Search Our Directory:

Alex Aichinger
Kirsten Andersen
Brent Barksdale
Natalie Farr
Joe Giardiello
Bret Hrbek
Ramesh Ponnuru
Dorothy Seese
Jason Soter



The Federalist Revisited:  Political Parties

            Several political commentators have criticized the recent Republican Convention and George W. Bush for being too inclusive, for, in effect, forsaking Republican-Conservative ideals.  How would Publius respond to this criticism?

            While Publius does not provide us with a definition of a political party, he does tell us what a political party is not; it is not a faction.  A faction is a group motivated by a single passion or interest which would have an adverse effect on individual citizens or on the society.  A faction is, by definition, bad and should be avoided.  This gives us a clue as to what a political party should be; it should be a coalition of numerous interests and groups. It should be inclusive.

            This leads Publius to argue against a class-based or ideologically based political party system.  Political parties and their members are rightly advocates of “causes” and the cause may or may not become public policy depending on the majority or minority status of the party.  Should the party be in the majority, it will allow the party, assuming it is based on a single class or ideology, to “judge its own cause.”  That is, it will determine what is best for the party and its members and translate that into public policy, to the detriment of the minority.  For example a majority party based on wealth would in all probability be hostile to the poor, or at best indifferent.  Should the majority party be composed of the poor, the result would be the opposite; a party representing low income individuals would pass legislation to help them at the expense of the wealthy.  In either case, the party would be a “judge of their own cause” and enact public policy that would adversely affect the minority.  The same result can be expected from a party system based on strict ideology, conservative or liberal.

            To avoid this, Publius advocates a party system based on geography.  In Federalist 51, Publius observes that “In the extended republic of the United States, and among the great variety of interests, parties and sects it embraces, a coalition of a majority of the whole society could seldom take place on any other principles than those of justice and the general good …”

            Geographically based political parties will be composed of numerous interests and no single one will dominate the party; the representatives of the party elected to the legislature will represent these numerous and differing classes and interests.  The internal dynamics of a broad, geographically based party system will necessarily lead to a politics and policy of moderation.  Moderation, based on a broadly inclusive party system, will be the hallmark of our politics.  Moderation, as Aristotle observed, is an essential element of justice.

Comment on today's column...

Home | PUSA Columnists | Talking Heads | Directories | News
Chat Boards | Links | Advertise | Submit | Contact

Copyright Political USA, 1999-2000. Unauthorized use of materials is prohibited. If you want something, just ask us!