June 30th, 2014 // 6:57 am @ Oliver DeMille
In fact, James Madison pointed out in Federalist 10 that freedom is protected when factions, parties, government branches, and even levels of government are pitted against each other.
When Democrats in the White House find themselves arguing with Democrats in the Congress, for example, or when House Republicans face off against conservative governors and other state- and local-level Republican officials, the normal power of partisan politics can be reduced.
Everyone tends to benefit when this happens, because it creates an additional check on any part of government seeking too much power.
If anything, it is unfortunate that this doesn’t occur more often.
Right now the Democratic Party is dealing with just such an internal battle. It takes the form of the President versus Congressional candidates who are running for office this year and need to break from the White House in order to get enough votes. Also the President versus Hillary Clinton and other potential Democratic presidential candidates who are trying to build their own following.
It also includes the President versus various Democratic Washington insiders who feel that his more controversial policies are hurting the Party. And the President versus past members of his administration, current members who keep “leaking” inside scoops to the media, and the usually liberal media that is now pressing the President more aggressively than at any point since his election in 2008.
In short, it seems to be the President versus a lot, if not most, of his own Party—not just in Washington but in many states and locales as well.
George Will noted that the President has faced strong opposition among his own party in a number of major crises during the past year. Such conflicts include sharp criticism about the failures of the Obamacare website, the Snowden revelations about government spying on its own people, the IRS scandal, the White House “negotiating with terrorists” and swapping prisoners with the Taliban, the President’s seeming weakness in dealing with Putin and the Ukraine, the controversial EPA rules, Democratic opposition to Presidential appointments (e.g. Larry Summers), Democratic resistance to the President’s attempts to use force in Syria, etc.
All in all, the President’s own party is rendering his policy agenda and even his responses to national crises very difficult. Oh, and no surprise, the Republicans are doing their part to oppose him as well. But it is the division in his own party that is really creating a problem for him—the word popping up now in the press is “incompetence” or “a lack of presidential competence.”
Most national Democratic leaders are quick to verbally support the President in conversations with Republicans, but among their constituents and on Capitol Hill they are increasingly going their own way. Even when it directly conflicts with the Administration.
As the elections heat up for 2014 and in preparation for the big one in 2016, many Democrats are finding that Obamacare and perceived problems with the Obama Administration are hurting them among voters. They are naturally distancing themselves from the Oval Office, and this trend is spreading.
Madison wanted a divided government (3 branches competing against each other, as well as the state and federal levels closely watching the excesses of the other), and the constitutional system is at least partially still working in this way. To have Democrats checking Democrats and Republicans checking each other brings an extra smile to many independents. If a Republican were in the White House, a major international crisis could bring the GOP together in support of the President, but it doesn’t seem likely that anything similar will help President Obama. In fact, international affairs seem to be the focal point of the Democratic divisions.
The most powerful “Tea Party” work seems to be occurring among a growing number of Democrats who are committed to checking what they consider to be excesses of the current Administration.
The Constitution never ceases to amaze! Even as Washington grows to massive levels and most Americans agree that the government is deeply broken, the framers’ wisdom still manages to keep even the most powerful office in the world from exerting truly unchecked influence. This must be frustrating to those in power. Bravo Madison, Dickinson, Franklin and all your colleagues. Bravo!
Of course, if the framers were here today, they’d no doubt point out that this will only last so long. If we don’t become the kind of citizen-leaders they were, we will lose the rest of our freedoms—sooner rather than later.
(If you haven’t read Oliver DeMille’s new book, We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident, this is a great place to start! This may be one of the most important books so far in the 21st Century. It is truly a Must Read!)
Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.
Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah