At a time when we have come close to losing our republic and with it our freedom, it is important to remember why it has lasted as long as it has. This is because the American two party system is in close concord with the way the founding fathers designed the government.
Our Constitution requires constant negotiation, even when a single party controls the entire government. There are balances in place that mean that the minority party never entirely loses its voice. This is very different from parliamentary systems, where the minority party has no voice until the majority party loses its majority.
The two-party system that has evolved through the centuries since the republic was founded is now divided between one party that centers its policies on liberty and the other that centers its policies on community.
There is nothing wrong with either of these approaches. In fact, they both have great merit and an important role to play in our lives. When the country is prosperous, the part of liberty will and should prevail. When it is experiencing a crisis, the party of community will and should prevail.
An example of this is what happened after World War I. Once the great influenza had receded, the United States began to experience a dramatic increase in prosperity. This was brought on by mass production and new technologies, such as the automobile. The Republican Party, as the party of liberty, prevailed. Then, in 1929, demand began to falter and there was an economic collapse. Millions of people who had been living prosperous lives now had nothing to eat.
This was not the fault of the Republican party. It was part of a natural economic cycle that is inherent to capitalism. Now, however, people needed community more than liberty, and therefore they voted the Democratic Party into power. The need for community extended into World War II, and so the Democrats remained in power. They created many institutions that are now essential to our lives.
After the war, prosperity returned, and the party of liberty was again voted into power, and we had the Eisenhower years, a time of prosperity enhanced by the policies of the party of liberty, the Republicans.
Since then, there has been an almost continuous expansion of prosperity. When the economy faltered under George H.W. Bush and again under George W. Bush, the result was that the country turned to Democrats, who, both times, restored prosperity and were rewarded by the voters by returning the party of liberty, the Republicans, to power.
However, during the years after the end of the Federal Communications Commission’s Fairness Doctrine, something began to go wrong. Specifically, a republic depends upon an educated electorate, and a group of mostly very wealthy people started propagandizing the population with false and distorted ideas that made it sound as if the balance of authority that had been established by the natural needs of the people was somehow wrong. They began to say that the Democrats should never be allowed power because of “socialism.” Ironically, elderly people, living on Social Security and Medicare, were among the most active and vociferous supporters of these propagandists. Worse, a huge segment of the middle class, mostly white, saw things like Affirmative Action and relatively unrestricted immigration as a direct assault on their welfare. To some extent, they were right to take this view, but they were also weaned away from their own best interests, which lie with the party of community, by a false message that their interests would somehow be served by the super-wealthy. In fact, the less prosperous a person is, the more their needs are served by the party of community, except in times of the greatest prosperity. However, the United States is so wealthy that people with constricted incomes are generally in the minority, except when the economic cycle is at nadir, which is why the party of liberty retains a strong following, as it should, even among the less prosperous. These are also the people who will most readily change allegiance as their need dictates, as happened in the recent election.
The extremes of both parties have forgotten all about the inner balance between the different approaches of the Democrats and the Republicans that makes our republic work. The far left and the far right want to stamp each other out. Either it’s “no socialism” or “all socialism,” and I very much doubt that either side has any idea what socialism really is. Neither American political party is particularly socialist, using the correct definition of that term.
It is my belief that all of us who love our freedom and respect our republic must band together to preserve both by demanding that both parties always navigate toward the center and away from the extremes. This system is what made our republic so strong, and the more we enhance and perfect it, the stronger and more resilient the republic will become.