Thursday, April 27, 2006

Political, Social, and Art Realities: Three Interrelated Worlds that are Out of Touch with One Another

“Today, under George W. Bush, there are two
Americas, not one: One America that does the
work, another that reaps the reward. One
America that pays the taxes, another America
that gets the tax breaks. One America –
middle-class America – whose needs Washington
has long forgotten, another America –
narrow-interest America – whose every wish is
Washington’s command. One America that is
struggling to get by, another America that buy
anything it wants, even a Congress and a
-John Edwards, 2004 Presidential primary campaign

In his 2003 primary campaign Edwards was trying to address the Political Reality that America is a land divided between the “haves” and the “have-nots”, but the speech neglects to accurately represent the current Social Reality. The Social Reality of America is that the “have-nots” are not the middle-class who pay taxes, but the lower class that cannot afford to feed their families. This omission illustrates the fact that there is a large divide that has developed between political factions, and the nation they were elected to represent. Because of their relationship to political issues artists too are often inclined to make the same omissions. The art world, like its political counterpart, is preoccupied with profitability; which occurs at the expense of the social issues they claim to be advocating.
A big part of this division is due to the separation of politicians from the social status of many of those they represent; Edwards himself made millions of dollars as a trial lawyer. He is not alone in this societal position though, most of the members of both parties would be classified as his “narrow-interest” America. Part of the function of the parties is to create this divide, while at the same time making it seem as if it is united with Americans especially those in need. This economic tie is what binds the two parties together; despite their many claims of opposition. James Madison touched on this divide in The Federalist , Number 10,
“But the most common and durable source of
factions has been the various and unequal
distribution of property. Those who hold and
those who are without property have ever
formed distinct interests in society... interests,
grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and
divide them into different classes, actuated by
different sentiments and views.”

The infighting and favor swapping that occurs, between the two factions, in Washington builds a wall of opacity that breeds corruption; and separates the politicians from those who elected them. Even those representatives who do come from economically depressed backgrounds soon become enmeshed in party politics. The fact is that rank and file members of Congress make $165,200 while leadership positions make up to $212,100 a year , and they spend the majority of the year raising millions more for future campaigns. These salaries are more than three and a half times the median American income, and this, in most cases, alters their relationship to those that elected them to office based on their background.
So complex and developed is this Political Reality that it is often, mistakenly, represented as being a Social Reality. This is usually the case when artists, who are considered socially conscious, take up political topics. Part of the contemporary reason for this is the political marginalization of the arts, even though the arts are usually sighted as being the cultural foundation of civilized society throughout history. Since the cutting of NEA grants to individual artists in 1989, many artists and arts groups have been preoccupied with the Political Reality and the ramifications of these politics. By presenting the visual, performative, or audio evidence of these ramifications within the context of the art world, most of their potential political impact is lost. The insular nature of many art institutions is part of the problem with many types of this presentation, because they lack public visibility and have a limited audience size. Another reason that the size of the audience is limited is that, in many cases, contemporary art’s representations of political actions can be obscure or shocking making it difficult for many Americans to understand. The lack of arts education in American schools adds to this by making it difficult for many Americans to relate to art. It is in part, this inability to relate to or see the value in art that enables it to be marginalized by politicians.
The actual Social Realities of America are quite different than the picture often painted by politicians. In the land of opportunity it is hard to imagine that so many could have so little. As the excerpt from John Edwards’ speech illustrates though, it is the people with the least that are ignored by those with the most. This is a very deliberate political maneuver by politicians; because they believe that many of these people, who are struggling to survive, will most likely not vote. In political terms this then means that they don’t count. It is this belief that allows Edwards and other politicians as well to think that there are two Americas, the middle-class and the upper class. Part of American social reality is that the nation is no more divided along these socioeconomic lines today than it was when Madison published his book of The Federalist papers. Just as there are third-class citizens, who are thought of as politically insignificant, today, there were also people who had no say in the way the government operated in 1788 . But, it is this view of exclusion that currently leads to poor voter turn out among America’s low-income citizens, as Howard Zinn points out in his book A People’s History of the United States,
“It was predictable, given the unity of both
major parties around class issues, and the
barriers put up against any third-party
candidate, that half the country, mostly at
lower-income levels, and unenthusiastic
about either major party, would not even

