Just A Guy

Just A Guy

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

George Washington was right

"The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

"Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) 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."

George Washington, "Farewell Address"

Translated from late-18th-century English, our first, arguably greatest and certainly most humble President warned that political parties do more harm than good, and should be discouraged at virtually any cost, because they lead to the despotism of the party in power over the party out of power and, finally, to a person who "turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty. I am afraid in my soul that we have reached that point.

A personal anecdote to prove that a pox is appropriate on BOTH their houses: I was considering at one time running for district court judge here in Bexar County, Texas. Not having participated in the local party politics, I looked up the Bexar County Republican Party chairman and made an appointment to discuss how one goes about running for judge. I explained who I was and what I thought made me a good candidate for judge. When I finished, he told me I was just what they were looking for: a bilingual Anglo military veteran with good connections and a background as a trial attorney.

"Now", he said, "we need to get you over to see Jim [no last names for this post]".

"Who is that?", says I.

"The kingmaker", says the Republican Party Chair. "If he likes you, we'll support you as a candidate."

This is a name I'd never heard before. I began to realize that there was a power behind the power, and a price to be paid to get support from my own party. It disgusted me and played a large role in my decision not to run.

I have no doubt the same shadow players exist in the Democrat power structure, and in fact once received unsolicited a call from a friend who is a "player" in the Democrat party, asking me not to support a particular female [Republican] candidate for judge because "she hasn't paid her dues". I knew this candidate was (and still is) an excellent attorney and a person whose judicial temperament was above reproach, and that dues had nothing to do with her qualifications. The call, like my conversation with the party chairman, made me sick to my stomach.

Call me naive; call me silly. I just believe that party affiliation should not be the touchstone of our decisions to cast our vote. I am a conservative; many Republicans aren't. I have Democrat friends for whom I have voted repeatedly for judge, despite knowing full well their party affiliation. A friend of mine, Charles Gonzalez, currently a United States Representative from Texas, received my vote as a judge and, the first time around, as a candidate for House of Representatives. He was a very good judge, but showed himself to be a party hack as a politician, and I stopped voting for him (sorry, Charlie - I still love ya!).

Things have to change. We must stop allowing politicians to have 10 and 20-year (and more) careers in office. That's not how the Founders meant the system to operate. Nobody can keep his or her sense of what's going on outside the beltway, or city council chambers, or Austin, for more than two terms. Entitlement has become the rule, and NOBODY's entitled to my tax money in the form of pay and benefits for life.

It all fits together: party politics leads to party hacks and party bosses; blind, unthinking ballot casting leads to party despotism and the kind of win-at-all-costs alley fighting we've seen over the last 20 years, with elected officials thinking more of lining their pockets and consolidating their power than of working for the interests of their constituents and of the nation. Any politician who sneers at the principles of integrity first and service before self should be subjected to the full fury of his or her constituents. Why do we stand still for the Foleys, Clintons, Sanfords and Franks of our current political landscape?

Washington was right: party politics are the root of all kinds of evil, regardless of the party. Find out where your candidate stands, don't just vote the straight ticket! Your future and your country's future demand it.