George Washington warned us.
On the eve of the most important election of my life, America continues to be torn apart by hate partisanship and petty political tribalism.
Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell was right to recently describe the Senate election as a “knife fight in an alley.” This same metaphor also describes how our nation is governed.
Politicians too often choose party over country, acrimony over unity and position themselves to win the next electoral cycle rather than doing what’s right.
And, as Americans and businesses battle the impact of the pandemic, Congress has failed to deliver a much-needed second economic stimulus package.
In fact, Congress had basically checked and elected officials were heading home for the home stretch of the election until the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week.
President Trump and Republican leaders have decided to move forward to fill his vacant post before Americans even have a chance to mourn his death and celebrate his powerful legacy.
Why? Because stacking the court to overthrow Roe v. Wade, the Affordable Care Act and its protections for pre-existing conditions, and potentially weigh on the outcome of Trump v. Biden, is more important than waiting less than 40 days for the American public to weigh on the vacancy through the US presidential and senatorial elections.
Nine months before the 2016 election, those same Republican leaders cheering for a nomination right now, blocked a vote for the Obama-led nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. They made sure the voters decided on this issue because it was too close to the election. Now they are twisting themselves in a Machiavellian-minded gymnastics to excuse the partisan double standard.
Republicans have indicated they have the votes to confirm the anonymous candidate before Judge Ginsburg is buried and even before Trump announces his selection. Elected officials learn to align themselves or to suffer the consequences.
The takeover is revolting, but not surprising. Injected at the eleventh hour, this political bet will dominate the news cycle over the next few weeks, which suits Trump who wants to steer the debate away from jobs and the economy, health and the pandemic.
The American duopoly party system reinforced by our shady campaign finance system is broken.
Our constitution does not mention political parties, George Washington, in his farewell speech of September 19, 1796, warned us “in the most solemn manner against the harmful effects of party spirit”. Washington feared that the two political factions led by Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton would tear the nation apart.
Two hundred and twenty-four years later, his moving words are frightening and prophetic. Political parties “can sometimes serve popular ends, they are likely, over time and things, to become powerful engines, by which cunning, ambitious and unscrupulous men will be allowed to subvert the power of the people and to subvert the power of the people. usurping for themselves the reins of government, then destroying the very engines that raised them to the unjust domination of its dangers.
Washington was the only president in our country’s history who did not represent a political party, and he sought to rule the entire country, not just those who represented his political views.
The majority of American voters are clearly tired of the knife battle.
According to the August Gallup poll, 41% of Americans consider themselves independent compared to 26% for Republicans and 31% for Democrats. Colorado’s voter registration numbers are similar. And, surprisingly, Colorado has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of voters registered as unaffiliated voters over the past four years.
According to a Hill-Harris poll, 60% of independent voters have watched neither the Democratic Convention nor the Republican Convention. Even those affiliated with parties lose interest because 30% of Republicans and Democrats have not watched the conventions either.
In a few weeks, independent voters have only two real choices: Republican or Democratic candidates. These voters will ultimately decide the presidential election and virtually every major contested election across the country.
But when it comes to sausage making, these voters have virtually no representation or voice.
I often wonder when moderate and disenfranchised voters will finally find their voice, the necessary leadership and the resources to create a movement to effectively push back the extremes of both parties.
The two-party machine brings enormous financial power to its candidates. It is therefore difficult today to imagine independent voters being elected without significant financial resources, a system that suppresses political parties or the creation of a large third political party.
Aside from the challenges, we the people had better understand. As Washington has warned, the survival of our republic depends on it.
Doug Friednash is a native of Denver, a partner at Brownstein Hyatt Farber and Schreck law firm and former chief of staff to Governor John Hickenlooper.
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