These citizens feel that what politicians do will not impact their daily lives. This feeling is amplified when the number of Americans living in poverty or are uninsured continually increase, year to year. When numbers are used to describe this reality their significance is diminished because they become a faceless mass, and are no longer treated as individuals that are affected by the actions of others.
This mutual marginalization and mistrust leads to a cycle that is detrimental to the very foundation of government, culture, and society. In order to reconcile these intertwined spheres there needs to be an acknowledgement from each that they are reliant on one another, in someway. For this to happen an intersection between all three must occur. Within this interaction a discussion can begin to develop, so that questions about the mythologies and misunderstandings of each can be addressed. It is through this discussion and debate that the foundation of a strong and open society is built. This will yield a closely-knit community, which is essential to the prosperity of a Republic.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Political Speak: American Politics and the Break Down of Communication

Today’s world of 24-hour news has forced politicians to be hyper aware of the language that they use. This extreme sensitivity to language has led to the development of a complex form of dialogue widely known as Doublespeak. The development of this dialogue has paradoxically fractured the foundation of communication; which is the bedrock of an open society. And, consequently political parties use this new form of dialogue to misrepresent events, and in some cases change the meaning of existing words altogether.
The word Doublespeak, which was coined in the early 1950s, is often attributed to George Orwell’s novel 1984. Although, he never used the term, he did, introduce the use of –speak as a suffix. The characters in 1984 did use a unique language called Newspeak that resembled some of the philosophy of doublespeak. An example of Orwell’s newspeak is that in the book the Ministry of Peace is actually in charge of war. Like doublespeak, newspeak is not simply a language to be spoken; but it should be ultimately believed by those who use it,
“deliberately constructed for political purposes:
words, that is to say, which not only had in every
case a political implication, but were intended to
impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person
using them.”
-George Orwell 1984

Like Orwell’s newspeak, doublespeak is so carefully constructed to mislead or deceive that it essentially ceases to function as a social language,
“Doublespeak is insidious because it
can infect and eventually destroy the function
of language, which is communication
between people and social groups.”
-William Lutz

This destruction of language then breaks down the function ability of an open society based on the debate of public issues. As this happens parties involved become preoccupied with saving face to prevent the despotic cycle of government from occurring. They then compensate by using more doublespeak to reaffirm their commitment to the reestablishment of the public trust while neglecting important issues of national policy. Senator Susan Collins recently highlighted this trend after new lobbying legislation was passed in the Senate,
“We cannot tackle the big issues facing our
country if the public does not trust us to
act in the public interest.”

When there is a break down like this, in the foundation if communication, there is an inherent growth of mistrust between the people and those meant to represent them. This mistrust and the over use of doublespeak can have a negative impact on the iconic language most utilized by political parties. Because these words no longer have a fixed definition they, they cease to have a discernable meaning. Words like Freedom, Peace, Democracy, and Patriotism become casualties of this language of deception.
Doublespeak is most often a tool used by the majority party, usually to down play an event or statement that could have a negative impact or the party or its members. This can be seen in the contemporary use of phrases like “collateral damage,” rather than saying civilian casualty, by the military and politicians. Both parties tend to engage in the use of this form of dialogue, and its usage usually increases in an election year. In the 2004 Presidential election candidates even came up with a new word for doublespeak. They instead used the word “waffling” to describe an opponent, who tries to appeal to as many voters as possible by appearing to be on both sides of an issue. We can even see this now as our nation approaches a mid-term election year. Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean recently stated, “... Americans committed to changing the status quo this year;” this statement however ignores the fact that, according to the Democratic Party’s official website, the Democratic Party is the oldest political party in the world. During the election cycle there is typically a back and forth exchange of doublespeak; as well as, accusations of engaging in the use of doublespeak from both parties. Too often though parties and politicians use the complexity of doublespeak as a form of rhetoric, to confuse their audience.
“Our aim is to build and preserve a community
of free and independent nations, with
governments that answer to their citizens and
reflect their own cultures.

