?
I’ve voted for Republicans since 1972. There have only been a couple of instances when I didn’t. Most of those times involved races where a Democrat faced a third party candidate. That changed a bit a few years back when someone who later became a great friend ran for a state house seat on the Constitution Party ticket. He was just so superior in every way that I couldn’t vote for anyone but him. He lost, and only last night did I find out how and why. The story I heard tells a lot about how easy elections can be manipulated. This story leads to why I say I cry.
On the night of the election in question my favorite in the race, the Constitution Party candidate, was running ahead in the district. An election official at one precinct somehow found out that the Republican candidate was in danger of being soundly defeated. Though she was a sworn poll official she left the polling station and went outside where her husband was sitting and visiting friends. The words I heard attributed to her were almost shouted, “XXX (name omitted to protect me), you better do something quick! Your brother’s getting beat!” The story I heard is, the husband, who was connected to a local high school, went around the district to round up all the eligible recent graduates of that school and told them to go to the polling place and vote for his brother. Evidently he was successful. The Republican candidate won by less than 2%, carrying only one precinct in the district – the one where his sister-in-law was in charge.
I’m not 100% certain of every detail of the story. It’s been a few years, but there were a few people in the room last night who seemed to corroborate the occurrence. I have no reason to doubt it overall. I do know there was huge concern in the Republican Party in my county over that one race. They knew who the best candidate was, and knew it wasn’t theirs. But, “best” doesn’t matter to them.
I watched the last Republican primary and saw several races that were won by the inferior candidate. In each case the losing candidate had the name recognition, the record, and the popularity to win – but didn’t. Yet, no one will question why. The Party always wins. In this case the races were supposedly for the people to choose the Party’s nominee, but when I listened closely and read between the lines I could clearly see where the party establishment wanted to end up. Yes, the Party won. As for the people – no one actually cares about them.
Last November I crossed a line. The despots of my party have declared that no one who supports a candidate of another party can run for any office as a Republican for at least six years. I surveyed the field of candidates and offices and realized there were three Republicans on the ballot that were clearly (to me, at least) inferior to candidates of a third party. I didn’t cast my vote as a protest. I didn’t do it for spite. I did it because I personally vetted those three and understood them to be the best people for the offices they ran for. Because I did that – I crossed a line. But, I’m not crying over it. I voted according to my principles. I voted the way I believe George Washington would have advised me to.
So, why do I cry? I cry because I’m frustrated that any American who loves the concept of individual freedom and liberty would not understand the moral compromise that comes with putting loyalty to a political party ahead of personal principles. Doing so equates to putting party identity ahead of national identity. It says “I am a Republican first, an American next (or maybe not even next).” I cry because I support a political party that demands that its members do just that. The official Republican Party position is that every “good” Republican should vote straight ticket. They don’t want us to pick and choose. They don’t care if the actual best person for the job wins. They only care that the winner has a (R) after their name. That’s all! I cry because so many in our country fall for that idea. To me, it’s entirely repugnant. It tells me that, as a party, the Republicans are hardly better than the Democrats. Both make demands that their followers stop thinking and just “line up!” They both fulfill George Washington’s worst nightmares.
The future looks grim. The “Boss Hogs” of the Republican Party do not want Trump. But, if the polling is any indication – the people do. That’s a prescription for many things, none of them good. The party establishment – the ones who believe they “own” the party – may go to great lengths to sabotage Trump’s efforts. They are not to be trusted. As Washington indicated – there’s no reason to trust them. They aren’t working for us – they’re working for themselves. They want someone who they can manipulate and they’ve always understood Trump is not that person. They prefer DeSantis because a lot of those same people believe he is. They may or may not be right about that. Perhaps we’ll see.
The biggest reason I cry today is I understand the truth that the Republican establishment is willing to play these kinds of political games in a time when the majority of people are concerned that the country is dying. In every important way, we are doing very poorly. It’s all due to purposefully bad policies that are possible to reverse, but the party establishment is far more interested in their own gain than they are in securing the future of the nation. I’m 100% certain they would vigorously disagree with me on ever point made above. I’m just playing the part of umpire and calling the balls and strikes as I see them. The party establishment – they’re team managers. Their extreme bias is something I expect.
To be precise, party loyalty is a huge problem. When anyone subordinates a founding principle to such loyalty, they’ve betrayed their entire nation. Today the Democrats are almost 100% invested in a party that seeks to destroy everything that’s still good in America. Meanwhile, the Republicans are playing their same old reliable instrument – second fiddle. They never seem to know what to do when they manage to gain power. They always screw it up. The reasons are truly very simple – as a group they tend to put party and expedience over principles. They demand loyalty, yet do far too little to earn it. They drive off their own members by making rules that exclude those who openly follow their conscience and principles.
Perhaps it’s just me being me again.
Last night one of the people in the room made a statement about the party punishing people for voting for any other party’s candidate. I had to challenge them. I said, “How you vote is something no one can know unless you tell them. The party can’t punish anyone unless they lend material support to another party’s candidate in a verifiable way. Get in a picture with another party’s candidate. They’ll see it. Donate money and they’ll see it on the campaign finance reports. That’s what they punish you for. ” In doing so, they are making their own party weaker. Instead of punishing people for following their conscience and principles they should always strive to put up candidates worthy of the most conscientious of us. But, far too often … they don’t.
A hat-tip is due to pop star Leslie Goldstein, aka Leslie Gore. Her party made her cry, too.
Steve© Steve A. Stone
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.