Party Allegiance as Good Citizenship

In 1920, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Robert von Moschzisker argued that America had become too big to govern effectively without political parties.

To my mind, the maintenance of the present system and the development of party fealty are matters of prime importance at this time in America. How, with our vast electorate, scattered over a wide domain, can any issue of general interest be determined other than by a systematic method of educating, and registering the will of, the people? If democratic government, by majority rule under constitutional restrictions, is accepted as right, then it is almost incomprehensible how the scheme can be carried out in any really big and intelligent way other than through party sponsorships. If we abandon that system, and divide into political groups according to special interests, or our liking for or antipathy to candidates, on our acceptance or rejection of their personal views on minor issues, it will become practically impossible for a multitudinous people like ourselves intelligently to determine at the polls any issue which requires consideration by the whole electorate.

One wonders whether he would still agree in 2020. The political parties have become polarized and uncooperative at an unprecedented level, perhaps irreparably. (Not to mention untethered from reality — on both sides.) In 1998 almost every Republican voted to impeach Bill Clinton while almost every Democrat voted not to, then in 2019 almost every Democrat voted to impeach Donald Trump while literally every Republican voted not to. Political parties increasingly seem less a force for “good” and more a force for just “cohesion.”

Maybe the answer is to keep the party system, but just have more parties to choose from. A 2018 Gallup poll found 57 percent of respondents say a major third party is needed, including 72 percent of independents and a record high 54 percent of Democrats, though only 38 percent of Republicans.

Line graph. Independents are consistently the most likely partisan group to support a third major political party.

 

Party Allegiance as Good Citizenship (PDF)

Published: Sunday, September 19, 1920

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Written by Jesse

September 18th, 2020 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Politics

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