And because democracies respect their own
people and their neighbors, the advance of
freedom will lead to peace.”
-President George W. Bush

In order for contradictions to exist within American domestic and foreign policy, doublespeak is used as an affective means of concealment. This can be seen by our open support of the establishment of Democracies around the world; while at same time our government shuns governments, elected by their people, that we disagree with. Under the guise of National Security both parties have interfered in the internal affairs of foreign nations, in order to replace these governments with a government that supports our needs. A couple of examples of this would be the House of Saud monarchs of Saudi Arabia, and the so-called Presidency of Pakistani General Pervez Musharraf who, despite opposition from their people, have supported the United States’ War on Terror while severely limiting the civil rights of their citizens.
Although political parties and their members are not the groups that utilize doublespeak , the impact of our national leaders using a language designed to mislead is counterproductive to the foundations of our government. Their willingness to engage in this type of dialogue in an effort to intentionally deceive their fellow citizens has directly led to a growing mistrust of elected officials.
There is no clear solution to rebuilding the trust lost as a result of the usage of doublespeak, but it is apparent that the people must demand that their representatives openly discuss the social realities of our nation in order to prevent a further disillusionment. Only when this is done can we evaluate the damage caused by doublespeak, and begin to try to rebuild our trust in our government.
“I draw my idea of the form of government
from a principle in nature, which no art can
overturn, viz. that the more simple any thing
is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and
the easier repaired when disordered.”
-Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Monday, March 27, 2006

Federalists and Republicans: The First Two Political Parties and the Divide of American Culture

“But every difference of opinion is not a difference of
principle. We have called by different names brethren
of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are
all Federalists.”
-Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address
But, despite this statement made in 1801 the two political parties that formed, in 1792, would change the way the American political system functions. The two groups originated due to many disputes that arose; these included arguments over how the Constitution should be interpreted, as well as the role that Americans would play in the new government. The ability of these parties to mobilize and persuade voters led their members to realize the important roles that these organizations, of ideological compression, would play in American politics. These disputes and the parties that they spawned led to a great divide in the young nation; and although there have been and continue to be many “third” parties, it was the divide created by the first two parties, and the hostilities that it spawned, that has grown more apparent as time has past. Causing us to become eyewitnesses to the ramifications of this fracture.
One of these early groups was known as the Federalists; they supported a strong Federal government with an emphasis on manufactured goods. The Federalists supported England; in addition they also supported a more industrialized economy, and because of this they enjoyed the backing of the northern states. They also believed that wealthy elected representatives should rule over the nation, by not allowing common citizens to have an extremely active role in the government. Alexander Hamilton, one of the most prominent members of the Federalists, once said, “The people are turbulent and changing. They seldom judge or determine right.” Hamilton, who was the Secretary of the Treasury during George Washington’s Presidency, also believed that the Constitution implied that it would be acceptable for Congress to authorize the establishment of a National Bank. It would then be the job of this bank to deal with the National debt that had been incurred during the Revolutionary War, in addition to developing and issuing a national currency.
As a response to the Federalists ideas, those who did not agree with Alexander Hamilton and his followers formed the Republican Party. The Republicans felt that it was the people that made the Republic strong. Thomas Jefferson summed up the Republican’s feelings about the issue, “I am not among those that fear the people; they, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom.” Republicans wanted to establish strong State governments with a focus on agriculture; it was for these reasons as well as being pro-French, that the South heavily favored the Republicans. Republican Party members felt that the Constitution should be strictly interpreted, and that it should not be assumed that there are any implied powers. They questioned the Constitutionality of founding a National Bank, and believed instead that it should be left up to the states’ banks to settle debt and issue currency.
Although George Washington was often linked with the Federalists, he was never a member of a political party; and he thought that the factions would be detrimental to the union. This belief led him try to mediate the differences between Hamilton and Jefferson,
“I have a great sincere esteem and regard for you
both, and ardently wish that some line could be
marked out which both [of] you could walk.”
-George Washington in a letter to Thomas Jefferson

