Friday, September 09, 2022

Breaking Our Faustian Bargain With Partisan Politics

Would it surprise you to know that many of the Founding Fathers opposed the creation of political parties? They feared that partisan politics would tear the nation apart, creating separate cliques of special interests whose only commonality would be to strip the citizens of their natural sovereignty.  Even the poster boy for Federalism, Alexander Hamilton, called political parties "the most fatal disease" of populist governments.

James Madison, the man considered the "Father of the Constitution", thought that if not for a strong Constitution, political parties could rip the nation apart. Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the most intelligent man ever to occupy the presidency, strongly opposed partisan parties. He thought it was a mistake not to make some provision for the regulation of parties in the Constitution to keep them in check. I suspect he was right.

Our first and arguably greatest president, George Washington, even warned us against the dangers of political parties in his farewell address. But he did more than just warn the nation, he showed us how we could work around our political differences.

President Washington (who, by the way, was a defacto Independent), recognized that differing political opinions were the norm, not the exception, choose to put men of competing political opinion in offices in order to force them to compromise for the sake the nation.

Washington understood that while it may make for a rocky administration, it would benefit the nation and its citizens in the long run by seeking middle ground in lieu of narrow minded partisan conformity, such as what we have now.  For example, Washington appointed Federalist, Alexander Hamilton, who wanted a strong central government and was supported by Northern business interests which wanted to rekindle trade with England, as his Treasury Secretary.

Meanwhile, Washington appointed Thomas Jefferson, who wanted a small limited government and had the support of mostly Southern farmers and tradesmen as his Secretary of State. Jefferson was also a supporter of the French, who came to our aid in our war for independence, and were a long standing enemy of England.  The result was finding a common middle ground that was best for the country and not necessarily for either political clique.

All this begs the question about the need or importance of political parties today, especially given their ownership by Wall Street and cliques of the super wealthy. As most (hopefully) Americans now know, we're no longer a Constitutional or democratic Republic with a free and non-partisan press.

We've become a Corporatocracy under the control of a group of wealthy elites whose only interest is in acquiring control, be it control over assets, resources, or us. The media serves as their propaganda arm; to manufacture news to influence our opinions and divert our attention from the real issues. Heck, we can no longer trust our votes to count! It seems like it's all a nightmare doesn't it?

Apparently the majority of Americans agree since both of the two corporate parties are in decline. They've been in decline for around 20 years. The largest political bloc, with 42% of registered voters, is Independents. A growing number of political scientists even predict that within the next 20 years, one or both of the two corporate parties could likely cease to exist (the money is on the Republicans going extinct). So, what can we do to restore the balance of political power? 

President George Washington took the high road. He did his upmost to stay above the political mudslinging (which may be one reason he's so revered over 200 years later). Washington believed that once someone took office that regardless of which "faction" they adhered to, their role was to serve all the people, not just their side.

Most Americans don't realize that when their candidate loses, in our "winner-take-all" political system, they are no longer represented for the duration of that term, be it two, four, or six years. Without term limits or ending partisan gerrymandering, it could be as long as 30 or 40 years if not longer! Imagine that. Paying taxes without anyone from your district to champion your political interest.

True, you might still be able to get a hole filled or a tree trimmed, but that's a big difference from getting support on specific piece of legislation. Of course, you could always go to the time and expense of moving and leaving your home and neighborhood. But on the other hand, why should you? Aren't these people elected to office your representative?

We know that the two parties are corrupt. We know whose interests they serve, and it isn't ours. We know that candidates of both parties tend to lie or distort what they'll do "for" us (actually "to us") if elected. First off, no one person can successfully "stand up" to special interest when that special interest finances their party and probably their campaign.

Besides, we aren't fools. We know that no single individual can do anything. Everything is run by and through committees, which are party controlled, which means ultimately corporate controlled. Legislation is even written and reviewed by corporate lobbyists. All we end up doing is making a Faustian bargain; a deal with the devil to be burned last, but there are some things we can do. 

The principal reason for partisan elections is to ensure the continuity of a specific ideologically and maintain political control for the financial benefit of the party's corporate sponsors. It's the same reason sports teams try to win races. It looks good for the team and it makes everyone money (except the fans. They pay the money). But what if a political office doesn't do either? What if it just enforces existing laws. What if its partisan leaning unintentionally implies partiality and bias?

The State Office of Attorney General is the chief lawyer for the people.  They are also the chief legal adviser to the governor, the state legislature, and the state's various agencies. In the United States, attorney generals are elected in 43 states (not including territories) and appointed in the remaining seven.

In every single instance they are partisan. They are either Democrat or Republican. In fact, there are 27 Republican and 23 Democrat Attorneys General. The only non-partisan Attorney Generals are found in the Territory of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Territory of Guam, both of which are in the South Pacific.

Now, I don't know about you, but I prefer to get my legal advice from someone who's impartial. Since an Attorney General's job is simply a legal function, and doesn't make laws (although they are supposed to provide a non-bias legal opinion on various laws proposed by the partisan legislature), wouldn't you want someone without a dog in the fight? It's like the coach of the Chicago Bears calling plays for the Green bay Packers. Why then isn't the Attorney General's Office non-partisan?

Staying on the legal topic, the same can be asked of city or county attorney generals. Why are these offices partisan? Judges have their own personal political opinions, yet are elected in non-partisan races. Why wouldn't we want the same of an attorney elected to represent the community and it citizens? Their partisanship by definition presumes a political prejudice. 

Another key political office is Secretary of State. There are 47 Secretary of States, of which 35 are elected by voters while the remaining 12 are appointed by a partisan governor. Of the 47, 27 are currently Republican and the other 20 are Democrat. None are non-partisan. Why?

The Secretary of State is charged by the state constitution with maintaining business records for the state, commissioning and regulating notaries public, keeping official records, and in most cases, maintaining the state seal. However, its most important job is as chief election officer. They administer elections, oversee and report official election results and voter registration, which is locally managed by a local clerk for the Board of Elections (sometimes called the County Clerk or County Elections Clerk), another elected partisan office.

In most states, County Clerks also oversee registration and licensing of boats, trailers, and vehicles, marriages licenses, issue permits, title transfers, delinquent property taxes, recording legal documents, maintain deed records, and handle voter registration. They are also tasked with the retaining and training election officers (who are paid with public tax dollars) to work the polls.

However, did you know that only Democrats and Republicans can be election officers? Yelp. State law in some places (like Kentucky) say that registered non-partisan voters like Independents and third parties can't serve, but their taxes still go to pay for partisan only election officers. Sounds shady to me!

The Office of Secretary of State passes no laws. It votes on no legislation. It's strictly an administrative office, so why is it partisan? Why would anyone trust an office run by partisan politician who is charge election results, voter registration or hiring election officers? As an aside, the County Clerk also appoints individuals to oversee election matters pertaining to Republicans and Democrats. No one oversees Independents or third parties. So what happens to the nation's largest political bloc?

In each state, the corporate party with the least number of registered voters is assigned Independent, third party, and "No preference" voters. Naturally, they couldn't care less about those individuals, but someone has to get stuck with them right? In short, they are ignored. The corporate party with the largest number of voters also gets the lion's share of board and commission appointments. That means the largest voter demographic and third parties are simply ignored by the political system.

Several other elected state offices are just as guilty of playing partisan politics with voters such as the Auditor, Treasurer, Transportation, Agriculture, and Commerce equally all have no law making capabilities. Collectively, these offices are referred to as Constitutional offices. They exist by virtue of the state's constitution and are strictly administrative in their function, yet they're partisan.  

Other offices, not elected, are just as important, such as Commissioner of Insurance, Labor, or Public Education. These administrative offices are appointed by the governor primarily based on party affiliation, and not solely on qualifications (in a few states, the Office of Lt. Governor is also appointed, while in other states they may run as a single ticket or independently).

In none of our state constitutions (nor in the federal constitution), does the chief executive make laws. That role is designated solely for the state legislature(as an aside, Nebraska is the only state with a non-partisan state legislature). The governor, however, does sign or reject bills which comes before them. Obviously, a partisan governor is more likely to sign (and promote) bills passed by their corporate party and reject those by the opposition instead of evaluating them based solely on their merit and benefit to the citizens of the state, which makes much better sense. The same holds true for mayors or county commissioners.

We also shouldn't forget the County Court Clerk, Property Valuation Administrator, City Tax Assessor, County Sheriff, County Constable and/or Magistrate, or County Judge. These are almost always partisan offices. Tell me, why would you want a partisan sheriff, tax assessor, or County Court Clerk?  None of these publicly elected offices should be politically biased. None.

The only elected partisan offices should be those which write laws or establish policy along ideological lines (and even that's questionable). Increasingly, some municipalities have gone to all non-partisan metro councils and assemblies, which only makes sense. Their job is to serve the residents as impartially as possible, not dictate lifestyles. You can't do that when you're serving a political party which is owned by a conglomerate of corporations and special interest groups.

So what do you think? Should elected administrative and appointed offices which don't make laws or establish policies be partisan or should they retain their administrative function as established by constitution or law and serve everyone equally?  Personally, I think President Washington had it right.


If you want to know more, please take a look at the links below. If you enjoyed the article, please consider passing it along to others and don't forget to subscribe. It's free! Lastly please be sure to "like" us on whatever platform you use to read A/O. It helps with the algorithms and keeps our articles in circulation. Thank you! 


George Washington's Mt. Vernon: Political Parties

George Washington Warned About Political Infighting in HisFarewell Address

Jefferson County Clerk's Office: Election Officer Information

Ballotpedia: Attorney General (state executive office)

Ballotpedia: Secretary of State (state executive office)

Gallup: Party Affiliation Trend Since 2004

Partisan vs. Nonpartisan Elections

Non-partisan Democracy

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