President Washington’s Last Wish

In his final address to the nation, George Washington delivered these important words: “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion” [1]. Sound familiar to anyone?

In the months before the 2016 election, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had unfavorability ratings above 50 percent [2]. At a time when it was difficult for a majority of Americans agree about anything, these two individuals managed to convince a consistent majority that neither of them should be president. Yet, despite this, Americans only really had two options. Why did this nonsensical reality occur? The unfortunate answer is that the United States has a de facto two-party system that is defended and enforced by these parties. It is time to take positive action to break the stranglehold these two machines maintain on the American mind.

For decades this system has disenfranchised libertarian, socialist, and communist voters whose fledgling parties could never get footing. Most of the country took no issue with this since these groups were viewed as radicals, but in recent years the danger of the system became increasingly clear as the Republican and Democratic parties moved further towards polarized extremes. As this occurred independents and moderates were also effectively left without a party, and the phrase “choosing between two evils” was heard in many homes. As of January 2019 independents made up approximately 39 percent of the country’s electorate. Two-fifths of Americans do not have a party that represents their interests, and this does not account for the significant portions of moderates that reside in each party, many of whom feel ignored as well.

One example of the parties failing the American people is abortion and the concept of reproductive rights. While the issue of abortion appears to be highly partisan it is actually not. Approximately 1 in 3 Republicans identifies with pro-choice positions while about 1 in 4 Democrats identify as pro-life [3]. Despite this, party platforms have made it so that nearly all nationally elected Republicans are pro-life while the reverse is true for Democrats.

Some journalists and advocates in the United States believe that the solution to this problem is to emulate many of our European friends across the pond by creating a proportional system that encourages numerous parties [4]. But the nations that employ this concept of government often end up with two quasi-parties anyway because coalitions necessarily form between the parties [5]. Instead of jumping from one ineffective system to another we ought to follow the advice of our only independent president in history, George Washington. It is time for us to move towards a system that abolishes political parties and requires each candidate to run as an independent. This system, formally called a “nonpartisan democracy,” enables citizens to run for office based on their own merits and ideologies without forcing them to conform to an artificial set of values imposed by party leaders. While immediate reaction to this idea may be that it is unrealistic, such a system is not unprecedented—it occurred during the beginning of American democracy when both the presidency and Congress were nonpartisan, and it was argued for in Federalist Paper No. 10 [6]. It is also present today in the Nebraska state legislature [7]. This reform would allow for more pragmatic and less polarizing legislation in Congress. Imagine an immigration debate that didn’t fall on party lines or a Supreme Court confirmation that wasn’t a political circus. If that seems like a fantasy, perhaps consider whether it is any more ridiculous than the present political reality.

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[1]https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/quotes/article/however-political-parties-may-now-and-then-answer-popular-ends-they-are-likely-in-the-course-of-time-and-things-to-become-potent-engines-by-which-cunning-ambitious-and-unprincipled-men-will-be-enabled-to-subvert-the-power-of-the-people-and-to-usurp-for-th/

[2] https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/president/clintontrumpfavorability.html

[3] https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-abortion-debate-isnt-as-partisan-as-politicians-make-it-seem/

[4] https://www.fairvote.org/what_is_proportional_representation_and_why_do_we_need_this_reform and https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/10/15/17979210/proportional-representation-could-save-america

[5] https://www.wsj.com/articles/eu-struggles-with-foibles-of-coalition-governments-1508443179

[6] http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed10.asp

[7] https://nebraskalegislature.gov/about/history_unicameral.php

[8] https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/origins-and-functions-political-parties/

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Colton Quist

COLTON QUIST is a senior from Boise Idaho. As part of his studies in Political Science he recently completed an internship with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Washington D.C. and intends on returning to the east coast for graduate school. He has a passion for critical writing, history, and everything political. He loves to spend his spare time reading the news or off-roading but enjoys nearly anything so long as it’s with the people he cares about. ​

Latest posts by Colton Quist (see all)

Colton Quist

COLTON QUIST is a senior from Boise Idaho. As part of his studies in Political Science he recently completed an internship with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Washington D.C. and intends on returning to the east coast for graduate school. He has a passion for critical writing, history, and everything political. He loves to spend his spare time reading the news or off-roading but enjoys nearly anything so long as it’s with the people he cares about. ​

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