But, despite Washington’s efforts the divide amongst these two men and their parties grew; and ultimately it was this divide that led Jefferson and Hamilton to resign from Washington’s cabinet.
Washington’s decision to retire in 1796 led to the first Presidential election in which people ran as members of political parties; this would change the future of political campaigns. By developing polarized platforms these two factions established the foundation of the current two party system. The structure of these factions can even be seen in contemporary political parties, and it was the networks established by these two early groups that gave rise to the patronage system of today. Early in their existence both parties relied on networks of local supporters. People who agreed with the Democratic-Republicans even formed Democratic-Republican Societies. It was the mission of these societies to promote Republicanism, Democracy, and to fight the expansion of Aristocratic feelings. Although these societies were relatively short lived (1793-1796), their organizational impact can be seen today in the form of the so-called “grassroots” groups that organize local residents in support of the national parties that they are associated with.
These two factions also pioneered another tool used by contemporary politicians, the use of the media as a way of distributing information. Up to the election of 1796 George Washington had run virtually unopposed and had very little need for propaganda, but the parties that ran in 1796 understood what a powerful tool it could be. They saw the way it was able to disseminate information, and mobilize groups to arms during the Revolution. Alexander Hamilton even began a publication, the New York Evening Post, to distribute his ideas; and he would periodically write articles that would appear in the newspaper. While at the same time the Republicans used James Callender to expose an affair that Hamilton was having with a Mrs. Reynolds, and that he was making payments to Reynolds’ husband so that he would not publicly expose the affair. As time has past the media has evolved, causing it to become a driving force behind public opinions. Whether it leans left or right, today’s 24/7 news media is broadcast in real time over the airwaves, Internet, and delivered straight to your cell phone anywhere in the world. This instantaneous information dissemination has had a huge impact on parties, and the way they deliver their opposing messages.
This mutual opposition was temporarily ended when a split within the Federalist Party led to Thomas Jefferson becoming the third President of the United States in the election of 1800, by defeating incumbent John Adams. This election signaled the end of the Federalist Party, and although the party was only shortly lived the function of a two party system would again emerge in the United States after the election of 1824. With the end of the Federalists the Republican Party was left unchallenged; and they were able to dominate American politics, despite the emergence of a new organization known as the Anti-Mason Party, till a dispute over their Presidential candidate in 1824 led the party to split. The split created four different factions each with their own candidate for President. The impact of this spilt is significant to today’s major parties. As both, of the current major political, parties are descendents of this division.
The Democrats and Republicans that we know today have adopted many of the ideas that were addressed by the Federalists and Republicans. By adopting and up dating various ideas from both of these parties the current major political organizations have polarized American politics, and reemphasized the divide within the American culture. The Democrats of today support a union in which the citizens have an active role, like Jefferson’s Republicans; however, they also believe that the Constitution has implied powers contained within it, like the Federalist Party. The current Republican Party, on the other hand, supports a government led by the elite citizens of America, like the Federalists; and in addition they also emphasize stronger State governments, like Jefferson’s Republicans.
Like the first two factions, today’s parties have become huge catch basins, desperately trying to absorb every issue that becomes of interest to any voter. By compressing and ideologically shifting these vast issues then presenting them through the filter of a Party it can look as though the people, of the nation, have grown apart. Political scholars disagree with this though ; and instead they believe that it is the American political parties that have become polarized, not the American people. The effect of this ideological division becomes apparent during events like the election of 2000, which led to the emergence of a rivalry of Red v. Blue.
“Polarization is not new to this country. It is hard
to imagine a society more divided than ours was
in 1800, when pro-British, pro-commerce New
Englanders supported John Adams for the
presidency while pro-French, pro-agriculture
Southerners backed Thomas Jefferson. One sign
of this hostility was the passage of the Alien and
Sedition Acts in 1798; another was that in 1800,
just as in 2000, an extremely close election was
settled by a struggle in one state (New York in
1800, Florida in 2000).”
-Professor James Q Wilson, How Divided Are We?, 2005
Political parties have, from their beginnings, separated people along ideological lines; and while many different factions have formed throughout our nation’s history, our political system itself gives birth to the establishment of two dominant organizations. We must resist their push to polarize in order to maintain an active Democracy, and maintain the ability to rationally debate issues in an open way that is not exclusionary. Americans alone can keep these factions in check, by not allowing them to divide the citizens of our nation. United we have changed the way the world’s people view the function of their governments, and together we can continue to build a stronger and safer America.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

