Friday, January 04, 2008

"A Confirming Election" and "The spirit of Party"--why Obama matters

Scott Rasmussen of the polling organization Rasmussen Reports recently wrote a really fascinating commentary entitled "The United States Needs a Confirming Election". He says:

The United States is in dire need of an election where somebody wins big, an election that confirms someone with a real majority, and an election that provides the nation with some sense of a prevailing public perspective. Big Victories in Presidential elections don’t make everyone happy, but they do help to unify the nation and improve the health of our political system.

He defines a Big Victory as winning at least 55% of the popular vote and 75% of the electoral votes. He says only 1 of the last 8 elections have been a big victory (Reagan in 1984), whereas 9 of the 14 elections before 1976 were big victories.

I think he has a great point. I mean how nice would it be to see the nation united instead of so bitterly divided? And I think it's exceedingly clear that Obama is the only candidate from any party who can accomplish that. He's certainly the one who promotes the ideas of national unity and dialogue rather than partisanship the most, and has been doing so for the longest.

George Washington, called by some "the father of our nation", seemed to agree with Rasmussen and Obama. In his farewell address, Washington said:

Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

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.

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.

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

1 comment:

Joe said...

B - I know our political systems aren't in any way the same, but believe me, you don't want a system where one party 'wins big'. It is very bad for democracy.

The British Labour Party had a massive majority in 1997, which meant they could pass any legislation they liked. And look where we ended up.