Political Parties are a Necessary Evil

Cassandra Scalia, Editor in Chief

It is a tale as old as time; two starkly different ideologies at battle on the public stage, demanding reforms and amendments that contradict the other’s to no end. Arguably the root of baseline corruption within today’s government, political parties cease to fail in aiding nationwide division, in both the government and the public alike. 

President George Washington famously warned against the instating of political parties, concluding that, every now and then, may prove to be useful. However, building the government around a two-party system would ultimately lead to “cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men [being] enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.” Shortly after his time as president, however, a two-party system ended up developing. The first parties — the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party (or the “Jeffersonian Republican” party) — soon gained prominence within the government, to which the young United States government was soon built around.

Parties played a rather large role in Watergate, when Nixon made the fatal decision to bug the Democratic National Committee HQ in hopes of securing his presidency for yet another term, for if one knows every move of the enemy, it is easier for one to stay a step ahead. It paid off, at first; the Republicans held the presidential seat for what initially seemed like another term. Nixon, however, was formally impeached by the House for obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress just after he was elected his second time. Before the Senate could conduct a trial, Nixon resigned his position as President of the United States.

Since then, the potent divide between the two most popular political parties — Democrats and Republicans — has become far more than clear, the two engaged in a metaphorical, brutal battle of trench warfare; both sides are incredibly dug in, at a standstill, and hardly able to advance. Protests, constant jabbing towards the opposition, ever-so strained personal relationships based on political affiliation; this country has seen nothing to this degree in its short two-century lifespan. However, despite the numerous issues that political parties seem to bring to the table, they are still necessary.

One may wonder, “if one preaches so strongly of the shortfalls of partisanship, then why simultaneously preach in favor?” The answer lies in the warning from President Washington.

Washington was very aware of the potentially damning consequences of political parties. As expressed earlier, he believed the existence of parties would do no more than allow power-hungry men to take control of the government for themselves. This apprehension stems from the contempt held towards the prospects of monarchy at the time; the newborn United States wished to avoid the reinstatement of a monarchical-like style of government (in which the family of the said person in power would hold political jurisdiction as opposed to the populous, which was the goal of creating a democracy) as it had been the very thing they rebelled against. 

Washington’s main argument was, essentially, that political parties would cause men to thirst for too much power, and therefore move to take over and act almost like a tyrannical monarch. However, it’s quite the opposite; the presence of a two-party system is much more viable than a lack thereof.

One party systems are notorious for promoting the suppression of the opposition. Perhaps, in a perfect world, it wouldn’t be that way. However, there have been very few — if at all — positive instances of one party systems in governments. 

Communist states are probably some of the best modern examples of one party systems in action. Typically, in a communist state, the Communist Party is the sole ruling party, holding absolute jurisdiction alongside their current leader. There are sometimes other minor parties, however they are usually not allowed to partake in elections and/or are unable to run against the Communist Party, as doing so would essentially “dethrone” them and strip them of their power.

 Fascist countries as well, though not at all as common as they were 70 years ago, operate similarly; the Fascist Party (or however they decide to call themselves) would be the sole party with sole jurisdiction alongside their leader, and no other parties, if they exist, are allowed to run against them. 

The main reason why these parties were able to take control and entirely reform their governments wasn’t because they had previously come from a two party system. Instead, it was mostly due to the state of the countries at the time the parties took over. During the 1920s, for example, Germany was horribly impoverished. The people were starving, hardly earning a living wage. 

The Nazi party, which had previously been no more than a minor party, used this to their advantage and promised the population that they’d return Germany to her former glory. It was the pure rage and drive for immediate change of the general population in addition to the inhuman motivation of the party that effectively ousted the previous government. It wasn’t because of the two party system itself; it was a blend of unfortunate circumstances and desire for better living situations.

With this kept in mind, how is the operation of a one-party system different to that of an absolute monarchy, which the Americans had initially rebelled against? In an absolute monarchy, the power and political jurisdiction of an entire country lies in the hands of a single royal family. In a one party system, the power and political jurisdiction of an entire country lies in the hands of a single political party. How is this any better than a two-party system?

Despite all the negative attributes that a two party system can introduce into a country, its promise of a specific operation is perhaps the reason it can uphold a democracy such as the United States’ for over two centuries: checks and balances.

 In a one party system, there are no other parties of relatively equal power to ensure the majority doesn’t become corrupt and start acting out of line. Instead, in a one party system, there is next to no real opposition. Even where there’s several  branches of government, chances are they are aligned with said party, therefore giving that party complete jurisdiction in all levels of government. 

In a two party system, this isn’t possible; there’s the majority — who can act in favor of their party the most — and the opposition, who can still act in favor of their party, though they find it much more difficult to pass their legislation without significant compromise. 

Because the minority tends to take up a good section of a congressional body, it keeps the majority from passing legislation that would act against the wellbeing of the country. On the off chance they cannot, there are still multiple branches of government that said legislation must pass through, the last of which must act without political affiliation at all. 

Basically, there’s hardly any room for checks and balances in a one party system, therefore allowing for tyranny. Two party systems, on the other hand, allow for checks and balances and further curbs the threat of tyranny.

If two party systems were truly bad for our country, we would have faced some sort of constitutional collapse years ago. It lasted through hundreds of government shutdowns, a civil war, numerous impeachments; despite all major disagreements, the presence of checks and balances allows for the country to continue to run relatively fairly — at least in comparison to one party systems.

  Political parties are undoubtedly a major stressor, however they are necessary to allow the country to remain relatively stable. It’s just a matter of communication; if we can put differences aside and learn to compromise, the system would be able to work as it was designed to as opposed to keeping the government locked in a political stand-still.