When is a Democracy not a Democracy?

"Democracies in the MIddle East will not look like our own, because they will reflect the traditions of their own citizens. Yet liberty is the future of every nation iin the Middle East, because liberty is the right and hope of all humanity. "
-George W. Bush
"A political party that articulates the destruction of Israel as part of its platform is a party with which we will not deal,"
-George W. Bush
One more example of a double standard in American political agendas. You cannot support one way of doning things, and then refuse to deal with the outcome of that system.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Culture of Corruption: The Two Party System and Its Effect on American Politics

Since almost the beginning of American style Democracy, the two party system has dominated the electoral process. Though the names have changed over time (i.e. Federalists, Whigs, Populists, Republicans, Democrats, etc. . .), their functions have remained much the same to support one another by theoretically opposing the other faction. The two parties, which usually to a varying degree resemble one another despite their claims of opposition, rely on the other to maintain their grasp on power. The current major political parties even trace the popular origin of their mascots to the same political cartoon by Thomas Nast in Harper’s Weekly, which was published on November 7, 1874. In addition they also share a history with the name Republican; as today’s Democratic Party traces it’s origin to Jefferson’s Republican Party.

The emergence of two dominant factions is not uncommon within a so-called “First-Past-The-Post” election process, such as ours. A First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) process is any electoral system in which there is not a proportionate representation within the government. Maurice Duverger, a French Sociologist, first recognized this occurrence; and the law is consequently known as Duverger’s Law. Duverger stated in a series of papers, published in the 1950s and 1960s, that while this law is not absolute the simple plurality of the FPTP system would at the very least slow the emergence of a third party; and if a new faction does emerge it will be at the expense of an existing party. An example of this would be the election 1860 which saw the rise of the Republican Party, and the disbanding of the Whig Party. With the Electoral College forming the backbone of the American FPTP system the political influence that the two major parties enjoy seems to be theirs to lose.

A study that was conducted suggested that 33% of American voters do not identify with either major political party, but instead identify themselves as independents. This inability to identify with the two factions could suggest a move towards the formation of a new party, but there has not been a third party that has seriously threatened the dominance of a major political faction in the United States since Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860. In contemporary America part of the reason many Americans discredit Third Party candidates is because of modern communication systems. While the major national parties have the ability to raise money to appear on these outlets, the third parties lack the ability to develop the infrastructure of the established organizations. This exposure plays a big rule in who the American people vote for in the image driven culture we live in today, but third parties have a difficult time raising the funds needed to compete on a national level. The resulting lack of access denies voters information about all the possible candidates running for different offices. An example of this is the fact that during the 2004 Presidential election over 300 people ran for President, and with the exception of Ralph Nader, many of the candidates could not get television access across the country. The two parties, which are constantly raising money from special interest groups, enjoy this monopoly and use it to their advantage. This consequently gives the false impression that the major parties’ candidates are the only candidates.

