The National Catholic Review

President Washington, what are your thoughts on American political debate in the new millenium?

Let me now warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party. This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

What makes you say that?

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms and kindles the animosity of one part against another.

What do you advise?

The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

 

(Selections from George Washington's Farewell Address)

Comments

J Cosgrove | 2/21/2012 - 6:02pm
David,

I am also reading Coming Apart, about half way through it.  I am from Philadelphia originally and will be going back to a high school Communion Breakfast in a couple weeks.  I bet some of my classmates grew up in Fishtown.  Here is a rather lengthy review of the book:

http://www.toqonline.com/blog/elite-and-underclass/

Also here is an article from the Philadelphia paper a classmate sent me.

http://articles.philly.com/2012-02-10/news/31046674_1_middle-class-charles-murray-new-book


There was an article today in the Atlantic on the same theme not related to the Murray book

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2012/02/marriage-only-rich-and-well-educated/48927/

J Cosgrove | 2/21/2012 - 9:52am
David,

I am not sure we could do without political parties.  Just look at where there are none or only one and you will see a lack of freedom.  And if there are too many the governing body can get paralyzed.  Actually I believe that two or at most three is ideal as much as I detest one of our political parties and tolerate the other the alternative would not be nice.


The one thing that has definitely changed is the influence of religion on our elites especially the opinion driving forces in society such as academia, the press and literature/entertainment.  The founding fathers were not necessarily Christian (Jefferson was a Deist and Adams was an Unitarian and Washington was unknown) they all to a man emphasized the necessity of religion to run a government wisely.  Now we have an abhorence of religious ideals and government.
J Cosgrove | 2/20/2012 - 10:19pm
From Washington's farewell address and part of American culture for quite awhile:


''It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.''


''Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.''


''Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ?


''And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion''


''Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.''


''The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations''
Marie Rehbein | 2/20/2012 - 6:40pm
The more things change, the more they stay the same.