“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages & countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.”
— George Washington, September 19, 1796
President Obama is currently vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard. Unlike when the Clintons summered here to much fanfare, the Obamas mainly keep to themselves. Aside from the occasional tourist wearing a supportive “Hope and Change” t-shirt, the island shows relatively little sign of their presence. The first family is staying at the secluded, beachfront Blue Heron Farm, where the torrential rain of the past couple days has likely kept them indoors. Rain or shine, the Republicans deride the President for taking a vacation during such tumultuous times.
I last saw President Obama Thursday when he was landing at the helipad in lower Manhattan. It was an impressive security detail: police and Coastguard boats blocked off the harbor as snipers scrutinized the thousands of onlookers in towering buildings and crowded streets. Attack helicopters circled and secured the pad before two identical helicopters landed – one with the president and another a decoy. The Presidential motorcade then breezed through the blocked FDR highway as traffic ensnarled the city. I could not help but think of the taxpayer dollars being spent to get the President to a $35,800/ticket celebrity fundraiser for his own reelection. He needs these funds to promote his and the democratic ticket again resurgent Republicans. Such party politics are something of which all recent Presidents are guilty. Our first President would not be pleased.
Washington belonged to no political party. He longed for a democracy without such factions. However, he witnessed them arise and warned against them. He characterized them as “A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.” To Washington, political parties were something to be discouraged since they posed a “constant danger of excess,” and therefore, ”the effort ought to be by force of public opinion to mitigate and assuage it.” It appears that we have failed him.
Over two centuries later, we now find ourselves in a country where the political parties seem to expend more resources fighting one another than fixing the nation.