Each of the major parties know that when they do claim the title of majority it will only be a matter of time before they once again occupy the position of minority. So, the two parties feed on one another’s indiscretions in an effort to gain or maintain the majority within the Federal, State, and Local governments. It is this Despotic cycle that lulls both the politicians and voters into believing that these two parties, which are currently the Republicans and Democrats, are impervious to third party threats. This cycle of manipulation and exclusion often leads politicians to believe that they are above the law and this belief breeds corruption. Because of their lack of oversight or check by any third party, which American voters have been convinced by the media as well as the major political parties is a wasted vote, politicians have engaged in scandalous behavior almost from the beginning of the Republic. The majority party is almost always the faction that feels the most impact of a scandal, with the minority attacking it in an effort to gain voters’ confidence so that it has a chance of becoming the majority after the next election. Once they do come to power they feel absolute in that position till eventually the cycle repeats itself. One example of this would be the so-called “Corrupt Bargain of 1824”, during which the Jeffersonian Republicans split into four different parties; each party having their own candidate for President. With so many candidates there was no clear majority achieved within the Electoral College. Under the constitution when this happens the vote is passed to the House of Representatives for a vote. The Twelfth Amendment also states that only the three candidates with the most votes would be eligible to be candidates in the House; this excluded Henry Clay who only received 37 electoral votes. Andrew Jackson received the most electoral votes with 99 and won the popular vote with 151,271 or 43.3% of the total vote. Clay was, however, the Speaker of the House; and he detested Andrew Jackson, so he threw his support behind John Quincy Adams. Upon the first ballot Adams won and later appointed Clay his Secretary of State, virtually guaranteeing him the Presidency; because, up to that point every President from Jefferson on had held this office. This enraged Jackson who believed that the House would elect him, since he had won both the popular and electoral votes. For the next four years Jackson’s followers campaigned on the accusations that Adams and Clay had struck a “corrupt bargain” and in 1828 Jackson defeated Adams. This is of course not the only reason that one party gains the majority, but as history illustrates it is a far too common occurrence.

We can even see this scenario playing out today, as the Republicans are scrambling to prevent the cycle occurring in the 2006 mid-term elections. The American people are trusting the party members to police themselves, but as we’ve already seen this is not possible within the American political culture of today. The title of this essay, Culture of Corruption, is itself a phrase being used currently in describing the atmosphere within the present Congress. Thomas Paine wrote at the dawn of our nation of the great importance that law should hold within the fledgling country,
“that in America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments the King is the law, so in free countries the law ought to be King...” (Common Sense)

and we must continue to hold the law in high esteem. It is the American people who must speak out once again against despotism, and end the cycle of party corruption. Only by enforcing the laws of this land and preventing future violations, can we secure the integrity of our nation.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The State of Our Union

As the 43rd President of the United States addressed his fellow citizens in his fifth State of the Union, we are a torn country. A country of us and them, in which people often identify themselves by the color and mascot of the party they vote for; rather than acknowledging others as fellow Americans. Because of this we've lost our sense of national unity. What good is a union if we refuse to acknowledge one another's point-of-view, and work together to come to a compromise? James Madison, while trying to convince his fellow colonists to adopt the new Constitution, wrote,
"AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction."
-The Federalist, Number 10 1787

But, by continually setting aside the common good in exchange for the advancement of one faction over the other, we are neglecting the guiding principles of our nation's Constitution. A Patriot is not just a person that runs into battle to fight for their country; they are also those who have the strength to stand up, and question those who govern them in an effort to build a better nation. We must remember that the power of this government, which is by and for all its PEOPLE, is inherent within us; and every one of us is responsible to do our part to make it the best country it can be. Parties have fogged the vision of the American people for far too long and should no longer be an disruptive element in Government. So tonight as the President stands to address the most powerful nation in the history of the world, we must try put aside imaginary party lines in an effort to close the divide and reunite the nation. For as Abraham Lincoln once said, while addressing the Illinois State Congress on the issue of slavery, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Friday, January 27, 2006

