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What Seidman Should Have Said

What Seidman Should Have Said

January 17th, 2013 // 8:30 pm @

The Party System,
Not the Constitution,
is the
Reason Our Government
is Broken


On December 30, 2012, The New York Times published an article by Lewis Michael Seidman, a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University, which said:
“…the American system of government is broken. But almost no one blames the culprit, our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions.”
After such inflammatory remarks, it isn’t surprising that many Americans took exception and voiced their anger at Seidman’s words.
In fact, numerous articles attacking Seidman’s views have received a lot more traffic online than the original article itself.
This outpouring of strong rebuttals is a happy reminder that the spirit of freedom is strong in America.
Few of the responses really addressed Seidman’s main point, however. Seidman’s central arguments were:
  1. Parts of the Constitution are archaic
  2. Some are idiosyncratic
  3. Others are downright evil
  4. Our modern government system is broken
  5. The Constitution is to blame for the reality that our modern government is broken
Seidman is dead wrong about point 5, and the tone of his words is an affront to freedom-loving Americans.
But the attacks on his article emphasize angry responses to the first three points, even though points 1-3 are technically accurate.
For example, the provisions which allowed slavery and counted slaves as 2/3 of a citizen are archaic (they were in fact archaic in 1787), idiosyncratic (coming as they do in a document whose whole focus is to protect freedom and inalienable rights), and certainly evil.

Say whatever you want about the founders inheriting the practice of slavery, the need to have unity, or whatever other justifications people use to explain why the framers allowed slavery in the Constitution, but slavery is still evil. It is.

As for the 4th point in Seidman’s article–the idea that our government seems broken–Seidman is only saying what nearly all of his attackers also say and which most Americans now feel.
If Washington isn’t entirely broken, at the very least something is very wrong.
So, giving Seidman the benefit of the doubt, his first 4 points are accurate.
The problem is that he uses these points to strengthen the 5th point, the argument that the Constitution is to blame for America’s current problems, and to suggest that we should abandon or significantly alter the U.S. Constitution.
He also seems to imply that much of the Constitution, well beyond slavery, is bad, leaving readers with the impression that the whole document is entirely flawed.
Seidman is wrong about this.
The truth is that the Constitution is responsible for the growth, success and great wealth and power of the United States, and in fact it is the one thing most effectively keeping the nation from falling apart today.
It has given more freedom to more people than perhaps any other governmental system in history. As such, it is far from archaic or evil.
The most important provisions of the Constitution include the separation of governmental powers into four distinct branches, including three on the federal level (legislative, executive, judicial) and a fourth state level which in fact is given power over more things than the federal government.
The provisions that are keeping us relatively strong and free today also include various checks and balances between these four branches of government, and a Bill of Rights that maintains certain vital rights for the individual citizens of the nation.
Remove these provisions, and our freedoms and national prosperity and strength would quickly dissipate.
But point 4 remains: Our government certainly seems broken, or close to it. And if the Constitution isn’t to blame, what is?
The answer, in contrast to Seidman’s article, is that the growing influence of the party system has subjugated our nation to a series of continual crises.
Moreover, the party system is blocking solutions to our biggest financial problems, from overspending and taxing to over-regulating, further inflation of the dollar, increasing our debt and deficits, and downgrading our national credit rating.
The party system also obstructs progress on entitlement and health care finance.
In all of these cases, the Constitution is keeping us from going too far in any extreme direction, while the party system is keeping us from implementing lasting solutions.
Our government is broken because of the party system.
Note that the party system is not part of the Constitution, though if it were, we could immediately and accurately refer to it as archaic, idiosyncratic and evil.
Nor is “evil” too strong a word for this. Thomas Jefferson wrote:
“Men are naturally divided into two parties, those who fear and distrust the people and wish to draw all power from them into the hands of the higher classes [versus] those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise, depository of the public interests.”
Those advocating the first of Jefferson’s parties are indeed the cause of much evil in the history of the world.
Their push to remove power from the people causes class divisions, loss of freedom, and always ends up protecting the rights of elites more than the inalienable rights of the people.
This is at times called slavery, at others aristocracy or tyranny, and sometimes rule by elites, but it always reduces freedom and opportunity for the masses, and it is always evil.
John Adams said,
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”
George Washington said that while in a monarchy political parties can be a good check on too much power in the king, in democratic nations parties cause most of the problems.

There are many similar quotes from the founding generation confirming that the party system is a real threat to America. And both major parties are currently dominated by those who seek to take freedom and power from the people and govern from the top.

Today, nearly every way government is broken is a direct result of the party system, while the one thing most effectively holding Washington together is the U.S. Constitution.
We fought a great civil war to fix the archaic and evil provisions of slavery and the idiosyncrasies of promoting liberty on the backs of slaves, and as a result of the Constitution the gains of women, minorities, all religions and other disadvantaged groups have been much higher under the U.S. Constitution than in any other nation on earth.
Attacking the Constitution is the worst-case scenario, because it casts doubt on the best thing about the American system of freedom.

The sooner we can change the party system and instead govern our nation by the provisions of the U.S. Constitution, the better.

Here is what Seidman’s article should have said:
“[T]he American system of government is broken. But almost no one blames the culprit, our addiction to the party system, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil consequences. It is time to pass a constitutional amendment outlawing political parties.”
This is America’s real challenge, and until we fix the party system the dysfunction in Washington and the ongoing series of national crises will continue.

Category : Blog &Featured

6 Comments → “What Seidman Should Have Said”

  1. Debar

    11 years ago

    Our republic system of government is broken. But almost no one blames the culprits, over two-hundred years of erosion of an imperfect constitution that has displaced the individual farther and farther from access (the average member of congress represents not 30,000 citizens but hundreds of thousands and sometimes over a million), our refusal to acknowledge the dangers of a central treasury run by a private cartel (our government borrows at interest from privately owned banks that we have given the power to create fiat money), and generally speaking the usurpation of all social responsibilities into a federal body (health, education, and welfare). And dare I say false flag terror events utilized by combinations of power to grab more control and the mindset of sick eugenicists driving the policy for what is to come, a global socialist storm.

    So what is the solution? Mini republics, starting with the smallest level, say for example a homeowners association that dares to replace a single figurehead (the president of the board) with a six-member body that must reach common consent, and each member does not represent the body of the whole but a certain section of the whole. All mayors, CEO’s, presidents, prophets, chairs, popes, etc. voted into office by popular vote or by appointment must go. If they are not put into power by vigorous debate achieved through various layers of a republic, and if each layer is not broken into sections apart from the body of the whole beneath, we get what they dictate. Our leadership model that still favors a king is our sickness, and it exists at every level. It favors political silence for personal advancement. It shuts down dissent because it fears vision. But most important, it is the enemy to God.

    I agree that parties dominate and control our political system. So what is the solution? Many might disagree with me on this, but here goes. We need a party that is a virtual republic, one that allows for a changing platform, changing leadership, and changing vision, a republic that divides and decentralizes as it grows, and a republic that uses a technology that secures and protects the voice of each individual, with common consent required to advance the same inside each layered body of the republic, and most importantly a virtual republic with more than one figurehead. Such a model is destined to become the new media. Think about that for a moment. It is not enough to leave a comment but to have real teeth. Freedom does work, but not without a republic.

  2. Ammon Nelson

    11 years ago

    Oliver: Your assessment of what is going wrong is as accurate as I would be able to be.

    However, I have a slight problem with your version of what he “should” have said, and I’m hoping you can help me with some clarification.
    Isn’t the outlawing of political parties the remedy which would be worse than the disease, to which James Madison referred in Federalist 10? Can we outlaw political parties without curtailing the freedom of speech and the freedom of association? I have difficulty seeing how this would be done.
    What if we changed what he should have said to “… a constitutional amendment to guarantee equal treatment of all political affiliations on government ballots,” or something more eloquent and comprehensive?
    Wouldn’t even the solution of a constitutional amendment also be ignoring the real problem? I see so many people thinking that a new piece of legislation or a new constitutional amendment is the solution to our problems, when any form of written regulation, constitutional or otherwise, where there is a general lack of morality, is just a bandage on a cancer sore.
    Wouldn’t the solution be a community based grass roots organization that teaches Leadership and Personal responsibility, and grows viral to replace the culture of party dependent politics and entitlement?
    In my experience and from my reading (which is admittedly a far cry less than yours, so correct me if I’m misguided here), there can never be an amendment or other legislation that can fix what is causing so many difficulties in our country. You cannot create morality by a document of any sort. What must be corrected is the culture.

    I agree that a republic is a major part of the solution, however my studies don’t support everything that you state. I wonder if you could help me resolve some inconsistencies that I see.
    Don’t you think that the founders considered having a body of individuals, rather than a single individual as the Executive Authority? The problem with a body of people rather than an individual is that a body of people is prone to bureaucracy and inefficiency in making decisions. Isn’t it the legislative authority that needs to be thoroughly debated, and once a decision is made, the execution and enforcement of it must be as without inefficiencies and with as little bureaucracy as possible? When it comes to executing and enforcing government, isn’t an individual who is elected via republican means the best solution, as long as his/her power is truly checked by the legislative authority?

  3. Oliver DeMille

    11 years ago


    Madison’s whole point was that in every colony/state, one or two parties (factions) ran everything. He thought the Constitution would break up such control by 1 or 2 parties. It did, for a long time.

    But today it doesn’t anymore, because the people allow the federal government to ignore the Constitution. And this will never change as long as the parties run things.

    An amendment that allows no presidential or senatorial candidates to belong to a political party would be a huge step in the right direction. Parties would still have a say at state levels and the House.

    The effect of this would be this: parties would have no national platform, no national fundraising organs nor national hierarchy, and the various state parties, even where they have nominal similarities, would have unique flavor, interests and issues. Any candidate who rises up from state political machines would have to campaign directly to the people, as they would have no sponsoring party to advocate for them, or to whom they would answer.


  4. Ammon Nelson

    11 years ago

    Yes, I can see that it might have that effect. However, does that justify the restriction of the freedom of speech of a President to belong to a political party? Shouldn’t he have freedom of association?

  5. Oliver DeMille

    11 years ago

    You’re getting into the nitty-gritty! Outstanding!

    The right of association won’t be abridged. For example, a person can be a Freemason or a member of Skull and Bones or the Lions Club and run for office. His friends in the clubs can donate and help him run. But the clubs aren’t given special benefits, government funds, rooms to meet in at the Capitol building, etc., in each election and between elections.

    Association is great, but officials need to run as individuals, or at least the law needs to treat them as such.

    Right now, in most states the parties have to register with the state and then give the state government a list of that party’s electors. Then the people vote, and the state sends electors from whichever party’s candidate receives the most votes to the electoral college.

    The Lions and Kiwanis don’t get to register, so their choices never become electors. To have any sort of influence they must operate within the party machines.

    The people need to vote for electors, by name, not by party. The people running to be electors can claim any affiliation they want, but they must run as people, as individuals by name, not as an item on a party list. And senatorial seniority should be overall chronological seniority, not party seniority. (In truth, I don’t like seniority, but if it’s to be used at all, it should be non-partisan.) Big change. Huge impact.


  6. Ammon Nelson

    11 years ago

    I’m glad you made that distinction. If that is what you mean by making political affiliation illegal, then it is an idea I have supported for a long time. The preference that members of political parties receive at all levels of government is a mockery to the intent of the founding generation. All candidates for any elected office should run as an individual, not as the anointed selection of their political party. Political parties should be able to support and endorse whoever they want, but there should be no benefit from the government to a candidate who is affiliated over one who isn’t, because in reality it is discriminating against the citizen who doesn’t want to affiliate.

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