It’s nearly Christmas, and the nation is bustling with related activities.
The nation is also bustling over impeachment. Or rather, Congress is bustling over impeachment. It’s hard to tell how much those outside Congress really care about the matter.
Perhaps that’s why opposition to impeachment appears to be increasing. Political Correspondent Steve Kornacki made the following observation on Twitter:
What’s driving this? The holiday season? Perhaps, but it seems more likely that the partisanship of the whole event is starting to wear thin on many.
Given this, I found it helpful to revisit George Washington’s cautions on forming government factions. His observations were prophetic.
For starters, Washington believed factions bypassed the “will of the nation,” focusing instead on the will of a small “artful and enterprising” minority. Washington goes on to say that these factions become tools in the hands of powerful leaders:
However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
Eventually, these factions lead to so much animosity that people desperately seek out an individual who can assert force and control over the government to get something done:
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.
This animosity leads to unrest amongst the citizenry, opening the door for unwanted foreign meddling:
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. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
It's almost as if Washington was reading today’s headlines. Unfortunately, Americans didn’t pay attention to his cautions. The impeachment theatrics – on both sides of the spectrum – are the result of that heedlessness.
Perhaps it’s not too late to take his advice. If we cut through the slime of impeachment proceedings, viewing them through a lens unsmudged by partisan politics, would we be able to see the truth, and the way forward to a more unified society?
[Image Credit: Wiikimedia Commons - U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos, public domain]
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.