George Washington’s Legacy: This Founding Father’s Views on Political Parties

"I have already intimated to you the danger of
Parties in the State, with particular reference
to the founding of them on Geographical
discriminations. Let me now take a more
comprehensive view, & warn you in the most
solemn manner against the baneful effects of
the Spirit of Party, generally."
-Farewell Address of 1796

In his last action as the first President of the United States of America, George Washington wrote a Farewell Address that he hoped would act as a warning to a fledgling nation. He used this address as an opportunity to describe to the nation what he thought the effects of forming political parties would be on the democratic process, in addition to defining his vision for American foreign policy for decades to come. By devoting so much of his last address as President to the subject of parties Washington, who to this day is still considered one of the most influential Presidents in our nation's history in addition to being the only President in our nation's history who was not a member of a political party, was sending a clear message to those who would succeed him to avoid the establishment of these powerful political organizations. But, despite Washington's strong warnings against the establishment of political parties two factions began to take hold during his eight years as President. The Federalists led by Alexander Hamilton and the Republicans led by Thomas Jefferson were beginning to create a divide through the political landscape of the late 1700s. By making his views on parties so widely available, Washington hoped that just as his decision to hold the office of President for only two terms set a precedent for future leaders of the nation he would set another political precedent by warning Americans against the establishment of such political factions.
It was Washington's fear that by their very nature parties would be counter-beneficial to the democratic process. And, that as these groups evolve they would begin to invest all their powers into establishing one individual as their leader, and that this leader will eventually ignore or circumvent the ideals and principles of a democratic society for their own purposes. Washington was afraid that the exclusivity of political parties would not only limit who would run for office, but also who would run the parties themselves,
"The disorders & miseries, which result, gradually incline
the minds of men to seek security & repose in the absolute
power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of
some prevailing faction more able or fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty."
-Farewell Address of 1796

That the hierarchies within these factions would begin to become so obsessed and pre-occupied by the agendas of their parties that they would inevitably lose touch with the public, and cease to reflect the interests of those whom they were elected to represent, was a huge concern of Washington's. These despotic groups could then be more closely related to the tyrannical government that we fought against during the revolution than a government of the people.
As was true of many of the American Patriots of the time, Washington felt that it was the people who make up the fourth and most important check and balance on American government. He also believed that it is their inherent duty to maintain that power,
"The very idea of the power and the right of the
People to establish Government presupposes the
duty of every individual to obey the established Government."
-Farewell Address of 1796

By allowing these organizations to gain influence, under the auspice of uniting the people's powers, they would in fact subvert that power in an effort to extend their own authority over the people; which in turn would then eliminate the people's ability to effectively rule their rulers. They in turn have the opposite effect and divide the people into separate camps that inevitably oppose one another. In the late 1800s Lord Acton, an English historian, wrote, "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely." This seems especially relevant to Washington's fears of what would happen with the development of political parties. Throughout their histories the members of these groups have been involved in scandals that have plagued these political factions almost from their beginnings, and these scandals continue to today's current political party members. So secure in their hold on power over the American political process, that today's politicians from both major parties are constantly having to reassure the nation's citizens that the system is still functioning as it was intended and, "that the government is not for sale," as Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fischer recently asserted in response to the latest federal scandal.
Washington strongly believed in the principles of a government governed by the people, and he used his last address as the President of the United States as a way of detailing the dangers facing the young American political process. This is not to say that Washington was without his flaws he, like many of his contemporary countrymen, was a slave owner. It was partially because of this personal flaw that he knew that the Republic would not always be perfect, and he believed that the people would adjust the system by adding new amendments to the Constitution to bring up-to-date. It was his fear however that the establishment of political parties would divide the American People and fracture the young nation. As the first President of the United States, and the so-called "Father of his Country," Washington was very conscious of the impact that his actions would have as leader of this young nation, and hoped that his warnings would leave lasting impressions on his fellow citizens. Washington's greatest fear, for the young nation, was that by institutionalizing the government within these powerful factions the people would lose their ability to police their government; and in doing so a "Culture of Corruption" would develop that would destroy the foundation of the Democratic society that so many have died to construct.