Today when you turn on the news, it is about two political parties (Republicans and Democrats) and the bickering in Congress. But when the Constitutional Convention delegates met in Philadelphia in 1787, they purposely omitted any mention of political parties from the constitution. Many harken back to the bloody civil wars in England in the 1600's where political parties were seen as corrupt and self-interest.
In 1796, George Washington's farewell address warned against three dangers that could destroy the union: "regionalism, partisanship, and foreign entanglements. " On regionalism, he said: “The name of American…must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.” These words fell on deaf ears as sixty-five years later (April 12, 1861), the first engagement of the Civil War took place at Fort Sumter (Charleston, S.C.) which almost destroyed our nation.
People want to belong to a group with similar ideas. Political parties sprang up right away both for and against the Constitution. By the presidential election of 1796, there were two main parties: Federalist (Alexander Hamilton) and the Democratic-Republicans (Thomas Jefferson and James Madison ). Today we have the Democrat and Republican parties. 59% of Americans see a great deal of difference between the two parties in 2022 up from 55% in 2020. Americans seem more polarized and each election means "the fate of our nation lies in the balance". Talk radio and social media, though informative, have contributed to the polarization. Political gridlock in Congress might eventually lead to political compromise and return to civility and rule of law. Hopefully this can happen in the next 10 years or 50 years before this country is changed forever.
America has tried to remain an isolationist but reluctantly intervene in the two world wars. We have used "nation building" to correct flaws in foreign governments. The world has grown smaller and more dependent on each other. We learn during COVID about our dependence on China which is over $521 billion dollars or 17.2% of China's exports.
Our forefathers envisioned the principles of checks and balances of power. Regional and party differences need to be met with compromise. We need to apply our history lessons of isolation and shrink our involvement in foreign commitment. We need to repair the damage from these three dangers that Washington has warned against before it is too late.